A latecomer to the canon of classic cocktails, the Margarita was quick to embed itself in American culture, and has been rising steadily in popularity ever since.
As with nearly every historical recipe, however, accounts differ when it comes to the precise origins of the drink. One common claim asserts that it was a Mexican restaurateur based south of Tijuana that first mixed the spirituous combination of tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur in the 1930s; a rival narrative attributes the invention to a 1940s Acapulco socialite. By all accounts, however, it was, without question, a south-of-the-border original—a twist on the daisy (the Spanish word for “daisy” is, after all, margarita)—that found favor with an American audience not long after Repeal. By December 1953, when Esquire magazine named the Margarita their cocktail of the month, the drink had become cemented into popular consciousness.
Over the last two decades, many classic drinks have traded starring roles in the cocktail revival. The Manhattan was an early muse, supplanted in time by the Old-Fashioned and, of course, the Negroni. The Whiskey Sour, a progenitor of multiple modern classics, soon gave way to the Daiquiri and Last Word. The Margarita, meanwhile, may not have ever nabbed a starring role, but it arguably played a more important supporting one instead.
The drink certainly had its sour mix days, but it never disappeared, so embedded in American drinking culture that, according to Robert Simonson, it “didn’t really need the assist” that it ultimately received from the rise of tequila in the aughts. The pandemic has only underscored its place in our collective consciousness. When times get tough, we turn to the drinks that feel the most satisfying, familiar and comforting. More often than not, in 2020 that drink was the Margarita, whether frozen, spicy or classic.