Margarita: tequila, sweetened lime juice, triple sec, ice. The traditional Cinco de Mayo beverage gets sipped year-round in our vacation paradise, as do daiquiris, mai tais, piña coladas and more.
But to us, the margarita isn’t just a random tropical cocktail for any old vacation town. More than any other beverage, the margarita evokes the very essence of Southwest Florida. Its color calls to mind the emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico; its salty rim captures the flavor of licked lips after a day spent swimming at Siesta Beach; the orange liqueur is like sweet citrus picked from backyard trees; and agave is a close cousin to the aloe that soothes our sunburned skin.
Yes, we know that tequila is made in the western state of Jalisco, Mexico, and the margarita cocktail originated somewhere in Mexico or the Southwest U.S. Some say it was named for a Marjorie in Rancho La Gloria, others for a Margaret in Galveston, and one theory attributes it to a Doug in Park City, but history hasn’t settled on a singular invention narrative. And now Wikipedia is trying to tell us that “Margarita” isn’t even a Spanish naming convention—it’s German.
Frankly, there are so many margarita origin stories that we thought it only fair to throw some Sarasota-themed myths into the mix. Here’s how cocktail history might have happened, if we had anything to say about it:
In the early 1910s, Bertha Palmer, the Chicago socialite and Sarasota pioneer, sipped this limey concoction while surveying the vast green acreage of east-county land that would eventually be preserved in her honor. Thus was born the Myakka-rita.
The Ringlings’ personal bartender, in defiance of Prohibition, mixed tequila-based cocktails for the pair as they relaxed in their Venetian-style bayfront mansion. John got to name the Cà d’Zan after himself, so they called the drink “the Màble’rita,” in an homage to both Mrs. Ringling and Venetian dialect.
In a 1930s meeting at the Gator Club, city leaders tried to channel mescal’s psychedelic properties while laying out a comprehensive plan for downtown Sarasota’s future. The Mixed-Impact Low-Use Affordable-Density Noise Ordinance-a-Rita still sparks mind-altering debate.
Feel free to share these margarita origin theories with your guests as you sit poolside with a freshly blended pitcher. “Sure, the pronunciation changed a bit over the years,” you’ll tell them. “But that’s the real story.”
Enough with the neon green? Sip these bold tequila concoctions.
Fresh-picked greens take the spotlight in Boca Kitchen’s Garden Grove. The downtown hotspot’s signature tequila drink features cool cucumber and basil in a lively, herbaceous blend of El Jimador Reposado, yellow chartreuse, lime, sugar and Peychaud’s bitters. 19 S. Lemon Ave., Sarasota
Spanish for “dove,” the Paloma is a simple and immensely popular Mexican cocktail of tequila and grapefruit soda. Jack Dusty, of course, takes this beverage to the next level with Milagro tequila, fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice, club soda and salt rim—a fizzy, refreshing summertime sipper. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota
Mi Pueblo’s extensive cocktail selection features quite a few gems, but the indulgent El Mayor packs some serious pomp. Premium El Mayor Blanco Tequila, St. German elderflower liqueur, Chambord, mint leaves, lime and agave nectar combine for a rich, floral treat. 8405 Tuttle Ave., Sarasota; 4436 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota; 530 U.S. 41 Bypass S., Venice
Where there’s smoky mescal, there’s fiery jalapeño—or so goes the logic behind the bold Old Oaxaca at The Table Creekside, which mixes Montelobos-brand mescal, elderflower liqueur, cactus pear, jalapeño-infused agave and lime, for a sweet/smoky/spicy combo you won’t soon forget. 5365 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Want to get away? Escape to downtown’s Louies Modern with El Chapo: reposado tequila, creme de cassis black currant liqueur, chili-infused agave, lime and ginger beer. The fruity-hot concoction will be gone before you know it. 1289 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota