Margarita – Original Recipe & History

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See our affiliate policy for more info.
Quick Step-By-Step Margarita Recipe Video

Margarita – Original 1937 Recipe

5 from 1 vote Only logged in users can rate recipes
Course: DrinksCuisine: Mexican






Total time



Learn how to make a classic Margarita.


  • 2/3 oz 2/3 Lime Juice

  • 1 oz 1 Orange Liqueur

  • 2 oz 2 Silver Tequila


  • Technique: Saxe Soda Shake
  • Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  • Add one medium or two small ice cubes to the cocktail shaker and shake until the ice fully melts.
  • Without a strainer, pour the chilled and aerated drink into a glass.

Recipe Video


The History Of The Margarita.

This is the tequila variation of the Sidecar, and while it is heavily associated with Mexico, The oldest known recipe for it is from Britain. The Oldest known recipe is from the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book by William J. Tarling of London. The Cafe Royal has the EXACT recipe for a margarita, but it’s called the Picador and not the Margarita (Margarita is the Spanish word for a daisy flower).

I’ve heard the argument that since it’s not called the margarita, it’s not a margarita, but the recipe is precisely a margarita, and regardless of the name, the actual drink is more important. To William Tarling’s credit, the Cafe Royal was well known as a more experimental high-end bar that used exotic spirits, liqueurs, and juices. Tequila would be seen as exotic in 1930s England, and the book has not 1 but 14 different tequila recipes. I couldn’t find another cocktail book with that many tequila cocktails until the 1970s.

The first use of the name margarita comes from the December 1953 issue of Esquire Magazine. Their drink of the month section on page 76 says, “She’s from Mexico, and her name is the Margarita cocktail — She is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative.” The Esquire recipe is:

  • 1 oz Tequila
  • Dash of triple sec
  • Juice of half a lime or lemon
  • Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin on salt, and sip.

Notably, Esquire was the first to add a salted rim to the cocktail, and their proportions are much sourer than the Cafe Royals.

Should I Use Margarita Mix, Sweet And Sour, Or Orange Liqueur And Citrus?

Margarita mix and Sweet and sour are the same things. The name sweet and sour is to sell the same product to people looking to make a drink other than just a margarita. The truth is they are all kind of crap. Some are better than others, but most of those cost between 25-30 USD, and at those prices, you might as well get the real stuff and buy Cointreau. Also, combining equal parts of orange liqueur and lime juice is already so easy that buying pre-mix is not beneficial.

The other consideration is which orange liqueur to buy. The market is over-saturated, and the selection is overwhelming. Cheap orange liqueur is often pretty gross, and if my option were a cheap orange liqueur or margarita mix, I would get the margarita mix. I love a deal, but orange liqueur is one of those items where you get what you pay for. Price-wise, about 20 and up, they taste pretty good. The next thing to consider is whether to get one made with an aged base spirit or not. Grand Marnier is made with an aged brandy, and Cointreau is not. Orange liqueurs made with an aged base spirit tend to be more mellow and easier to sip straight. If you like drinking cordials, then Grand Marnier would be a choice. Un-aged base spirits tend to have more robust, more crisp flavors. The orange flavor in orange liqueurs like Cointreau is rich and clean. It all comes down to your personal preferences. Cointreau mixes better in almost all cocktails and makes a fantastic margarita. It’s also the most expensive, but as I said earlier, you get what you pay for when buying orange liqueur, and the cost is typically proportional to quality.

What Is The Difference Between Orange Liqueur, Curaçao, And Triple Sec?

Orange liqueur, triple sec, and curaçao are all the same products. They are all orange liqueurs. The reason for the different names is purely a marketing and product differentiation. The Dutch first started producing orange liqueur using Laraha oranges from the Caribbean island of curaçao somewhere in the 17th century. Sometime later, several French companies began producing orange liqueur too, and to make their product sound more exotic, Bols (the Dutch brand) began marketing theirs as Orange curaçao. In the 1850s, Cointreau came on to the scene and began selling their premium dry orange liqueur. Cointreau advertised that their base spirit (brandy) was filtered three times for clarity and neutrality to give their product a clean, crisp orange flavor. They called their product “Triple Sec,” which translates into English as three times dry. Cheap competitor quickly copied their branding and began calling their orange liqueurs triple sec. Cointreau later deemed the name triple sec had become chavey/tarnished and changed it back to simply orange liqueur. In an already confusing and oversaturated market, dyes were added to make one’s product stand out on the shelf next to other bottles. That is why orange liqueur goes by three different names and comes in every spectrum color.

William Tarling’s Cafe Royal Book And Its Influences.

Cafe Royal is massive. I can’t find exactly how many recipes are actually in this book, and I’m not going to count, but my best guess is around 1200. William Tarling did not create most of the recipes in Cafe Royal; he was the president of the UKBG (United Kingdom Bartenders Guild) and head bartender of the Cafe Royal in London. He instead compiled some of his own bars’ top recipes and the recipes of other UKBG into a single source. In his introduction, he says he combed through more than 4000 recipes to find the best and most original ones from around England. This book is a monster, and sadly ordinary folks like you and me will probably never own it. Sure there are limited reprints from time to time, but there were only 1000 original copies made in its single 1937 edition. The book was created and sold as a fundraising item for the UKBG healthcare benefit and Cafe Royal sports club. Healthcare didn’t become universal till 1948 in the UK. We’re still waiting here in the US.

William Tarling was known for experimenting with new ingredients. He positioned the Cafe Royal Bar as more edgy and experimental in its recipes compared to other more traditional bars like The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel. Cafe Royal was an early pioneer in Tequila, mezcal, and vodka cocktails mixed with exotic fruit juices. Tequila and Vodka cocktails don’t start becoming more common till the 1940s with the Moscow mule and the margarita. It’s easy to argue that the margarita was invented at the Cafe Royal in the early 1930s as their picador cocktail. In the book’s preface, William Tarling argues that there needs to be more originality and variety. Martinis and Manhattans are great but just as one tires of eating the same dinner night after night; it’s monotonous to drink the same drinks at every party. Have some fun and try channeling your inner William and try something you wouldn’t normally drink.

Recipe Resources

Related Articles


Discover More Classics


6 thoughts on “Margarita – Original Recipe & History”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *