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29 December 2014

The IBA Project: Margarita

I'm a margarita. Drink me.
Grandfather story:
  • The Margarita can be considered a Tequila Sour (Sour = base liquor, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener), or a Tequila Sidecar (replacing cognac).
  • It could simply be a twist on the Daisy, (a classic long drink from the 1870s made with a base spirit, lemon juice, sugar or liqueur) - as Margarita is the Spanish word for daisy.
  • In a British cocktail publication called Café Royal Cocktail Book published in 1937, the author mentions a drink called a Picador, which lists its ingredients as tequila, Cointreau and lime juice (the exact same recipe as a margarita!)
  • The 1st official mention of Margarita in print in Dec 1953 was in the Esquire magazine with a quote "She’s from Mexico, Señores, and she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative". The recipe called for an ounce (30ml) of tequila, a dash of triple sec and the juice of half a lime or lemon.
  • Like most cocktail histories, there are quite a number of people who have claimed to have invented it, and if you'd like to know, here they are:
    • Could have been created in 1930 by Doña Bertha, owner of Bertha's Bar in Taxco, Mexico (unlikely as Mexicans don't typically drink margaritas)
    • A Vernon Underwood, who had started distributing Cuervo Tequila in the 1930s may have went to Johnny Durlesser, head bartender of the Tail O' The Cock in LA, and asked him to create something using his spirit, then named it after his wife Margaret (Margarita).
    • Daniel (Danny) Negrete could have created the drink in 1936 when he was the manager of Garci Crespo Hotel in Puebla, Mexico for his girlfriend Margarita as a present.
    • Francisco 'Pancho' Morales, while working in a bar called Tommy's Place in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was asked to make a 'Magnolia' on the 4th July 1942, but couldn't remember it so created this drink.
    • Carlos 'Danny' Herrera created the cocktail either in 1947 or 1948 at his Rancho La Gloria bar in Rosarito, Mexico, for an actress called Marjorie King who drank only Tequila. He added Cointreau and lime, and the unique salt rim that caught people's attention at the bar, then named his creation Margarita, the Spanish for Marjorie.
    • A socialite Margaret Sames held a Christmas party in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1948, and created the first Margarita.

Fun facts:
  • For a tequila to be a tequila is must be made with at least 51% of agave (related to the cactus family) and produced from the state of Jalisco, Mexico (and a few other selected places).
  • Mexicans traditionally drink their tequilas neat, in a shot glass. Never with lime and salt on the side - that's an American thing.
  • Cinco de Mayo is a holiday on 5 May, largely celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla and the largest celebration takes place in LA, USA. Apparently a lot of margaritas are consumed on this date, but only in the US, not in Mexico.
  • Margarita is likely one of the most consumed cocktails in the US - so popular that there's a National Margarita Day on 22 Feb (likely coined as a marketing gimmick to sell even more margaritas)
Everything you need for a margarita - salt rimmed glass, syrup, lime juice, tequila, a triple sec.

Strength & Taste:
Sour with a hint of agave from that tequila. It may be a very easy drink for some, for others, they make not be able to accept the sharp taste of agave (the ones who can't take it usually shiver upon tasting the agave lol). The citrus makes this drink very thirst quenching.

IBA standard recipe & method:
3.5 cl Teequila
2 cl Cointreau
1.5 cl Freshly squeezed lime juice

Pour all ingredients into shaker with ice.
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass rimmed with salt

An upside down sombrebro glass.
  • Fruit Margarita - blend selected fruit with the basic margarita recipe
  • To make a Margarita Presidente (yes like the infamous Chili's one) just add some cognac.
  • Tommy margarita is a margarita using agave syrup instead of triple sec = to bring out the agave flavour even more.
  • Grand margarita = Grand marnier is used instead of triple sec
  • Tequila used could be a blanco, plata, reposado and even an anejo. Your budget and mileage may vary. Discerning tequila drinkers would balk if you mixed an Anejo into a margarita - because it's considered really good/premium and like a single malt whisky, you wouldn't want anything else mixed in there.
  • Often served with salt on the rim of the glass, but it is optional. You can rim half and leave the option to the drinker.
  • Can be served shaken with ice (on the rocks), blended with ice (frozen margarita), or without ice (straight up).
  • You CAN use any type of glass - martini, cocktail, wine, pint, schooners... But thanks to the US and texmex restaurants, that special "margarita" glasses is very commonly used. It looks like an inverted sombrero. Stereotype much?
  • If you're not too anal, you may using sugar syrup instead of agave - most bars do that because it's a MUCH cheaper and more easily attainable alternative.

Thoughts & observations:
  • IBA's version is not strong enough and too darn sour for me, as usual.
  • Please use 100% agave only. How would you know that it's 100% agave? It'll be stated on the bottle. If it's not stated, it's likely a mixto. Mixto basically means that it's partially made from agave, and the rest of it is ADDED sugar and/or stuff to artificially create the colour and taste of tequila..... and why would you want that? 100% agave is not incredibly expensive to get  (at the duty free) anyway!
  • I'll stick to using Cointreau instead of any other triple sec because Cointreau's orange really comes out all through all the agave.
  • Personally, I don't like using the 1800 silver blanco tequila because the agave is so strong and sharp in this one that it actually gives me a headache.
  • I'm being anal about this, but please use fresh lime juice. It does make a difference. Even STALE lime juice makes the drink tastes different.
One tequila is not like the other - it's not 100% agave. Stay away from it!

My preference (basically a Difford's recipe):
I like this recipe because it is so easy to remember:

2 shots of 100% agave white/silver tequila
1 shot Cointreau
1 shot lime juice
1 teaspoon of agave syrup
Mix them all into a shaker with ice, give it many, many, good, hard shakes.
Serve it in a rock glass, half rimmed with salt, with cubed ice.

For more & sources:

About cinco de mayo, if you're interested :

Click me for the list of drinks that's been covered in the IBA Project