Celebrate National Margarita Day with one of Denver's five best
Yesterday may have been a day of indulgence for those of you who used Mardi Gras as an excuse to stuff yourself with pancakes and get sloshed on Hurricanes. But if you're still going strong, you'll want to know that today is probably the best arbitrary hedonistic holiday of the whole year. That's right: February 22 is National Margarita Day.
A few local spots are offering specials today -- but then, many Denver restaurants make margaritas that are pretty special every day of the year.
In celebration of this ad hoc holiday, we've looked back at how the margarita came into this world -- and like the origins of so many classic cocktails, this one is cloudy at best: Stories pin the margarita's invention to anywhere between the late 19th century and the early 1950s.
Those pushing the earlier date see the margarita not so much as an invention as an evolution: The daisy -- a cocktail made with a spirit base plus citrus and sweetener -- was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so a tequila daisy isn't much of a stretch. Given that the word margarita also happens to be Spanish for daisy, that's an easily tied up tale.
The rest of the theories revolve around both Mexican and American bartenders and their patrons: Don Carlos Orozco mixed the first one in 1941 at Hussong's Cantina in Ensenada for Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a German Ambassador; Enrique Bastante Gutierez made one for Margarita "Rita" Hayworth in the 1940s; socialite Margarite Soames invented the drink accidentally while playing around with Cointreau and tequila and popularized it at parties. Since Hollywood types were definitely sipping the cocktail in the 1930s and 1940s, though, many of these stories can be quickly discredited.
Despite its acceptance by the elite, the cocktail hovered on the outskirts of popular consciousness until the 1960s or 1970s. Once the drink broke through, though, it didn't take long for it to be injected with flavored syrup, tossed in the slushie machine and even made without, ahem, tequila.
Today's margarita recipes are as varied as the accounts of the drink's history, though the most classic is probably two parts tequila, one part triple sec and one part fresh-squeezed lime juice, shaken and served on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass. Some recipes up that ratio to four parts tequila, cut the citrus to just a dash or add in sugar -- or substitute simple syrup for triple sec altogether. Less classic variations even finish the drink with a splash of orange juice...or beer. Oh, and the coin-style margarita? Mostly brilliant marketing on the part of Cointreau, which is just another triple sec (albeit a better triple sec than whatever is in the well at most high-volume bars).
So why is National Margarita Day February 22? As far as we can tell, it's an arbitrary designation, a Hallmark card-like ploy to sell more tequila in the middle of winter. As if we need an excuse to drink.
If you're inclined to celebrate this august holiday -- and we certainly are -- we recommend seeking out one of Denver's five best margaritas: