With food and drink, as with other delightful essentials of life, you know you’ve hit gourmet gold when a dish has multiple genesis stories vying to claim it as their own.
Such is the case of the Margarita, the classic cocktail that is a flag-bearer of Mexican culture; sitting right up there with tacos, sombreros, and maraca and guitar-toting Mariachi bands in our imaginations.
And, the flavoursome beverage has found a new lease of life as well as a fresh legion of fans with its alcohol-free mocktail avatar.
As of 2019, a study by London-based Distill Ventures underscores the popularity of booze-free beverages being the most defining trends in restaurants and bars – web searches for the terms ‘mocktail’ and ‘non-alcoholic’ have seen a marked spike of 42 per cent and 81 per cent. Dry January movement has seen more and more converts breaking up with alcohol at the start of every year since it first kicked off in 2013. If all that weren’t enough, more restaurants are cottoning on to diners’ leaning towards a healthier lifestyle and their menus are reflecting this with more options of zero-proof drinks than ever. And the leading the charge of that mocktail revolution is the beloved Margarita.
SO, WHERE DID IT ALL START?
Like its name suggests, every legend surrounding the drink involves a beautiful woman.
Yesteryear pin-up girl Rita Hayworth claims the libation was concocted as an homage to her in the 1940s by an admiring Tijuana bartender – Hayworths’ real name was Margarita Cansino. Another starry contender is singer Peggy Lee’s statement that the first Margarita was mixed for her in Galveston, Texas. Since Peggy is a common nickname for the name Margaret that moniker stuck with the drink although the singer’s real name is Norma Egstrom.
In Texas, the Margarita tale that steals the thunder is one of Dallas socialite Margaret Sames mixing up a new drink at one of her glittering soirees where it caught the eye (as well as the business savvy) of hotelier Tommy Hilton, who then started serving the drink at his hotel.
But the fictional account we’re most intrigued by is the one based in allergies. When Mexican restaurateur Carlos “Denny” Herrara discovered that the stunning Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King was allergic to all alcohol except the Mexican tipple, solution-oriented Herrera found a way around it and whipped up a drink for her in his Tijuana restaurant Rancho La Gloria in 1938.
PERFECTLY BALANCED FLAVOURS
One of the top 10 mocktails in the world, the magic lies in the drink’s combination of ingredients that straddle three different flavours – sweet, thanks to the agave syrup that goes into it; salty, because of the salted rim that glasses are frosted with; sour, from a squeeze of tangy fresh lime (or any other citrus fruit).
Few other mocktails can hold a candle to the Marg’s depth of flavour and its acidity is what makes it wash down well with spicy Mexican food and cut through the cheesiness of heavier Tex-Mex variants.
What’s more, it’s versatile and adapts well to infusions – from strawberry to mint, to the more out-of-left-field chocolate margaritas. The permutations and combinations of flavours are endless. It all chalks up to how daring you want to be.
Going by accounts of cocktail historians, the original winning blend finds its roots in an older cocktail called the Daisy – a mix of liquor, sugar syrup, citrus and soda water. Along the way, the drink evolved and swapped certain ingredients, along with its English name for Spanish. Yes, you guessed it right – Margarita is Spanish for Daisy.
EASY PEASY RECIPES
While its many origin stories might leave connoisseurs daisied and confused, you’ve got to give the quencher points for accessibility. Unlike it’s po-faced counterparts that exude a certain epicurean snobbery (we’re looking at you, mocktail Martini), you can toast to a Virgin Margarita sat in a swanky restaurant, at a pool party, or even a Tex-Mex restaurant chain filled with screaming kids and pop music battling to drown each other and your conversations out. But most importantly, it’s a drink you can rustle up at home without having to hire a mixologist.
Chef Guillermo’s recipe for Virgin Caliente Margarita below, packs an additional punch thanks to the jalapenos and Chilli Togarashi. It also checks off a fourth flavour – spicy.
The recipe also includes plenty of ice so it takes the edge of both the chilli and the UAE’s heat.
While you’re sipping on your icy bevvy, we’ll leave you with one more anecdote about the Margarita. This one’s credible and dates back to 1971. The frozen version was born when inspiration struck Mariano Martinez at a convenience store as he came face-to-face with an old soft-serve ice cream machine. The Texan hotelier had just opened Mariano’s Hacienda in Dallas where his waiters armed with only blenders couldn’t serve the Margs quick enough to meet the incessant orders of diners who were downing the drink with fervour.
Martinez and a pal converted the ice-cream machine into a largescale frozen margarita-making machine, and the rest as they say is history.
More so in the Margarita’s case as that original machine is now housed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Virgin Caliente Margarita recipe
Shaker and double strain
60 ml Jalapeño Chilli Agua Fresca
30 ml lemon juice
20 ml agave syrup
40 ml Pineapple juice
Slice of jalapeño for ganrish
Chilli Togarashi for the glass rim
1. Shake all the ingredients together with ice.
2. Sprinkle togarashi on the rock glass' rim.
3. Garnish with slices of jalapeño. Serve.
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