Increasingly, our lives are segmented by artificially imposed celebrations. Take Valentine’s Day, the “holiday” most recently commemorated. It’s the one day of the year when we’re obligated to stop and show some affection for those we love (affection we presumably feel but are too busy to demonstrate on a regular basis).
National Margarita Day, by comparison, looks like something to celebrate: who doesn’t love a well-crafted cocktail? It turns out that the origins of NMD aren’t as commercial as cynics might suspect. It was started about ten years ago by Todd McCalla, a commercial real estate broker from Nashville who just happens to love margaritas. McCalla is a purist with no connections to the tequila industry and no motivation for financial gain. “I abhor high fructose corn syrup and all the garbage chemicals that go into 90% of the commercial mixes sold,” he has been quoted as saying. Bravo!
It’s no accident that NMD occurs in the depths of winter, when there’s little else to celebrate. February 22 is also “National Cook a Sweet Potato Day,” if that lines up with your passions; you may remember it as George Washington’s birthday, which is now commemorated on the start or finish of a more convenient three-day weekend.
Like most classic cocktails, the origins of the margarita are shrouded in mystery. According to a book by a guy named Mark Spivak (Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, Lyons Press, 2012), there are many different versions of how and where it was invented: in Ensenada, Mexico in 1941, when bartender Don Carlos Orozco first served the drink to Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a German diplomat; a few years earlier at Mexico’s Rancho la Gloria Hotel by Carlos Herrera, who created it for a former showgirl named Marjorie King, or that it was first concocted by a Dallas socialite named Margaret “Margarita” Sames.” It is likely descended from the Daisy, a long drink consisting of a base spirit combined with lemon juice, sugar and grenadine.
There are so many variations on the margarita that a recipe is almost beside the point. For what it’s worth, the “official” IBA (International Bartenders Association) recipe calls for 50 ml (1.7 oz.) of tequila, 20 ml (.67 oz.) triple sec, and 15 ml (.5 oz.) freshly squeezed lime juice. Remember to salt the rim first, and use the best ingredients you can find: no mixes containing high fructose corn syrup, or Todd McCalla will hunt you down and find you.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, has been re-released on Amazon in print, e-book and audio book formats. Has America’s greatest chef cut a deal with Satan for fame and fortune?