Day Trips: History of the Frozen Margarita

We’re all going to need a frozen margarita when this is all over

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Frozen margaritas on a hot Texas day are one of the grandest culinary inventions of the modern world.

Mariano Martinez of Dallas didn't invent the frozen margarita, he just mass-produced the frozen concoction.

There is much debate along the U.S.-Mexico border about the birthplace of the lime-and- tequila drink. Californians like to claim the holy birth happened in Tijuana and that the margarita was named for dancer and actress Margarita Carmen Cansino, better known as Rita Hayworth. I prefer the legend that it originated at the Cadillac Bar in Nuevo Laredo.

At his family's Mexican food restaurant, Mariano had the problem of quality control as his bartenders rushed to serve the popular frozen drinks one blender at a time. One morning, as he stopped for coffee at a 7-Eleven, he saw a Slurpee machine and hit on an idea.

On May 11, 1971, Mariano pulled the lever on a repurposed soft-serve ice cream machine and filled a glass with the first industrial-­scale margarita. He never patented the idea, so never benefited from his stroke of genius that soon spread around the world. His restaurant off Lovers Lane did become a huge success and a mecca for margarita lovers.

In 2005, Mariano's original frozen margarita machine was placed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History alongside lesser inventions by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and George Washington Carver.

Mariano's original La Hacienda Ranch closed in 2005, but the 76-year-old entrepreneur now owns six restaurants in North Texas. The outpost at 6300 Skillman St. in North Dallas continues the legend with good food, great margaritas, and a shrine to the first margarita machine.

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frozen margarita, Mariano Martinez, La Hacienda Ranch, Margarita Carmen Cansino, Rita Hayworth, Cadillac Bar, Nuevo Laredo, Smithsonian National Museum of American History

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