While it’s not a federal holiday (except perhaps in Key West and parts of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico), National Margarita Day will be celebrated around the country on Wednesday, February 22.
Like most classic cocktails, the origin of the Margarita is shrouded in mystery. One version places the invention of the drink in Ensenada, Mexico in 1941, when bartender Don Carlos Orozco first served the drink to Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a German diplomat. Another story claims that it was devised a few years earlier at Mexico’s Rancho la Gloria Hotel by Carlos Herrera, who created it for a former showgirl named Marjorie King. Yet another commonly accepted tale insists that it was first concocted by a Dallas socialite named Margaret “Margarita” Sames. It is likely descended from the Daisy, a long drink consisting of a base spirit (tequila, whiskey, gin etc.) combined with lemon juice, sugar and grenadine. Spurred on by Jimmy Buffett, it has become the most popular tequila cocktail in America.
There are endless variations on a Margarita, along with dozens of recipes—all of which claim to be authentic. As always, feel free to experiment until you get a set of proportions that work for you. Some versions call for simple syrup to balance the tartness of the citrus. Regardless of your preference, three things are important: make sure the lime or lemon juice is fresh; use Cointreau in place of Triple Sec whenever possible; mix in the best tequila you can afford or get your hands on. Few things are worse than waking up on the day after you’ve consumed too many Margaritas made with cheap tequila.
Fortunately, the elaborate and supersized tequila bar is one of the byproducts of the booming cocktail culture. Today’s cutting-edge tequila bar features around 100 varieties, neatly divided between blanco, reposado and anejo, with a list of rarities thrown in for good measure. In Manhattan, Mayahuel is the talk of the town; it’s Blue Agave in Baltimore, Tommy’s Mexican in San Francisco, and Cantina Dos Segundos in Philadelphia. Here in South Florida, the Agave Grill in Naples boasts a selection of 140 different tequilas, along with a menu of wood-fired specialties. In Key Biscayne, the Ritz-Carlton has upped the ante by hiring Heriberto Oviedo, a tequilier (tequila sommelier) who conducts regular tastings and pairs the spirit with dishes from the hotel’s Cantina Beach restaurant.