There are few living Americans who can actually remember when we celebrated Washington’s birthday on February 22. The holiday is now called President’s Day, and is commemorated on the third Monday in February to give most citizens a long weekend. In most years, we might refer to it as Washington’s birthday observed.
The good news is that a far more important holiday has moved into the slot previously occupied by Washington’s Birthday—National Margarita Day. On February 22, we stop and give thanks for the benefits of salt and lime, not to mention the miraculous juice of the agave plant. The other 364 days of the year could accurately be referred to as National Margarita Day observed.
Like most classic cocktails, the origin of the margarita is shrouded in mystery. One story places it in Ensenada, Mexico in 1941, when the drink was first consumed by Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a German diplomat. Another version claims it was invented years earlier, to honor a showgirl named Marjorie King, and yet another tale insists 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. Spurred on by Jimmy Buffet, however, it has become the most popular tequila cocktail in America.
There are endless variations, along with dozens of recipes, all of which claim to be authentic. Regardless of your preference, two things are important: Make sure the lime or lemon juice is fresh, and use Cointreau in place of triple sec whenever possible.
Here’s the “official” recipe from the International Bartenders Association:
- 7 parts tequila
- 4 parts Cointreau
- 3 parts lime juice
- Lime slice
Rub the rim of a margarita glass with a lime slice to make the salt stick to it. Shake the other ingredients with ice, then carefully pour into the glass (taking care not to dislodge any salt). Garnish and serve over ice.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press; his second book, Moonshine nation, is forthcoming from Lyons Press in June. For more information, go to amazon.com