When we think of reasons to drink during May, Cinco de Mayo is unsurprisingly the thing that comes to mind. Though the holiday originally began as an observance of the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French during the Battle of Puebla in 1862, it’s taken on a significance beyond that — at least in the United States.
Today, Cinco de Mayo is all about celebrating the Mexican-American community — which makes up roughly 11% of the US population — and the culture they’ve created. The holiday wouldn’t be complete without tequila, the national liquor of Mexico, nor a few of the most famous tequila-based cocktail: the margarita.
Oddly enough, the origins of the margarita aren’t entirely known. Some claim the recipe is merely a renamed version of the picador from the 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail Book. Another of the earliest stories has the margarita being invented in 1938 somewhere near Tijuana for Ziegfield dancer Marjorie King, while, according Jose Cuervo, the recipe was invented that same year but in honor of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.
And then there’s another commonly accepted origin story dating back to 1941. As the legend goes, bartender Don Carlos Orozco was experimenting with new recipes at Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico when Margarita Henkel, the daughter of the then-German ambassador, strolled in. Orozco offered her his concoction of tequila, lime juice, and Mexican orange liqueur served with a salted-rim. She loved it so much and was the first to try it, thus the “margarita” was born.
At the end of the day, we don’t really care who invented the margarita, we’re just glad it happened. The refreshing cocktail is a must for enjoying with Mexican food or on a hot summer day, and has given way to plenty of equally delicious variations. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, here are five essential margarita recipes you need, from the perfectly balanced classic rendition to inventive creations with an extra special kick. ¡Salud!
The Perfect Margarita
Forget pre-made sour mix: The only way to truly have a margarita is to make it with the highest quality and freshest ingredients. Our take on the perfect margarita features nothing more than white tequila, Cointreau, and freshly squeezed lime juice. The end result is equal parts tangy and sweet, and is far superior to anything made with a mix. See recipe
If you want to add an extra elegance to your margarita, look no further than the St. Rita. In place of traditional orange liqueur, the recipe calls for — surprise, surprise — St. Germain, a French creation made with hand-picked elderflower blossoms. The liqueur lends a subtle floral quality without making you think you’re drinking a bouquet. See recipe
We often think of cranberries as something to be enjoyed around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the acidic fruit is the perfect pairing for the agave profile of tequila. Bursting with flavor and color, the cranberry margarita is a fun and festive take on the classic. See recipe
Grilled Pineapple Jalapeno Margarita
If crafted incorrectly, margaritas (like ones not made with our Perfect Margarita recipe) can easily lean towards being too sour or too sweet. This can especially be true when trying to revamp the recipe. That’s not the case with this dynamic creation by Erin Lynch. Thanks to jalapeno-infused tequila, caramelized pineapple, and a hint of agave and vanilla, it’s the perfect blend of spicy, smoky, sour, and sweet. See recipe
Spicy Grand Margarita
Speaking of spicy, here’s one for all of you looking for a punch. The Spicy Grand Margarita, created by the pros at Grand Marnier, is definitely not for the faint of heart. Tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur are taken up a notch with pepper flakes and chipotle — and if that wasn’t hot enough, a red pepper garnish. See recipe