That Margarita’s History

The fourth Thursday of November rings in the start of the holiday season, making November a month of giving thanks… y’know, Thanksgiving month (see what I did there?). At El Camino in Fremont, we are thankful for so many things, but the first item that comes to mind is margaritas. Those delicious sweet yet tart bevvies that our bartenders make so well. The secret El Camino recipe is the stuff of Seattle legend, but it’s really not complicated. The main ingredient is love.

Do you know who invented the margarita? We’d like to take credit, but it was long before El Camino opened in 1996. That’s why we often wonder, “Where did this margarita come from” and then we look into our empty glass and wonder, “Where did it go?” So today’s history lesson focuses on where the margarita was born.

More than one person has claimed to have invented the margarita. One of the earliest legends is that Carlos “Danny” Herrera dreamed up the delicious concoction at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria in 1938. Rancho La Gloria was halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico and former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King liked to frequent the cantina. Marjorie was allergic to most spirits, but not to tequila, so Danny combined the elements of a traditional tequila shot —a lick of salt and a wedge of lime— into what we now worship as the margarita. We like your style, Danny!

Then there’s the wealthy Dallas socialite Margarita Sames, who claims to have whipped up the original drink for friends in Acapulco in 1948. Among those well-connected friends was one Tommy Hilton, of the hotel Hiltons. Tommy thought the tequila cocktail was so tasty, he added the drink to his hotel bar menu. Now that’s how you make a beverage go viral… in the forties.

However… not so fast, my friend. The Complete Book of Spirits by Anthony Dias Blue claims that the first importer of Jose Cuervo tequila in the United States advertised Cuervo with the tagline, “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name” as early as 1945. That’s three whole years before Sames claimed to have invented her namesake. Hmmmmm.

As a side note and a nod to the connection between Dallas, Texas and the marg (remember, Sames was from Dallas), the world’s first frozen margarita machine was invented in 1971 by Dallas restaurant owner Mariano Martinez. At El Camino, we serve our house margarita on the rocks, but you have to hand it to Mariano for inventiveness. Here’s to you, fella.

Somewhere in this melange of tales is where the margarita began. Hopefully you’ll finish your next one at El Camino, the best Mexican bar in Fremont. Try our Seattle happy hour margaritas 3-6 EVERYday and stay thirsty, my friends! Ole!

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