The Origins Of The First Margarita Are Hazy (And Even A Tad Frothy)

Margaritas are refreshing, versatile, and pair well with sunny days and chips and queso. Whether you prefer yours frozen, on the rocks, or with a salted rim, the tequila-based drink is the most popular cocktail in America, per a study conducted a CGA Strategy. For such a widely-enjoyed beverage, it should be easy to trace its origins, right? Wrong! As it turns out, the genesis of the great margarita is actually shrouded in mystery.

Throughout history, many people have claimed to have invented the tangy, boozy beverage. From a traveling Irishman to a Tijuana bartender and a generous brother-in-law, dozens of people, both professional mixologists and everyday people alike, have added to the enigma of the true history of the margarita.

One of the most popular and widespread theories belongs to a bartender named Carlos "Danny" Herrera. In the late 1940s, Herrera tended to Rita De La Rosa — a famous performer and showgirl who was allergic to every type of liquor besides tequila. Despite her allergies, De La Rosa needed a cocktail, so Herrera shook up a combination of tequila, Cointreau, and lemon juice and poured it over ice to create the first-ever margarita.

But in reality, no historian, mixologist, or writer truly knows the official birthplace of the first margarita and there are many other claims to consider — some of which predate Danny Herrera's allergy-free iteration.

There are many margarita origin stories to consider

According to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, one of the earliest mentions of a margarita can be traced back to the 1937 cocktail recipe collection "Cafe Royal Cocktail Book." The boozy guide included a cocktail that's markedly similar to the modern margarita, and although it wasn't referred to as such, the drink's ingredients include tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice — sounds like a margarita to us!

History also tells a story of Danny Negrete — a soon-to-be brother-in-law who blended together, you guessed it, tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice as an intoxicating and rare gift for the newlyweds. There's also the tall tale of a wandering Irishman named Madden who found himself bartending in Mexico and accidentally swapped brandy for tequila while preparing a popular cocktail that calls for lime juice and Cointreau.

Another popular theory is credited to Francisco "Pancho" Morales — a bartender who was asked to fashion a brandy-based drink that calls for some of the ingredients found in the modern margarita. Lacking some of the necessary ingredients, including brandy, Morales used tequila instead, thus creating the inaugural margarita which he went on to popularize through his work as a teacher at a bartending school.

Although nobody truly knows who created the first margarita, we can deduce that it was created sometime between the late 1930s and 40s. And perhaps the many possibilities of its birthplace lend to the endless margarita variations we can choose from today — we'll take ours spicy with a Tajín rim, please!