If you were already planning to wind down your week with a cold beverage in hand – now you have even more of a reason to do so! Kick off your weekend by honoring the mother of all tequila-based cocktails: the Margarita. For the locals, there are plenty of Austin area watering holes taking advantage of the occasion, and if you have a specific type of marg in mind, then check out CultureMap Austin’s comprehensive list of where to get what. And because why not give back while you’re out and about, long-time Austin establishment Z-Tejas, has partnered with local organization HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) to both honor the restaurant’s 22nd anniversary and to give you a chance to support a great cause. For every top-shelf margarita ordered today, Z-Tejas will donate $2.22 to HAAM. Win-win! But lest you think our Margarita celebration stop there, we’ve asked Cocktail King, Tony Abou-Ganim, for his personal go-to recipe! Not only that, the mix-master himself shares a few Margarita tips and even gives a little context to the allure of this citrus concoction.
The origin of the Margarita has been the source of much speculation. Woven within and among countless theories rest certain claims that most industry experts feel sure of – or more accurately, almost sure of. First, the Margarita was created somewhere between the mid 1930s and late 1940s. Second, it hails from either Mexico or California, or possibly Texas or New Mexico. And finally, as “Margarita” is the Spanish equivalent of “Margaret” or “Marjorie,” it was very likely named after a particular individual of the fairer sex.
Among the most recognized stories is one that revolves around a woman by the name of Margaret Sames. Prominent residents of San Antonio, Texas, Mrs. Sames and her Husband Bill would frequently entertain guests at their cliff-side villa in Acapulco, Mexico. In striving to serve something special to her guests during their 1948 Christmas celebration, Margaret reached for her favorite spirit, Cointreau, added Tequila and fresh lime, dusted the rim of a champagne class with salt, and called it “The Drink.”
While her creation proved a huge success, its name was clearly lacking. Bill, wishing to commemorate his wife’s clever creation, had made two beautiful glasses etched with the Spanish version of her name, and whether intentionally or not “The Drink” was forever renamed in her honor.
A considerably less romantic theory of origin, is that the Margarita was created at the Tail o’ the Cock restaurant in Los Angeles. Interestingly, during that 1948 Christmas celebration hosted by the Sames, the guest list included Shelton A. McHenry, owner of the Tail o’ the Cock. Sound like there may be a connection here?
Another widely accepted story involves an American actress named Marjorie King, a bartender Carlos “Danny” Hererra, and a drinking establishment called Rancho La Gloria located in Tijuana, Mexico. At some point in the late 1930s Marjorie found herself at Rancho La Gloria and in want of a drink. Legend has it that Marjorie was allergic to every spirit with the exception of tequila.
Dedicated to fulfilling his customers’ every desire, Danny mixed her a cocktail of tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice – Interesting that her spirit “allergy” mysteriously excluded Cointreau as well as tequila. Named for Danny’s delicate customer, the new drink sensation quickly swept across the border into Southern California, and the Margarita was soon on the path to becoming a cocktail of legendary proportions.
The Margarita is now the number one consumed cocktail in the United States. If ever there was a drink that demanded the use of quality ingredients, this is the one. It is important to remember that a cocktail can only be made spectacular by the sum quality of its components. Otherwise put, you only get out of a drink what you put into it.
What’s the best margarita you’ve ever had?Hands down it has to be Julio Bermejo’s House Margarita at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, CA. Oh yeah, I like my recipe also!
Most crucial element of the cocktail?Celebrating the tequila! In my opinion every drink should showcase the base spirit, but this rule is never more imperative than with the Margarita. If you have a great recipe, then the tequila is the feature. After that, we look for balance and great guacamole.
Lastly, what can festival-goers expect from your Latin Libations demo at this year’s Festival?Although drinks such as the Margarita have become staples in our cocktail repertoire, other Latin-inspired libations, although much more readily available today, are still much of a mystery to many. We will delve into Brazil’s Batidas and Caipirinha, debate the ongoing battle between Chile and Peru over Pisco and their celebrated National drink, the Pisco Sour, and how an American bartender utilized Pisco in what was to become a famous drink in California, the Pisco Punch. It is sure to be an entertaining and enlightening look at some lesser known spirits and cocktails that are wonderful and easy to prepare at home.
Tony Abou-Ganim’s Classic Margarita
2 oz. 100% Agave Silver Tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
2 oz. fresh lemon sour (2 parts fresh squeezed lemon juice to 1 part simple syrup)
Freshly squeezed juice of one lime (1 oz.)Add above ingredients to an ice filled mixing glass, shake until well blended, and then strain into an ice filled tumbler. Garnish with a wedge of lime. For a “funky” twist substitute homemade ginger root syrup for the simple syrup in the fresh lemon sour.
Tony Abou-Ganim’s Margarita History:
“Regardless of the circumstances under which it was created, thank goodness it was!”