When you have a day of the year dedicated to commemorating your existence, you know that it marks in some way an important aspect of human life. It is hardly surprising then that the beloved Margarita, with its storied history and pedigree, not to mention immense popularity, has earned a national day in its honour. More specifically February 22 marks National Margarita Day, its popularity far from waning with the timeless concoction ranking #7 in the best-selling cocktails around the world and taking top honours as the most popular drink containing tequila in the United States.
The origins of this iconic cocktail come out of the notoriously lavish soirées held by wealthy American socialite Margaret “Margarita” Sames in the balmy jet-set destination of Acapulco in the 1940s, which were attended by her influential and international bevy of rich and famous friends including Nick Hilton, movie star John Wayne and Texan hotel entrepreneur and owner of the Hotel Bel-Air, Joseph Drown.
Over the years, Margaret Sames served her cleverly simple cocktail, comprising just four ingredients, to her guests, referring to it as “The Drink”. Though there was one inseparable constant underscoring her precious aromatic recipe. And that ingredient was Cointreau. So much so, she famously proclaimed, “A Margarita without Cointreau is not worth its salt.”
Sames obviously had quite the talent as a mixologist when it came to crafting a “good daytime cocktail that you could enjoy by the pool.” But there is, in fact, now the science to back the fruits of her mixing prowess with independent studies on a variety of Margarita recipes revealing the superior aromatic intensity of a Margarita prepared with Cointreau. In short, a Margarita shaken with Cointreau is fresher and richer in citrus, green, floral and fruity notes, alongside offering a longer finish on the palate, the orange liqueur flourishing as a superior flavour catalyst when mixed into cocktails.
The sheer simplicity of the original shaken Margarita – 30ml of Cointreau, 50ml of tequila blanco, 20ml of fresh lime juice to balance the alcohol, and a light dusting of salt on the rim for a touch of flair – sealed its fate as a true timeless classic. Yet its simplicity has also inspired countless variations that celebrate the Margarita blueprint and which can be enjoyed all year round. In fact, Cointreau has honed “The Drink’s” endless versatility in some unique, flavourful recipes that celebrate every season of the year, each embellished with a memorable twist. Cointreau’s Spring Margarita pays homage to the illustrious union of emperor Shah Jahan and his Persian wife Mumtaz Mahal by combining orange with rose, finished with a delicate pink Himalayan salt rim. The Summer Margarita is an overture of succulent strawberries married with Atlantic sea salt to draw the fruit’s flavour into the spotlight. Autumn features smoked black salt and elderflower treasured for its phytotherapeutic virtues, while the heartwarming Winter Margarita showcases fresh passionfruit delivering a hint of acidity to balance the aromatic force of festive cinnamon, finished with delicate Guérande salt.
Cointreau’s signature seasonal variations not only highlight the immense versatility of the classic Margarita but also the pivotal role the humble salt grain plays in the Margarita’s personality, its inclusion being one of the easiest and ultimate ways to put a twist on the original. Salt is, after all, renowned as a powerful flavour enhancer that will draw out more complexity in the palate in making the taste buds more sensitive, as well as balancing out bitterness and bringing sweet notes to the fore.
Undeniably not just for decoration, such is the complementary relationship salt has with the Margarita and with Cointreau in particular, that just as when creating Cointreau, Edouard Cointreau travelled to the four corners of the world to source only the most superior oranges offering “the perfect harmony of sweet and bitter orange peels’, Cointreau has paid similar attention to the nuances brought by origin to flavour by salt. Among Cointreau’s coveted salts are Fleur de sel de Guérande or Noirmoutier from France’s Atlantic coast, Pink Himalayan salt considered the purest in the world, Egyptian salt from the White Desert, and smoky Black Hawaiian salt comprising sea salt and activated charcoal-rich black lava rock.
Once you have selected your salt of choice, custom creations are just a dash away by combining the seasoning with a dry ingredient. Some of Cointreau’s own favourite mixes include their Citrus Salt, showcasing Fleur de sel with dried orange peel and rosemary; Black Persian Salt with dried lemon peel and thyme for their Thyme and Again Salt; Pink Himalayan salt with Timur pepper for their Salt and Peppa’ recipe and Electric Salt combining Blue Persian Salt with a fresh Szechuan button.
Cointreau, inseparable from the Margarita, has become a mainstay for cocktail aficionados the world over. Since its creation in 1849, the supremely-balanced and crystal clear liqueur has retained its original characteristics inspired by its creator. And we have no doubt, as so definitively put by Jean-Denis Voin, CEO of Liqueurs & Spirits, Rémy Cointreau, that it will retain its well-earned place of choice in the most renowned bars in the world, “Our goal is clear: To establish ourselves as an essential part of the cocktail scene, thanks to our proven legitimacy in this area. Not only the organoleptic qualities of our orange liquor are recognised, but its great versatility and undeniable ability to sublimate flavours make it an essential cocktail base. Today, Cointreau is at the heart of more than 350 cocktails. An achievement that we are proud of.”
The Original Margarita
50ml Blanco Tequila
20ml Fresh Lime Juice
Make a salt rim on your glass
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice
Strain into a Margarita glass
Garnish with a lime wheel