An Ode To The Margarita, A Baby-Maker For 70 Years

Photographed by Roxana Azar.
Like all good stories, the tale of the margarita begins just after the war, in Acapulco. It's the late '40s, it's sunny out and Margaret Sames, a wealthy Texan socialite – is there any other? – is sitting by a bar with Tommy Hilton, he of the hotels. Margaret is known for throwing extravagant parties down here at her holiday home, and she wants a new drink made – enter a snake-hipped bartender who mixes 30ml Cointreau with 50ml of white tequila and some lime, and hey presto, Margaret’s beano goes with a bang.
And are we not all Margaret now? For 70 years, the margarita drinker has lived the tale of wonder and woe, highs and lows and shared saliva to which they are heir. There is nothing to match the margarita; not cold, sophisticated martinis, nor manly negronis drunk in Italian sunshine. The margarita is the queen of the summer and one easy with her favours.
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History does not relate what Margaret’s head felt like the next day or if she took Tommy to bed but, either way, a drink was born and a lifestyle inaugurated. And the margarita is part of the summer lifestyle, thanks entirely to Mr Hilton who put it on the menu of his hotels, thus spreading it around the world with the alacrity of a verruca in the England squad.
The attraction of the margarita is the danger implicit in getting one. It is disaster in a glass, only it is the type of disaster we all want to sidle up to at a bar and throw our lot in with for the next few decades. What it is, in essence, is just a socially acceptable means of drinking a beverage in which the only mixer is Cointreau. It is like watering down your whisky with a bit of rum.
Sure, it will make you jolly at the bar, happy in the park and make you take your clothes off on the beach. But you wait ‘til nighttime. Because then comes the dread, like a herd of wildebeest in a hanging basket.
The big questions in life – Why am I here? What am I doing with my life? – are usually ones that your brain keeps safe for those nights when it is 5am and you're feeling particularly insomniac OR for when you have drunk several margaritas the night before.
Why am I here? This isn’t my own bed, nor is the person next to me someone I have, up until this evening, been on familiar terms with. And what am I doing that it is possible to still be drawing breath while my head feels like a tennis ball on a piece of knicker elastic, moving forwards and then yanked back with a force that doesn’t quite seem holy at this time?
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Well, suck it up, Janine, because it was you who ordered that jug of margarita at Balham’s premier tiki bar.
And yet and yet and yet. To drink deep of them is to live. The margarita looks dainty, kicks like a hippo in a grump, and is the friend of all comers: the poolside drunkard, the saloon bar flirt, the dowager on a plane. It might lead to a pregnancy. It will lead to a headache. But it will never be boring. And who can ask for more than that in life?
The Perfect Margarita Recipe
Ingredients
35ml (1 shot) tequila
15ml triple sec
The juice of one large lime
A handful of ice cubes
1 lime wedge, to garnish
Method
1. Pour the lime juice, tequila, ice and triple sec into a cocktail shaker.
Top tip: If you don't have a cocktail shaker, you can use a clean jam jar. Just make sure the top is firmly screwed before you shake.
2. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
3. Slightly dampen a piece of kitchen towel with water and rub it along the rim of your chosen glass. Then dip the rim of your glass in salt to create the margarita's signature salt rim.
4. Strain into your chosen glass.
If you're using a jam jar or don't have a strainer on your cocktail shaker, use a small sieve.
5. Garnish the edge of your glass with a lime wedge and enjoy!
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