Why a Margarita Has a Salted Rim
Whether you like your Margarita with a salted rim or not, you’ve probably wondered at least once how the cocktail got its savory garnish. While the roots of the tequila drink are murky at best, it seems that even some of the earliest origin stories say the drink was served with a salted rim. Here, we dive into the history behind the Marg garnish and why it enhances the cocktail.
The origins of the Margarita are far from clear, and it seems like the appearance of salt is even more mysterious. Some say the Margarita was invented by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria in 1938 for Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King when she was on holiday in Tijuana, Mexico. King apparently was allergic to every hard liquor except for tequila, but she didn’t want to sip the agave spirit straight. So Herrera whipped up the drink and gave it a Spanish version of her name. It was made with three parts Blanco tequila, two parts Cointreau and one part fresh lemon juice with a salted rim.
Another account says the Margarita was invented in 1941 by bartender Don Carlos Orozco at Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico. The daughter of the German ambassador to Mexico, Margarita Henkel, visited the restaurant, so he decided to serve her his iteration of the drink, which he’d been experimenting with for some time. His cocktail was made with tequila, a Mexican orange liqueur called Control, and lime juice, which was shaken and served in a salt-rimmed glass. Allegedly, Henkel liked it, so Orozco decided to name the drink after her.
While none of the Margarita origin stories give clear answers as to why these bartenders added salt to the drink, it was a good decision. This piece gives a deeper dive into why salt is beneficial to drinks, but the upshot is this: First of all, salt helps to mellow bitter flavors. We recently had a bartender tell us that she likes to add a couple of drops of saline solution to Cynar, an artichoke amaro.
We tried it, and it brings the sweet notes of the liqueur to the forefront of your palate. Finally, salt enhances the overall flavor of cocktails. Though the scientific investigation is ongoing, salt supposedly stimulates your gustatory receptor cells, which make up your taste buds. It also increases saliva production, which makes the cocktail “mouthwatering” in a very literal sense.
So the next time someone asks you if you’d like salt on your Margarita, remember that history and science suggest you should say yes.
The daisy is an old prohibition drink that has a base spirit, sugar, and a sour. The cocktail later inspired the sidecar, which is basically a margarita with cognac and lemon. Some believe that the margarita is just a spin on a tequila daisy.
The origins of the cocktail are unclear, but the origins of the machine are pretty straightforward: Mariano Martinez invented the frozen margarita machine in the early '70s. The 26-year-old Dallas restaurateur was having trouble creating the frozen drink for customers; bartenders complained they took too long, and customers thought they melted too quickly.
After seeing a Slurpee machine in a 7-Eleven, Martinez was struck with inspiration. He transformed a soft-serve ice cream machine into one that pumped out frosty margaritas. The drinks were a huge success, and the machines can now be found all over the country.
The salt is there to bring out the sweet and sour flavors of the drink; even just a pinch will help subdue the bitterness and enhance the important flavors. On top of this, salt intensifies the drinker’s perception of the drink’s aromas, making the flavors even more powerful.
In fact, it was the most ordered mixed drink of 2008, according to the Cheers On-Premise Handbook. That year, Americans were consuming 185,000 margaritas per hour on average.
The original recipe calls for tequila, Cointreau, lime, and salt to garnish, but there are a number of creative spins of the cocktail. Different fruits like peaches, mangos, and pineapple can be added to give the drink a more tropical feel. Some replace the salt with sugar or garnish with sage or coriander leaves. Even crazier, adventurous types will add ingredients like Sriracha or chocolate. Here’s a full list of creative margaritas to try.
The Flamingo Hotel’s Margaritaville Casino in Las Vegas holds the honor of making the largest margarita in the world. This enormous drink was 8500 gallons (32,176 liters) and “served” in a 17-foot-tall tank. It took 60 people 300 hours to create. The drink called the “Lucky Rita” was created to celebrate the opening of the casino in 2011.
In 2013, 230 FIFTH Rooftop Bar & Penthouse Lounge in Manhattan baited partiers with a frozen margarita that used some incredibly high-end ingredients—the tequila alone cost $1800 a bottle. Even the ice was made from $450 bottles of Lois Roederer Cristal Champagne. The final product was poured into a Ralph Lauren hand-blown Hungarian crystal glass that can be taken home afterward. The decadent drink was for a good cause though—half the money was donated to a charity of the drinker’s choice.
If you thought $1200 wasn't too bad to spend on a cocktail, how does $30,000 sound? For Valentine’s Day in 2015, the Iron Cactus in Austin, Texas, offered an extremely expensive margarita that came with a pair of diamond earrings. The bar's "romance expert" would set the whole thing up; no word on whether all that dough covered dinner, though.
The Tucson Originals and the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance get together every year to bring the public the World Margarita Championship. Renowned bartenders from Tucson come to duke it out for the honor of best margarita in Arizona. Visitors also vote for their favorites in a People's Choice category. Last year’s overall winner was an orange jalapẽno margarita by Eric Brenner of Pastiche.
Why drink your cocktail when you can eat it? This strange food is served at the Texas State Fair, along with a variety of other food that shouldn't be fried. The funnel cake batter is put through a margarita mixer, fried, and then soaked in more margarita. The finished product is topped with whipped cream and served in a salt-rimmed glass.