National Margarita Day is celebrated annually on February 22, in honor of what may arguably be America’s most well-known classic cocktail, and the most popular tequila-based cocktail in the USA.
For many, margaritas conjure notions of tropical beaches, sunshine, and a steel-drum band. Yet for most of the United States, February is the coldest month of the year. So why do we celebrate margaritas smack dab in the middle of winter?
According to National Margarita Day founder, Todd McCalla, February is when we need margaritas most. Who doesn’t want to be reminded of memories of somewhere warm when winter is starting to feel like it will never end?
A classic margarita is comprised of tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. According to the International Bartenders Association (IBA), the standard ratio is 50% tequila, 29% Cointreau, and 21% fresh lime juice. The mixture is shaken with ice, and strained into a cocktail glass rimmed with salt.
Although the margarita’s presence in American bars today is ubiquitous, its origin story is somewhat hazy—though it’s likely that the popular drink came onto the scene sometime during the 1930s or 1940s. The 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail Book included a Picador recipe with the ingredients now recognized as the components of a margarita. Another popular legend claims that Carlos “Danny” Herrera created the drink at his Rancho La Gloria restaurant for famed dancer Marjorie King, who was allergic to spirits other than tequila. In this version of the story, Herrera named the drink margarita because it’s the spanish version of Marjorie. According to Jose Cuervo, the drink was named for the Mexican showgirl who inspired it—Rita de la Rosa.
Whether the drink was created in Britain, Mexico or the United States, one thing is clear: the margarita has inspired a cult following. Jimmy Buffett’s hit song Margaritaville not only topped charts—it’s now inspired an entire restaurant chain dedicated to the “frozen concoction that helps [him] hang on.” The drink is a staple in Mexican-American restaurants worldwide. And the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History even boasts a margarita machine among its collection.
Margaritas have also inspired many variations over the years. In the 1970s, Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez used a soft serve ice cream machine to create the first frozen margarita. Fruit-infused margaritas, such as strawberry and watermelon varieties, have become popular. And craft cocktail enthusiasts have riffed on the classic with creations like the lavender margarita, spiced carrot margarita, and spicy cilantro margarita.
Whether you prefer your ‘rita frozen or on the rocks, spicy or sweet, fruity or vegetal, enjoy a margarita on February 22 and dream of warmer days ahead.
National Margarita Day is typically celebrated