Margarita: Classic Cocktails with a Southern Twist

A self-professed tequila superfan shows us how to mix up the perfect Margarita

Photo: Margaret Houston

The Daisy is a fundamental part of the cocktail canon, with roots stretching back to the late 1800s. It’s not so much a cocktail as a template: You can put together any combination of spirit, citrus juice, and flavored sweetener (like orange liqueur or fruit syrup) to produce a Daisy. Back then, gin and brandy versions of the drink were all the rage. So what does this have to do with the Margarita? “Margarita” is simply Spanish for “daisy.”

“The Margarita is the drink Americans were drinking when they went down to Mexico during Prohibition,” says Phoebe Esmon, bar director for Perfectly AdHoc Hospitality in Asheville, North Carolina, and owner of Spirit Animal Beverage Solutions. During the United States’ Great Experiment in teetotaling, alcohol remained legal in Mexico, and thirsty Americans visited destinations like Tijuana and Acapulco in droves. But nobody really knows who made the first Margarita; A bartender likely put the local spirit, tequila, into the tried-and-true Daisy formula, and a classic was born.

“The Margarita was probably the first ‘real’ classic cocktail I ever tasted and enjoyed,” Esmon says. “It made tequila close to my heart.” Her love affair with the spirit runs deep: As a former board member of the Tequila Interchange Project, Esmon is dedicated to educating Americans about the spirit and preserving traditional and sustainable production practices.

Esmon’s preferred Margarita recipe eases up on the orange liqueur a bit, adding a touch of simple syrup to keep the drink sweet. She recommends using unaged blanco tequila. Her favorite, Siembre Azul, can be hard to find; Ocho or Tapatio brands are more widely available. Use fresh lime juice, and serve the drink over ice. “I like it on the rocks,” Esmon says. “It’s a bright and refreshing drink and can live on good ice.”


    • Salt, if desired

    • 2 oz. Blanco tequila

    • ¾ oz. Lime juice

    • ½ oz. Simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)

    • ½ oz. Cointreau


  1. If using, coat the rim of a rocks glass with salt. Fill the glass with ice and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lime wedge if desired.