History of the Margarita and a Recipe for a Classic Margarita Cocktail

Margaritas with fabulous Mexican fare on a cooking vacation in Mexico.Happy National Margarita Day! The margarita cocktail is a bit like the Italian dessert tiramisú. There are many different stories for how it got invented and by whom! And there is not even consensus on how the name of the cocktail came about.

One thing there is consensus on? That it is one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable cocktails.

So what is a margarita? It always includes three ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. The specific ratios may vary, as may the use of salt on the rim of the glass, the inclusion of simple syrup or some type of sweetener, and whether it is shaken and served “up” or blended and served frozen. But the basics of the drink remain true to its origins.

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But there’s booze in the blender
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on…
-Jimmy Buffett

The Origins of the Margarita CocktailEnjoying a day at the beach during a culinary vacation in Mexico.

Among the many explanations for the name and the origins of the margarita are the fact that “margarita” is the word for “daisy” in Spanish. “Daisy” cocktails already existed in Mexico in the 30’s, when the margarita is thought to have been invented. Daisy cocktails included a spirit, a liqueur, and some form of citrus. So a margarita’s use of tequila, an orange liqueur, and lime juice makes it a sort of cousin to the popular daisy cocktails.

If the margarita did originate in the 30’s, there are two people who are usually given credit. One is Carlos “Danny” Herrera, who is thought to have invented the margarita at his restaurant between Tijuana and Rosarito. The other is Francisco “Pancho” Morales, who is said to have invented it at Tommy’s Place Bar in Juárez in 1942.

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Tequila on a tasty Mexico cooking vacation.Ingredients for a Margarita Cocktail

If you’re making a cocktail with only a few ingredients, using good ones will of course yield the best result. There is no rule on what type of tequila to use. But if you use a higher-end tequila like a reposado or añejo, you’ll obtain a smoother cocktail.

Learn more about tequila and Mexican spirits.

Similarly, the type of orange liqueur can vary. While Cointreau and Grand Marnier are two name-brand orange liqueurs that are often used, any brand of triple sec will work. Some of the liqueurs are sweeter than others, and that plus the amount you use will change the flavor of the cocktail.

Limes ready for use during a cooking class with TIK.Although it is popular to use margarita mixers or limeade concentrate to make the cocktail, there is no question that using freshly squeezed lime juice is preferred and more in keeping with the original recipes. It doesn’t take long to juice a couple of limes, so try it the next time you’re mixing up a batch of margaritas! You can use regular limes (known also as Persian limes), or try Key Limes (Mexican limes). You will find the flavor will vary slightly depending on which you use.

Of course, you can also use non-traditional ingredients. Examples are different types of fruit juices–some of them not even citrus–different liqueurs, flavored tequilas, using mezcal instead of tequila, adding flavored salt or sugar (or a mixture of both) on the rim of the glass, and even herbs and spices!

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A delicious margarita cocktail.Classic Margarita Recipe

Serves: 1
Prep time: 5 minutes


  • 1 oz. reposado tequila
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec or Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt and lime wedge for garnish

Delicious barbacoa tacos made during a cooking vacation with The International Kitchen.Instructions:

1. Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake well to chill.

2. Serve “up” in a salt-rimmed margarita or martini glass and garnished with a lime wedge.

Of course, a margarita is best enjoyed in Mexico on one of our amazing culinary vacations.. Or, at the very least, accompanied by some amazing Mexican food. You can search our blog for plenty of recipes!

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By Peg Kern

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One thought on "History of the Margarita and a Recipe for a Classic Margarita Cocktail"

  1. Jessie Holloway says:

    Thanks so much for talking a bit about the history of the margarita and how a classic one should be. I have a friend coming to town to spend a few days and we want to go out to get some Mexican-style food because it’s her favorite. I think it’d be fun to have some margaritas as well so I’ve been trying to find a restaurant she and I would both like. https://lachulamexicanseafood.com/

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