February 22nd is National Margarita Day and if that’s not a “holiday” worth celebrating, we don’t know one that is. But as usual, the origins of the cocktail we’ll be honoring are as murky as fresh-squeezed lime juice.
Some credit Carlos Herrera, the owner of Tijuana restaurant Rancho La Gloria. Back in 1938, he mixed tequila, lime juice and salt (basically a large-format tequila shot) into a cocktail for a picky customer who wouldn’t drink anything but tequila but also wouldn’t drink it straight, as tradition called for. Many argue, however, that a real margarita has another component—most often the orange liqueur Cointreau—which means the credit should be given to Dallas socialite Margaret Sames. In 1948 she hosted a get-together while vacationing in Acapulco and combined her two favorite spirits, tequila and Cointreau, with lime juice and salt as the drink of the evening. Her guests loved the libation, including one of Spanish descent that supposedly dubbed the concoction the “margarita.” And so began the drink’s rise to fame, eventually becoming the most popular drink order in America.
For some insight into why it’s the most-often ordered cocktail in the country, we turned to Jim Kreese, head bartender for Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg. “Margaritas are one of America’s favorite drinks because of how versatile they are,” Kreese said. “They aren’t too sweet or sour, and you can switch it up with frozen or on the rocks, salt on the rim or sugar or even by adding fruit. The options are endless.”
Speaking of options, here are three non-traditional margarita recipes to try out while you’re toasting this sweet-and-spicy national holiday.
Spicy Margarita by Matt La Rue, owner of Taqueria Diana in New York City
1.5 oz of Pueblo Viejo Tequila
.5 oz agave syrup
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
.25 pickle juice
1 pinch of ground Morita chile powder
Build ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Prepare a rocks glass by covering the rim with spicy Tajik salt and strain cocktail over ice; garnish with a fresh lime wedge.
LBT Margarita from The Little Beet Table in New York City
Chili salt for the rim
2 oz carrot juice mix (recipe below)
1.5 oz Milagro tequila
1 oz lime
1 oz agave syrup
Add all ingredients to a shaker over ice; shake. Roll your glass rim in chili salt and add ice to the glass. Pour cocktail into the glass and enjoy!
Carrot Juice Mix
10 large carrots
1 lime (juiced)
1 orange (juiced)
2 inches ginger
.25 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine in a juicer until mixed to your prefered consistency.
Shishito Margarita by Kieran Chavez, beverage director of Boqueria in New York City
Kosher salt, for the glass
1 lime wedge
.25 cup shishito-infused tequila (recipe below)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1.5 tablespoons simple syrup
1 Padrón pepper, oil patted off
Place a thin layer of salt on a saucer. Run the lime wedge against the rim of a glass, then coat the rim with salt. Use a paper towel to wipe out the inside rim so there isn’t too much salt for the drink. The outside rim should still have a light coating.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice to the rim, then add the infused tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup. Cover and shake very well, then strain into the glass. Add ice and garnish with the shishito pepper. Serve immediately.
6 shishito peppers, split lengthwise
1 bottle (1 liter) tequila
Put the shishito peppers in the tequila. Seal with the cap and infuse for 24 hours. Strain the tequila through a fine-mesh sieve into another container with a spout. Pour back into the tequila bottle, using a funnel if you have one. The infused tequila will keep for up to 1 month.