CLOSE
iStock
iStock

What's the Right Way to Make a Margarita?

iStock
iStock

Like the Whiskey Sour, Margaritas look different in every bar. You can get them up or on the rocks, with or without salt, flavored, frozen, pre-mixed, or freshly made. Although they differ greatly in appearance, they all share a common origin.

But figuring out exactly how the drink was first created is more complicated. The original Margarita was a humble combination of tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur (usually cited as Cointreau), and salt. Most stories have it being invented in the 1930s or '40s. It’s been called Mexico’s most beloved export, and it's an almost perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

It’s also possible that the Margarita came into being when a bartender substituted tequila for brandy in a Sidecar (the Sidecar had been popular for more than a decade before the Margarita rose to fame). Yet another possibility is that the Margarita existed under a different name. In fact, the Picador, a cocktail made with tequila, salt, and Cointreau, appears in the 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book. After that point, however, it pretty much disappears.

The Daisy, which has since evolved into more of a class of cocktail (like the Sour or the Smash), is another possible evolutionary link. Here, someone used tequila to make the cocktail and renamed it—a very common practice among bartenders then and now. 

Even if the original creator did whip up the Margarita using that approach, his (or her) name is lost to history. With that said, there are plenty of people who claim credit, and plenty more women named Marguerite (or Margaret or Margarita) who claim to be its inspiration.

Carlos Danny, the owner of a Tijuana restaurant, claims one of the more interesting origin stories. According to cocktail lore, he created the drink for a dancer named Marjorie King who was allergic to all liquor except tequila. Though we’re not sure how that works, Danny’s tombstone says he created the margarita.

Until recently, Dallas socialite Margarita Sames was most often cited as the drink’s creator. Sames asserts that she created the drink at a party at her vacation home in Acapulco in 1948. Though it’s one of the tidiest stories, it’s not true. By 1945, José Cuervo’s U.S. importer was using an ad that proclaimed “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name.” Sorry, Margarita.

The origins of the frozen margarita are a bit clearer. The machine was first created (or repurposed, depending on who you talk to) in 1971 by a restaurateur named Mariano Martinez. It’s thought that either he or someone in his family also created the first margarita mix to use in the machine, but no one ever patented the mix.

No matter the Margarita's origins, it's delicious all the same.

Hit The Lab

Classic Margarita 

2 oz 100% agave tequila
1 oz lime juice
1 oz Cointreau or dry curacao

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously to combine. Strain into a coupe glass rimmed with coarse salt.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?
iStock
iStock

If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0

The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.

HIT THE LAB

Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Caipirinha
Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios