Gourmet Girl: Margarita Madness

Santafe.com - February 20, 2019

How to celebrate National Margarita Day

It's National Margarita Day this Friday, February 22, and everywhere around the country, people will celebrate with a toast to America's favorite tequila-based cocktail.

Why February 22, you ask? The answer may surprise you. It's not the anniversary of the invention of the margarita, because no one knows for certain when that was. And it's not the birthday of the inventor of tequila, because the origins of that Mexican spirit date way back to the Aztecs. It turns out that February 22 is really a random date chosen by a margarita-lovin' guy from Ohio named Todd McCalla who wanted to counteract the cocktail's watering down with cheap high-fructose corn syrup-laden mixes. He also hoped that a mass margarita celebration in February would light up one of the year's dreariest, most depressing months.

More than a decade later, National Margarita Day is a huge hit, and that's unlikely because there's a lot of competition. Almost every day in the year is is devoted to at least one food or beverage. (Monday, February 18, for instance, was National Drink Wine Day, also established by McCalla. And today, if you didn't know it, is National Cherry Pie Day as well as National Muffin Day.)

The margarita has long been a beloved beverage. There are almost as many origin stories as there are versions of the drink. Some 22 bartenders have been credited with creating the cocktail, including an Irish barkeep in Tijuana. What's more certain is that the cocktail took off with American tourists who were visiting Mexico during Prohibition. By December of 1953, the drink had become so popular that "Esquire" magazine dubbed it the Drink of the Month and published a simple recipe: 1 ounce tequila, a dash of triple sec and the juice of half a lime or lemon, poured over crushed ice and served in a glass with its rim rubbed with a lime or lemon rind and spun in salt.

In the 1970s, the frozen margarita took the limelight after a bartender transformed a soft serve ice cream machine into a frozen margarita maker. Jimmy Buffet's 1977 hit song “Margaritaville” elevated the frozen cocktail to superstar status. Today, his behemoth “Margaritaville” enterprise spans the globe with resorts, restaurants, bar and grills as well as his own brand of party fare—Margaritaville Gold Tequila and Margaritaville Dark Rum, margarita drink mix, pineapple orange salsa, Key Lime pie mix and that's just a small sampling.

You could choose to spend February 22 in Margaritaville, with throngs of celebrants who doubtlessly will be singing “Wasting away again in Margaritaville” while they're at any of Buffet's resorts. Better yet, you can celebrate in Santa Fe, which holds the distinction of being the first city in the New World to import tequila from Mexico. What better way to enjoy this classic cocktail by exploring the Santa Fe Margarita Trail, a cocktail odyssey featuring 31 restaurants and bars?

Here's out how it works. You simply pick up your Margarita Trail Passport from any of the participating venues. Then sample signature margaritas (you're limited to 2 per day, because these margaritas can be potent), collecting stamps as you visit each venue. The stamps earn you rewards—a commemorative T-shirt, a membership to the Margarita Society and a signed copy of “The Great Margarita Book.” When you conquer the full trail, you'll receive a Margarita Bartender Kit. For more info, click here.

If you need a few suggestions to get you started, these fine Santa Fe spots (or check out our Santa Fe Restaurant Guide) serve up some mighty margaritas! Salud!

Stop at Hotel Chimayó 's Low'n Slow Lowrider Bar for one heckuva ride with the Chimayóso Margarita, created specifically for the Santa Fe Margarita Trail. This memorable margarita is composed of serrano pepper-infused Espolon Reposado Tequila, Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur and fresh-squeezed lime juice, served with a Chimayó chile-salt rim. Its flavors will linger long after you've finished drinking it.

Don't miss Del Charro at the Inn of the Governors, serving an impressive variety of margaritas, including the Pomegranate Margarita with Grand Marnier and the Del Charro Silver Coin with Cointreau, house-made sweet n'sour, a red and green chile-salted rim and a garnish of tequila-marinated jalapeño. To get your passport stamp, however, you'll want to order the Santa Fe Trail Margarita, a blend of Del Charro Double Barrel Tequila Reposada from Casa Herradura that's infused with Hatch chile, agave triple sec and sweet n’ sour mix. Ole!

The Secreto Bar and Lounge at Hotel St. Francis is famous for handcrafted garden-to-glass cocktails. Here, the signature Smoked Sage Margarita is a work of art. The recipe includes orange liqueur, smoked sea salt and sage leaves set alight so the smoke is captured inside the shaker. This infuses the cocktail with a smoky, earthy flavor. It's so good you'll want to order two, even though that will only get you one stamp.

Bar Alto's Sangre de Cristo, a combo of Reposado Tequila, orange liqueur, cinnamon and orange soda, looks enticingly like a Santa Fe sunset. Drink this on the rooftop of the Drury Plaza Hotel just as the the sun starts to set over the ocean of blue sky, and you may find yourself drifting off into a reverie of sea and sand , thinking of Margaritaville