In celebration of National Margarita Day (Feb. 22 — get those bottles ready!)
The first thing to know about the margarita is that the drink it has been around for well over 100 years. It’s a variation on what the seminal Jerry Thomas book of 1876, The Bartenders Guide or How To Mix Drinks, called a Daisy which is the basic — a sour-citrus cocktail. The original recipe combined brandy, lemon, and chartreuse over ice with a splash of seltzer. This basic temple would later evolve into a Sidecar around WWI, which kept the brandy and lemon, but started using Cointreau and Gran Marnier instead of Chartreuse.
Now is where legends and history collide — there are no fewer than three origin stories for how the margarita came to be. The earliest one is from 1938, when an aspiring actress by the name of Marjorie King was said to be allergic to all hard alcohol other than tequila –for the record, this is impossible, and she sounds picky/high maintenance. But she must have said something right to the bartender at the Rancho La Gloria. Carlos “Danny” Herrera is said to have created the first Tequila Sidecar in history using tequila, lime, and Cointreau.
So what about the name? The fact is that Anthony Dias Blue, first importer of Jose Cuervo, stared using the advertising tag line “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name” in 1945. But the legend is so much better. In 1948 a Dallas Socialite Margarita Sames, was on vacation in Acapulco, Mexico to celebrate Christmas, and on that day Margarita mixed up the perfect blend of sweet, citrusy, salty tequila that bears her name to this day.
While that part of the story may not be as true as we’d like, Dallas is most definitely a place of margarita innovation, being the genius behind the frozen margarita in 1971.
Cocktails are an ever-evolving thing as history clearly shows, but today’s margarita innovation is all about removing the Triple Sec and adding heat, and taking that Tex-Mex flavor heritage to the next level. We invited three of the top margarita makers in NYC to come by the office and show off their latest concoctions. Their recipes, for you:
Micelle Picollo of Distilled was first up, and even called her cocktail by the old name:
Daisy Mango (Distilled, 211 W Broadway, New York)
- 2 oz El Jimador Silver
- 1/2 oz chipotle honey syrup
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz fresh mango juice
- spicy salt for the rim
- Seaport salt made in house at Distilled (paprika, dried aleppo pepper, black pepper, Maldon salt and sugar)
- dried chipotle
- Maldon salt
- red pepper flakes
- garnished with two thinly sliced pieces of jalapeno
This was quite refreshing, and I’d say the chipotle pepper was a great call. The smokiness balanced out the sweetness of the mango beautifully. The salt is what makes the drink here. While I might not make this exact concoction at home, it set my mind off in search of finding new salt rims, and for that alone it gets a gold star for creativity.
Next we had Jorge Vasquez from Toloache:
Fuego Lento (Toloache, 251 W 50th St, New York)
- 2 oz. Jimador Tequila Blanco
- 2 oz. pineapple puree
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 3/4 oz. cilantro-infused agave syrup
- salsa borracha pipette
Garnish with frozen Mezcal soaked pineapple.
This hit close to home in a good way. Mezcal soaked pineapple? Definite fan favorite. The pineapple works well as a triple sec, but it was the cilantro agave that gave the whole drink an earthy undertone that most sweet cocktails lack. Another thing that made this a big hit was the ability to adjust the amount of heat to your particular taste, by squeezing more or less of the Salsa Borracha viz the pipette. I can guarantee that my first spring party will have Mezcal soaked pineapples, a significant upgrade of the vodka watermelons of old. While including pipettes at home might seem a bit over the top, allowing people to adjust the heat in their drink is something to keep in mind when experimenting with the spicy margarita.
And saving my personal favorite for last, Shannon Dollison from Chavela’s brings us simply enough:
el Jimador Margarita
- 2 oz El Jimador Tequila Reposado
- 1 oz habanero pineapple simple syrup (recipe below)
- ¾ oz corn juice
- ½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice
The corn is husked and sliced off the cob and run through a juicer. It is then strained through a colander and again through cheesecloth to remove the solids, leaving a beautiful juice. To make the cocktail, measure each item into a bar shaker. Add ice and shake. Serve on the rocks in a tumbler.
Habanero Pineapple Simple Syrup
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- 18 dried habanero, bruised open
- ½ fresh pineapple, cubed
Mix water, sugar and habanero in large cook pot. Bring to a simmer making sure you are in a ventilated area. Let simmer for 12 minutes. Strain habaneros and return simple syrup to the pot. Add the fresh pineapple and let steep in syrup off flame for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup first through a colander and then again through cheesecloth. Let cool.
Mixing corn juice into anything might seem a bit strange, but when blended with the habanero simple syrup and citrus accompaniment of lemon, well, it’s immediately familiar to anyone who has had Mexican style corn on the cob. It was fantastic and my favorite of the three. Very innovative. But be warned a few of taste testers said that the heat off of this cocktail was too much for them. The ability to pull from the classic tastes of Tex-Mex cuisine, and remix them in a new way is the height the new mixology’s genius, and no one did it better than this. It was well worth the effort. And yet, the level of effort needed means I’ll be taking the train to Brooklyn to enjoy this cocktail. In other words, do not try this at home. They’re professionals.