special margarita at lily's mexican restaurant photo by izaiah johnson

Get to know the magnificent margarita (and where to drink them around St. Louis)

The margarita is one of the most ordered cocktails in the U.S. for good reason. This sublime amalgamation of tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur has a little bit of everything the palate desires: salt, sweet, sour – even some smoke, depending on the tequila.

The iconic margarita is basically a tequila version of the Daisy – a venerable category of sour cocktails comprised of spirits, citrus juice, orange cordial and soda water. Since margarita is Spanish for daisy, that origin story seems most plausible, but there are myriad tales of how the drink came to be – most involving homage to someone’s wife/girlfriend/mistress named Margarita. 

the mezcal margarita at público // photo by izaiah johnson

Some hold that Esquire claimed the margarita’s first print appearance in 1953, but similar cocktails with different names can be found in cocktail tomes many years prior, and Jose Cuervo apparently used the appellation in a late 1940s advertising campaign. At some point along the way, a salted rim became standard, and the modern classic was born.

For better or worse, the margarita’s simple nature makes it a prime platform for experimentation. Every tasty tweak on the original theme is met by another distressingly oversweetened mess made with subpar spirits served in a fishbowl over gas station ice. Frozen doesn’t always mean bad, but the classic cocktail is most often diluted beyond recognition in a foaming slurry of blended ice. 

When ordering or making your own margarita, just make sure it starts with 100 percent agave tequila, fresh lime juice and a quality orange liqueur. Or, simply stick with these fool-proof recipes and recommendations to avoid heartbreak.

frozen margarita from mission taco joint // photo by izaiah johnson

1. The Frozen Margarita at Mission Taco Joint keeps it light, frosty and fresh without descending to self-serve slushiness. 

2. The Lily’s Special at Lily’s Mexican Restaurant is nicely balanced between tart and sweet. Large portions are available both frozen and on the rocks. 

tommy's margarita from planter's house // photo by izaiah johnson

3. Tommy’s Margarita at Planter’s House is made with reposado tequila for extra depth in PH’s take on the famously tart West Coast version. 

4. The Mezcal Margarita at Público replaces tequila with sister agave spirit mezcal in this smoky variation. 

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Tags : Cocktails, Places, Bars