The “Margarita” (Spanish for “daisy") cocktail is a world-famous tequila-based cocktail, made with Triple Sec (or Cointreau) and lime juice and often served in a salt-rimmed glass. The cocktail’s origins are disputed. The October 1974 Texas Monthly story, “The Man Who Invented the Margarita,” asserts a Texas origin. Other theories claim that the drink was served in Acapulco, Mexico, or was popularized at the “Tail o’ the Cock” restaurant in Los Angeles.
The first verifiable “Margarita” citation is in the December 1953 Esquire magazine. The citation is entered into the Oxford English Dictionary, incorrectly dated 1956.
“Tequila Daisy” has been cited in the El Paso (Texas)-Juarez (Mexico) area from the 1930s and was described as “ubiquitous” in Juarez by 1939.
The margarita is the most common of tequila-based cocktails, made with Triple Sec (or Cointreau) and lime juice. In other languages, margarita is the Latin word for pearl; and Spanish for the daisy flower, which is also the name of a similar cocktail.
Who created the Margarita?
Francisco ‘Pancho’ Morales (invented 4th of July, 1942)
In Texas, a bartender, Pancho Morales invented the Margarita on July 4, 1942, at a Juárez bar named Tommy’s Place. Supposedly, a woman requested a Magnolia (brandy, Cointreau, and an egg yolk topped with Champagne). Morales was a little fuzzy on the recipe; he improvised and his ersatz creation was a big hit. (Reference: “The Man Who Invented the Margarita,” TM, October 1974.)
First Frozen Margarita Machine Mix
The first Frozen Margarita Machine Mix was invented in 1971 for Dallas restaurant Marianos by chemist John Hogan. He was also recognized by the Smithsonian as the inventor of the Frozen Margarita Machine. Mr. Hogan realized that pure cane sugar was the secret to obtaining a solution that would be consistent and enjoyable for the masses.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
[< Spanish Margarita, a female forename < post-classical Latin Margarita (see MARGARET n.).
The reason for the application of the name in either sense is unclear, and does not appear to follow any such use in Spanish. The uses recorded at sense 1 could perh. reflect brand names. The cocktail name is variously attributed, with suggested origins in Mexico, California, or elsewhere in North America, and is commonly assigned to the 1930s or 1940s.]
A cocktail usually made with tequila, orange liqueur, and citrus fruit juice. Also with premodifier.
1956 Esquire Dec. 76/3 She’s from Mexico..and her name is the Margarita Cocktail… 1 ounce tequila. Dash of Triple Sec. Juice of lime or lemon [etc.].
1963 New Yorker 19 Oct. 116/3 ‘What about another round of Margaritas?’ Jack asked. ‘I can’t say I really like the things, but I suppose we ought to drink the wine of the country while we’re here.’ The state of Oaxaca is famous for its tequila.
1965 O. A. MENDELSOHN Dict. Drink 212 Margarita, mixed drink made from tequila and citrus juice, drunk from vessel whose rim has been dipped in salt.
17 June 1935, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. 4, col. 6:
El Paso is full of chorus girls and former chorus girls who know all about chili con carne, tacos, serapes and Cucaracha la amour.
Billed as the “Tequila Daisies,” such a group of border color girls would have been a wow.
Especially if the feature number had been along lines of the South American “Carioca.”
10 August 1935, San Diego (CA) Union, pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
Home of and Originators of the Famous
15 January 1936, Vogue, “Ensenada,” pg. 95, col. 2:
Or try the Tequila Daisies, pretty special cocktails! The bartender assures you that they won’t make you feel even a little crudo—a nice Mexican word meaning slightly less than having a hang-over.
23 July 1936, Moville (IA) Mail, pg. 4, cols. 1-3:
(James Graham was the newspaper’s publisher—ed.)
The next day we went to Tijuana and Augua (sic) Caliente, Mexico.
When we parked, the driver told us of places of interest that are now not so interesting as in the days of prohibition in the States. Then there were 150 bars open, now there are 9. One of these is run by an Irishman named Madden. The driver had told us of his skill in mixing drinks. One of his inventions has given his saloon the name of “The Home of the Famous Tequila Daisy.” As a newspaper man seeking information, I entered the joint and told Mr. Madden my curiosity was aroused regarding The Daisy. He was not as talkative as his prototype, Mr. Dooley, but I imagine he looks like that gentleman, the creature of the imagination of the late Peter Finlay Dunne. After a while he told me The Daisy was not an invention, as no skill was employed in its creation, it was a mistake. “In mixing a drink I grabbed the wrong bottle and the customer wa so delighted that he called for another and spread the good news far and wide,” said Mr. Madden.
