The Proper Margarita

Forget slushy sweet drinks – this tequila cocktail is better on the rocks

Photography Daniel Wood; Styling Seth Van Havere

The history of the margarita is about as hazy as the memory of a patron of an all-inclusive Puerto Vallarta resort who has had too many of them at the swim-up bar. Claims to its origin go back as far as 1938, when it’s said Tijuana restaurateur Carlos “Danny” Herrera came up with the drink to please a fussy customer who said she was allergic to all hard liquors except tequila. Other stories involve a Dallas socialite named Margarita Sames, who transformed into a mixologist at her Acapulco vacation home, and ads for Jose Cuervo tequila with the slogan: “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name.”

However it was born, the margarita has evolved, though not necessarily for the better. More often than not, it’s served blended with ice, giving it a slushy consistency. But Alfredo Rosales, co-owner of The 3 Amigos Authentic Mexican Restaurant in south Edmonton, serves most of his margaritas on the rocks, and he prefers to drink his that way too.

“I find it more flavourful,” he says. “Instead of mixing with the ice, the ice is slowly melting into the drink. The slushy, I think it takes away a little bit from the flavours.”

Tequila Sunrise

The 3 Amigos boasts the largest selection of margaritas in the city – 35 flavours altogether. They range from classic lime and strawberry to experimental concoctions like avocado, pineapple-celery and horchata, the Latin American drink made with rice milk, cinnamon and sometimes vanilla. “I get bored easily, so I like experimenting,” Rosales says.

But, as long as there is tequila, a sweetener like triple sec or agave syrup, and lime juice – which are in all of 3 Amigos’ creations, save for the lime that could curdle the milk in some varieties – Rosales says it’s fair game to call it a margarita.

“We try to keep it as authentic as possible. But I’ve been to Mexico, and they do what the people want. They hear what the people have to say, and we kind of have to follow.”

Mexican Pride

Despite its nebulous origins, Mexico has adopted the margarita, becoming a drink synonymous with our neighbours two countries over. Rosales says that Mexicans are thrilled to see something they invented become so popular.

“Mexicans do love their tequila. I know that for a fact,” he says with a smile. “But I think the popularity grew more when it got around to the whole world, and Mexicans took pride in saying, ‘That’s our drink.'”

Jalapeno Sunstroke Margarita

Courtesy of Alfredo Rosales, 3 Amigos


1/4 of a of a jalapeno pepper, 2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. maraschino cherry syrup, 1 oz. lime juice, orange juice, ice cubes


Muddle jalapeno pepper with tequila in a tall highball glass. Fill glass with ice. Add orange juice until glass is three-quarters full. Add maraschino cherry syrup and lime juice. Stir and serve.

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