Have you all got 22 February marked off in your diaries? No? Well, it’s National Margarita Day and we have everything you need to know about this Tequila-based cocktail.
As I am sure you are aware, Friday 22 February is National Margarita Day. Well, it’s National Margarita Day in America at least, and in Mexico every day is National Margarita Day, or so I like to think. But like Loyd Grossman, bourbon, and the word ‘dissed’, National Margarita Day has crossed the Atlantic*.
For Americans, the Margarita is the classic holiday drink. It’s usually made with a lime syrup and often served frozen like a sort alcoholic slushie (mmmmm, alcoholic slushie). Made like this, it’s a great if not particularly sophisticated drink for hot days. But make it properly with fresh lime juice, a good quality Tequila and Cointreau, and it becomes something quite spectacular.
The Margarita is another variation on the classic sweet/sour/booze of the rum punch but with an added element – salt – that cleverly makes you thirsty whilst you are drinking. It must have been invented by a very canny bartender. Like with most cocktails, however, its origins are obscure. There’s a reference to a drink in the 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail book published in London which is identical but called the Picador. Nobody is quite sure when the Margarita assumed its present name.
There are many competing stories. One theory is that it was created by a Texan socialite, Margarita Sames, when she was on holiday in Acapulco in 1948. In another version it was named after the singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee, she of Fever fame, when she visited the Balinese Room in Texas in the 1940s. A more likely explanation from top booze historian David Wondrich is that margarita is the Spanish word for a daisy. And the Daisy is a family of cocktails that includes the Sidecar; and the Margarita is essentially a Mexican Sidecar made with Tequila instead of brandy. Ta da!
Whatever its origins, these stories point to an essential truth behind the Margarita, it’s now as much part of American culture as Mexican. Some recipes call for agave syrup rather than triple sec but I’m making it with the classic Cointreau. You can turn your Magarita into a Paloma by adding grapefruit juice (ideally pink as it’s sweeter, add some sugar syrup if you don’t have pink), fizzy water and ice. It makes a great summer’s day long drink. You could use mezcal instead of Tequila if you want a punchier flavour, and a drop of Angostura bitters doesn’t go astray.
Right, here’s the recipe, it goes even better with a spot of sunshine. Come to think of it, February really is a daft month to have National Margarita Day.
Rub a piece of lime around the rim of a margarita class, coupe or tumbler, place the glass rim side down in some flaky sea salt. Don’t use granulated salt. Shake the Tequila, lime juice and triple sec with lots of ice. Double strain into your salty glass (or you can serve with ice if it’s hot or you want a bit more dilution) and serve with a wedge of lime and a fish taco.
* Nine Lives bar near London Bridge is doing a special one off National Margarita Day event with Pizza Pilgrims and Don Julio Tequila on Friday 22 February from 5pm until late: £8 for a slice of pizza and a Margarita. Bargain!