19 August 1936, Syracuse (NY) Herald, pg. 24, col. 3 ad:
2802 JAMES STREET
Syracuse’s Newest and Re-
Best of Food
21 March 1937, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 14C, col. 1:
Tiajuana—a very ordinary small town dealing mostly in perfumes, divorces and postcards, with a crowd of tourists drinking Tequila Daisies.
by Harold Raymond Wayne Benjamin
New York, NY: McGraw Hill Book Company
Pg. 17 (Seminar in Tijuana):
... or maybe, if he is fortunate, tequila in the form known as the tequila daisy, which expands his personality in a uniquely effective manner.
Monday, Mar. 13, 1939
The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, a satire on educators, consists of a series of lectures on the history of paleolithic education, delivered by a fictitious Professor J. Abner Peddiwell while he drinks tequila daisies at a Tijuana bar.
19 July 1939, Albuquerque (NM) Journal, “Juarez Bans Hard Liquor,” pg. 1, col. 2:
Banned also was the sale of hard liquor and mixed drinks in cafes, where only beer and wine may now be obtained in lieu of the ubiquitous tequila daisy ,the tin roof, and the potent iron horse.
American Reveille: The United States at War
by Ward Morehouse
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Now if anybody asks me I’ll have another Tequila Daisy.
31 July 1952, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. 11, col. 2 ad:
“You’ll Sell ‘Em Like Hot Cakes”
That’s what they told our Buyer
(after the 10th Tequila Daisy)
December 1953, Esquire, “Painting the Town” column, pg. 76, col. 3:
Drink of the Month
She’s from Mexico, Senores, and her name is the Margarita Cocktail—and she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative.
1 ounce tequila
Dash of Triple Sec
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin in salt—pour, and sip.
Then there is another cocktail with a tequila base—the Flamenco Dancer:
Juice of 1/2 large lime
1 ounce tequila
1/2 ounce creme de cassis
Squeeze the lime and drop the shell in a highball glass, fill with cracked ice, add the other ingredients, stir briskly and fill with ice-cold ginger ale.
8 December 1954, Los Angeles Times, “Cityside” by Gene Sherman, pg. 2:
ROSARITO BEACH—In the afternoon you sip a Margarita and gaze pensively across the wide strand. This is a sort of Mexican daiquiri belted hard by the international set at Acapulco. Tequila, Cointreau and lemon juice. Salt the rim of the glass like you sugar a daiquiri.
They carry a big stick gently. When sipped in the afternoon, they mellow the memory of morning and tinsel the prospect of evening. I get the impression they were named for a sultry lady who was the toast of the foreign colony, although margarita is also Spanish for daisy. And it figures.
THE LOBSTER taquitos go well with the Margarita, very little hot sauce.
13 January 1955, Van Nuys (CA) News, “Valley Rambling,” pg. 9C, col. 1:
SINCE THIS COLUMN seems to be devoted to foreign countries at the moment, here is the next item. Lovers of that celebrated Mexican beverage, tequila, have none other than Johnny Durlesser, head barman at McHenry’s Tail o’ the Cock Restaurants, to thank for now making it one of the Southland’s popular drinks.
For way back in 1937 when tequila first appeared here Johnny invented the famed “South of the Border” cocktail, the Marguerita, as a pleasant way to down the fiery Mexican liquid.
Consisting of salt on the rim of a glass, 2/3 tequila, 1/3 cointreau and the juice of a lemon, it is rapidly gaining favor as a thirst quencher. Gourmets can now thank barman Durlesser as the man who promoted Pan-American relations by making it possible for California to enjoy this Mexican national drink in smooth easy fashion.
8 February 1955, Los Angeles Times, “Cityside” by Gene Sherman, pg. 2:
Was introduced to the Margarita, tequila’s answer to the Martini, while in Mexico some weeks ago. Now informed the Margarita was invented by Mr. Johnny Durlesser, head barman of the Tail o’ the Cock, in 1937.
August/September 1966, Bon Appetit, pg. 18, col. 3:
Today, one of the most famous drinks using tequila is the Margarita. This came about in 1936 when a Los Angeles bartender named Johnny Durlesser was asked to duplicate a drink a lady customer had once tasted in Mexico. He put together a drink which pleased the lady, whose name was Margaret, and today his “duplication” is well known as the Margarita cocktail. Mr. Duclesser’s original recipe (which he still serves at the Tail O’ The Cock Restaurant) goes like this:
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces tequila
Mix all ingredients in blender, rim glass with salt and pour.
An equally popular version substitutes Triple Sec for Cointreau—for those who prefer a slightly drier cocktail.
In 1949, Mr. Durlesser entered The Margarita in a national competition of original drinks and it won third place.