Food & Drink | August 2018

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Margarita & Salsa Time

Pictured: Brittany Ross

Nobody’s really sure how the margarita came into being. Institutions as serious and highfalutin as National Geographic and the Smithsonian have weighed in on the matter, but nothing has been definitively proven. Most sources cite a few different stories about the invention of the drink.

Both the Smithsonian and Nat Geo mention a fellow named Carlos “Danny” Herrera, who owned a restaurant called Rancho La Gloria, somewhere near Tijuana. He came up with the drink for a customer named Marjorie King, who was an aspiring actress or a “gorgeous Ziegfeld showgirl,” according to National Geographic. Either way, she was supposedly allergic to all alcohol other than tequila, and she didn’t like doing straight tequila shots, which was how it was normally consumed. So Herrera combined what was usually served with the shots — salt and lime — into a cocktail he called the margarita.

Other stories claim that Texas socialite Margaret Sames created the drink at her vacation home in Acapulco in 1948; or that a bartender, again in Tijuana, made the drink for actress Rita Hayworth, whose real name was Margarita Carmen Cansino.

An article in the October 1974 issue of Texas Monthly, however, featured an interview with Pancho Morales, who was a 56-year-old truck driver for Price’s Creameries in El Paso, a job he had held for 18 years. Morales claims that he invented the margarita on July 4, 1942, at a bar called Tommy’s Place, in Juarez. A customer had ordered a Magnolia, but Morales didn’t remember what alcohol was in that drink. He did know that it contained Cointreau, or triple sec, and lime. He added the tequila. The customer liked the drink, even though it wasn’t exactly what she ordered, and Morales said, “Oh, oh, I thought you said Margarita,” the article says. “You see, daisy, in Spanish, is margarita. The reason I called it the Margarita is because I was thinking of the flower margarita, like the magnolia. She liked it. That’s how it originated.”

Morales wrote down the recipe of the drink he had invented and still had that original recipe, which he showed to the Texas Monthly reporter, Brad Cooper.

The article also said that the U.S. imported 2.8 million gallons of tequila from Mexico in 1973, up significantly from the 5,449 gallons imported in 1951. According to Mexico-Now.com, the U.S. bought 81 percent of tequila produced in Mexico last year, importing more than 45 million gallons.

And some of that tequila will be consumed at the 23rd annual Margarita & Salsa Festival August 25 at the Extraco Events Center. Restaurants and individuals can enter their own creations in the margarita contest, and restaurants can also enter the salsa contest. Contest guidelines say that entrants should bring 5 gallons of margarita to the competition, and it’s suggested that each 5-gallon batch contain three bottles of tequila and one bottle of triple sec.

Last year’s margarita contest attracted nine restaurant and 16 individual contestants, and the salsa competition had 17 restaurant entries.

In contests decided by judges, Casa Ole took first place in restaurant margaritas, and Freebirds World Burritos won the salsa competition. In people’s choice voting, Papa Bear’s margaritas were deemed the best, while Fuzzy’s Taco Shop salsa came out on top.

In anticipation of this year’s festival, we made a variety of margaritas and salsas, some savory and some sweet. If you happened to see the Wacoan’s Instagram post on July 14, you saw that our kitchen was a mess after we made three different margaritas and three different salsas, which we served with fresh tortilla chips from Jesse’s Tortilla Factory in Waco.

A few notes on the recipes: The Black Bean Salsa is from “InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook” by Baylor graduates Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge.

The Classic Margarita calls for simple syrup that needs to be heated on the stove, cooled and refrigerated for a day before using it for the drinks. I forgot, however, to make it ahead of time, so I simply mixed together a cup of sugar and a cup of cold water and stirred until the sugar mostly dissolved. I did this right before we served the margaritas, and they turned out just fine.

The Breakfast Margarita would be great with brunch, to serve instead of (or alongside) the traditional mimosa.

And for best results, make all these recipes and invite over a bunch of friends. Once outside temperatures are a bit more tolerable, serve on the back patio or the front porch.

The Recipes

Black Bean Salsa

  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced jalapeno
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the mango, peppers, onion, beans, juices, cilantro, cumin and jalapeno in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for up to 5 days. Serve with tortilla chips or fried plantain rounds.

Makes 2-3 servings.
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Roasted Tomato Salsa

  • 2 pounds roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise (see note below)
  • 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1 large white onion, peeled, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed and halved(discard the seeds to reduce the heat if you’d like)
  • 1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

Preheat broiler to high.

On a large baking sheet, place the tomatoes skin side up. Then place the unpeeled garlic cloves, onion and jalapeno, also skin side up, in an even layer on the pan. Broil for 6-8 minutes, or until the tomatoes and jalapenos have blistered and blackened on top.

Remove the pan from the oven. Peel and discard the skin from the garlic cloves and the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, garlic, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, salt and cumin in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process the salsa until it’s still a bit chunky. Pour into a bowl and taste, then add more salt or lime juice as needed.

Serve warm, or cover, refrigerate and serve cold.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Note: For a variation, replace the tomatoes with tomatillos. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and roast along with the other vegetables.
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Apple-Strawberry Salsa

  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 small orange
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple jelly

Place the apples and strawberries in a bowl. Zest and juice the orange, and add both to the fruit. Add the sugar and jelly and mix together. Serve with tortilla chips or over vanilla ice cream.

Makes about 4 servings.
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Classic Margarita

For the simple syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

For the margaritas:

  • 3 cups tequila
  • 1 1/2 cups triple sec
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Simple syrup, to taste
  • Ice cubes or crushed ice
  • Fresh lime wedges
  • Coarse salt (optional)

Prepare simple syrup up to a day in advance and let it chill in the refrigerator. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the water and the sugar. Bring to a boil, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into a jar, cover and refrigerate.

To make the margarita mix: About an hour before serving, pour the tequila, triple sec and lime juice into a small pitcher. Stir to mix, then place the pitcher in the refrigerator.

To make individual margaritas: Moisten the rim of each glass with a lime wedge, then dip the rims into a small plate of coarse salt, if desired. Pour about 1/2 cup of margarita mix into each glass, then add simple syrup, to taste. Stir, fill the glass with ice and garnish with a lime wedge.

Makes about 12 drinks.
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Frozen Strawberry Margarita

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 6 strawberries
  • Dash of strawberry liqueur (optional)
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Place all the ingredients into a blender and puree until frothy. Pour into margarita glasses and serve.

Makes about 2 drinks.

To make frozen strawberry daquiris, simply use white rum instead of tequila.
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Breakfast Margarita

  • Coarse salt or demerara sugar (a coarse cane sugar), (optional)
  • 1 lime wedge or orange slice, for rimming glass
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup grenadine
  • Orange slices, for garnish

Spread the salt or sugar — depending on your preference — on a small plate. Moisten the rim of 4 glasses with either a lime wedge, if you prefer salt, or an orange rind, if you prefer sugar, then dip the rims in the salt or sugar.

Place the orange juice concentrate, orange juice, tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a blender. Add ice and blend until smooth. Pour the margarita into the prepared glasses.

Tilt the glasses and slowly pour about 1 tablespoon of grenadine down the side of each drink. The grenadine will settle at the bottom of the glass, creating a sunset effect. Garnish with orange slices.

Makes 4 drinks.
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