|There are many claims to this distinction, most of them based upon a local bartender making the drink for a person with the name of Margaret or Margarita. Here are a few claims to be the origin of this magnificent beverage. My research has found that it would be similar to asking who invented pizza or the hamburger. The answer depends upon who you ask.
The name Margarita has a Greek origin, meaning “Pearl” for Margarites. The Spanish word means “Daisy Flower”.
One claim is that the Margarita was based on a popular cocktail of the 30’s originally known as the Sidecar, which is basically the same drink, using brandy in place of tequila and powdered sugar instead of salt on the rim.
Here are a few of the claims that I have found.
Red Hinton, a bartender in Virginia City named it after his girlfriend, Margarita Mendez, who hit someone over the head with a whiskey bottle and died in the crossfire that pursued.
Tail o’ the Cock
A World War II bartender at Los Angeles’ Tail o’ the Cock restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard created it. Legend has it that Vernon Underwood, head of the beverage company that held the distribution rights to the Jose Cuervo tequila brand, suddenly noticed a jump in the sales of Jose Cuervo. The normal trickle of tequila out of his warehouse had turned into a geyser. Underwood quickly tracked the sales spike to one of his accounts, the Tail o’ the Cock, where the barman recently had invented a wildly popular new drink consisting of Jose Cuervo tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. The bartender named the drink after his wife Margaret, translated into Spanish as Margarita.
Mexico City, 1934 Barman “Willie” from in the employ of the Melguizo Family.
Marguerite Hemery lived in the Rio Grande Valley since the 1930s and went to a restaurant in Matamoros called Los Dos Republicas. She was friends with the owner and, as the story goes, his bartender composed a special drink for her.
Los Dos Republicas @ americantourassociation.com
Danny Negrete, 1936
According to Salvador Negrete, the son of Daniel Negrete, the family story goes that Daniel opened a bar at the Garci Crispo hotel with his brother, David. The day before David’s marriage, Daniel presented the margarita as a wedding present to Margarita, his sister-in-law. It was a combination of one-third Triple Sec, one-third tequila and one-third squeezed Mexican lime juice. The drink was not blended and was served with hand-crushed ice.
Danny Herrera, 1938.
The Margarita, was first concocted in 1938 by Danny Herrera, bartender at the Rancho La Gloria bar in Tijuana for aspiring actress Marjorie King. The starlet claimed to be allergic to all liquors except tequila, so Herrera used it to create a new drink for Marjorie and gave it her Spanish name, Margarita.
Enrique Bastate Gutierrez, early 1940s
Gutierrez, who lived in Tijuana, Mexico, boasted to have created the Margarita as a homage to actress Rita Hayworth, whose real name was Margarita Cansino.
Other versions of the story claim the Margarita was indeed named after the actress, but in the 1930s, before she adopted her screen name. As a teenager, Margarita Cansino worked as a dancer at the Foreign Club, in Tijuana, where she supposedly inspired a bartender.
Francisco “Pancho” Morales, 4th of July, 1942
A bartender, Pancho Morales invented the margarita on July 4, 1942, at a Ciudad Juárez bar named Tommy’s Place. Supposedly, a woman requested a Magnolia (brandy, Cointreau, and an egg yolk topped with Champagne). Morales was a little fuzzy on the recipe; he improvised and his creation was a big hit.
Santos Cruz, 1948
According to the promotional flyer for the legendary Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas, head bartender Santos Cruz created the Margarita for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee in 1948.
The Balinese Room was opened in 1941 and was Texas’s finest nightclub with A/C, casino gambling, superb food and drinks, and stellar entertainment until the Texas Rangers finally shut it down in 1957.
Margaret Sames, December 1948
Sames, who created the drink at her Acapulco bar, gave the reason of being “close with a lot of famous hotel and restaurant people” in introducing the margarita, Sames used one part Cointreau, two parts tequila and one part lime juice for her margarita. Knowing that most people drank tequila preceded by a lick of salt, she chose to garnish her cocktail with a rim of coarse salt.
Sames moved to El Paso, TX in 1958 where she was well known for her lavish parties. In 1982 she appeared on NBC’s Today show demonstrating the proper way to make a margarita.
(Another version) Texas socialite Margarita Sames from Dallas created the drink to serve at one of the frequent cocktail parties. Margarita and William Sames were entertaining guests at their Acapulco vacation home over the Christmas holiday of 1948 when Mrs. Sames began experimenting with cocktails containing her two favorite spirits, tequila and Cointreau.
This amateur mixologist noticed that her concoction, referred to simply as “the drink,” kept her Christmas guests in a perpetually festive mood. Once Mrs. Sames had perfected the definitive euphoric recipe (two parts tequila, one part Cointreau, one part fresh lime juice), it was dubbed the “margarita” by Mr. Sames in honour of his wife. One of the Sames’ houseguests that year happened to be Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, heir to the Hilton hotel chain and owner of the Tail of the Cock restaurant in Los Angeles. which may explain how the drink spread north of the border.
Credit: Wikipedia, The Great Margarita Book, by Al Lucero, Tequilaworld.com and various internet sources