As classic cocktails go, the Margarita was relatively late to the party. While stalwarts like the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan and the Daiquiri had been throwing shapes since the 19th century, the Margarita barely burst onto the dancefloor before the Second World War.
This hasn’t stopped its origin becoming shrouded in a similar murk and fug to the old-guard classics, however, with several people eagerly claiming parentage.
Was it cobbled together for a fussy dancing girl in Baja, California? Or invented by a Dallas socialite while holidaying in Acapulco? Maybe it was named after a German ambassador’s daughter. Or after
Hollywood actress (Marga)Rita Hayworth.
While these are all romantic assertions, it’s more than likely the cocktail was conceived after swapping out the main constituent of a ‘Daisy’ cocktail for tequila. The Daisy was originally a long drink (basically a Sour ‘n’ Soda) that usually contained brandy or later gin but like many a mixed drink it evolved and branched off into different iterations in different places over time.
One of these subtle mutations which continued to carry the Daisy moniker of its ancestors was a shorter drink made of spirit, orange liqueur and citrus. A Margarita is spirit, orange liqueur and citrus – and the Spanish for ‘daisy’ is ‘margarita’.
So it’s not a huge leap to assume that drinkers seeking refreshment (and bartenders seeking work) during Prohibition would experiment with the bountiful and legal supplies of tequila south of the border and use as a base for existing recipes.
Given that the Margarita’s birth was more than likely slap-bang in the middle of Prohibition, this leap becomes more of a fairy-step.
Like many classics, too, the Margarita has had a chequered past and a patchy pedigree. The dark days of cheap and nasty sombrero-adorned tequila, bright-green blended slushies and the abomination that is Sweet-n-Sour Mix still deter many people from the uncomplicated pleasures of a well-made Margarita.
With a wealth of quality tequilas and mezcals to choose from nowadays, however, it’s a drink that demands to be re-examined.
There are a few pieces of equipment that no discerning home-bartender should be without; namely a cocktail shaker (either with a built-in ice strainer or separate Hawthorne strainer), a citrus squeezer (a ‘Mexican elbow’ would be an apt choice), a thimble measure or small measuring jug and a fine-mesh sieve.
In addition, you’ll need the glass of your choice (Margaritas can be served straight up or over ice) and a saucer or small plate should you want a salt rim.
The key ingredients of a Margarita could not be simpler – just freshly- squeezed lime juice, Cointreau or a similar ‘triple sec’ orange liqueur and a good quality Blanco or reposado tequila – all in a 1:1:2 ratio.
The final sweetness of the drink can be adjusted with sugar syrup or light agave nectar.
Squeeze the juice of one fresh lime into your thimble measure or measuring jug.
Use a spent lime shell to wet the rim of your chosen glass before dipping it in flaky sea salt, should you desire.
Add the lime juice to the shaker along with the same amount of orange liqueur and double the amount of tequila.
Those with a sweeter tooth may wish to add a little sugar syrup or agave nectar.
Add ice to the shaker (and to the glass if you are choosing to drink on the rocks), seal and shake vigorously for ten-to-fifteen seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into your prepared glass and enjoy immediately.
If you prefer to leave the drink-making to the professionals then any good bar worth their salt (-rim) ought to be able to rustle up a Margarita on request. But while making a Margarita might be easy, making a good one is a little trickier. Here are our picks for las mejores margaritas in the city.
Woodland Creatures in Leith are being taken over by Arette Tequila for the weekend, offering an exclusive menu of nine different Margaritas as well as sampling flights for the various ages of tequila.
Voodoo Rooms has a cocktail list that leans in a distinctly Central American direction – unsurprising, given they stock over sixty tequilas.
The Basement has a tequila/mezcal menu that rivals many of the city’s whisky lists for variety. Their Classic Margarita is served individually or in pitchers.
Mariachi have two pages of agave-based cocktails – one of which is solely reserved for Margaritas.
El Cartel also pay homage to all things Mexican with an inspired list of tequila/mezcal cocktails. Their Margarita flavours change daily.
One Canonmills are currently ‘researching’ (read: drinking) authentic Margaritas in Mexico and will soon showcase all they have learned. If they can remember any of it…