America’s favorite cocktail is 80 and area restaurants, bars, cafés and cantinas are clinking glasses with special fervor to mark the margarita’s anniversary.
The traditional mixed drink is tequila, triple sec and lime juice with salt rubbed on the rim of the glass; it’s served on ice, without ice, or frozen, blended with ice.
Each mixologist/bartender, though, will cover the basic recipe with innovative methods and ingredients.
One of the popular stories explaining the origin of the margarita is that in 1938, Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his Rancho La Gloria restaurant, near Tijuana, Mexico, created the drink for Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King, recalled bartender Albert Hernandez, who went on to popularize the drink in La Jolla, California, after World War II.
Jose Cuervo, the company known for its tequilas, agrees that 1938 is the birth year, noting that the margarita was first delivered by a bartender to honor Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa. The first margarita recipe is said to have been published in the December 1953 “Esquire.”
First, Snooze an AM Eatery in Ahwatukee, Tempe and Gilbert, offers two custom-crafted margaritas, even with breakfast: a Morning Margarita and a seasonal Pomegranate Margarita.
“At Snooze, with our cocktail program we try and start with classics and elevate them with a breakfast theme,” said Andrew Mangan, regional manager for the Denver-based company.
The Morning Margarita, for example, is Espolón Blanco Tequila or spicy with Ancho Reyes, orange liqueur, house sour and a lime squeeze.
The Pomegranate Margarita is Snooze’s variation on the classic drink.
“We update it seasonally with a focus on fresh fruits and juices to complement the classic cocktail build,” Mangan explained. “We take the juice and add sugar and vinegar, which lends a really nice depth of flavor to the drink.
“The deep purple color is an eye catcher and, because it is well balanced, it is not a fruity or sweet drink and is a crowd-pleaser for all,” he added, noting that the restaurant will feature a seasonal Strawberry Jalapeño this summer.
Near Snooze in downtown Gilbert is one of the three Valley Barrio Queens, which all serve three signature margaritas: Death’s Door, Toloache and La Barrio Paloma.
“Death’s Door is for those who want a challenge,” said Steve Rosenfield, who began the restaurants with wife Linda Nash. “It is a margarita that is spicy but with a hint of sweetness and a little macho.”
The bar starts with blanco tequila and adds jalapeño, chile de arbol and habanero peppers, then serves it in a skull mug.
Toloache is a love potion. “The Aztecs believed you could make anyone fall head over heels for the person that concocted the potion for you,” Rosenfeld said.
It’s crafted with Maestro Dobel tequila, blueberries and agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea). “The potion is mixed at the table, which the guests love. They also want to see if it really works,” he added.
The Barrio Paloma is a grapefruit-based margarita, made at the table.
Sweet, sour and slightly bitter and salty, the “Dove” includes a very smooth Don Camilo Reposado tequila, fresh citrus juices and is topped with Mexican squirt soda and served in a cantarito.
Nash and Rosenfield first saw this variation in the small town of Amatitan, Jalisco, Mexico.
“There are Paloma stands in every corner competing to see who makes the best one,” he recalled.
Joyride Taco House offers seven specialty margaritas. The restaurant is one of a number owned by Phoenix-based Upward Projects, which started 13 years ago with the original Postino Arcadia by Craig and Kris DeMarco and Lauren and Wyatt Bailey.
“Despite being built around three simple ingredients, the margarita so much fun to make and drink because it’s so flexible. You can throw in your favorite fresh, seasonal fruits or add some jalapeño for spice or sprinkle in exotic elements like hibiscus.