Tequila undoubtedly hails from Mexico. Adolphe Cointreau definitely made his eponymous triple-sec in France. And historians place the first widespread lime production in Babylonia. But could it be that the first time these three ingredients came together in a 2:1:1 ratio was in Britain?


Our time in Mexico last week left us with a bit of a knowledge hangover. We explored a mezcal museum, spirits made with chicken, mezcal's craft distillation credentials, the worm, and stars that own tequila brands. Here a few more things we learned related to the country's spirits:

A number of theories exist about the origen of the margarita, most revolving around bartenders or socialites creating the drink to woo lovely foreign ladies anywhere from Acapulco up to Los Angeles from the mid-1930s to late 1940s. One of the theories, however, stands out.

cafe royal

In 1937, an Englishman named William J. Tarling published the Café Royal Cocktail Book - Coronation Edition. Tarling, President of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild and Head Bartender at the American Bar at Regent Street’s Café Royal Hotel, wrote in the book’s preface that its production “entailed minutely examining over four thousand recipes” of the pre-war London cocktail scene. Scolding the cocktail party scene which was “apt to have a monotonous repetition of Martini, Bronx, Manhattan and White Lady Cocktails”, Tarling compiled his mixology selection to encourage drinkers to “try the modern cocktails.”

Amongst these modern cocktails, a small percentage employed the Mexican spirit tequila including a drink called the Picador which called for”

  • 1/4 fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cointreau
  • 1/2 Tequila
  • Shake

That’s right. Those are the same ingredients of the classic Margarita known throughout the world today. As “the majority of recipes (in the Café Royal Cocktail Book) are the originals of Members of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild”, it’s safe to say that a British bartender created the first Margarita in form if not in name. 

If you’re walking down Regent Street and fancy a little pick me up, visit the Green Bar at the Café Royal Hotel. The Picador is still on the menu, a menu inspired by its former Head Bartender's cocktail book.

mexican hangover