recipes & how tos | apr. 19, 2021

Frozen Margarita, King of the Heat

A lineup of three frozen margaritas: strawberry, lime, and mango.

There is nothing better than a deliciously refreshing Frozen cocktail on a warm summer day. In most cities in Texas all you have to do is throw a rock and you can hit five different Tex-Mex restaurants all serving frozen margaritas – not all of these are created equal. When you find the one that is perfectly balanced – not too sweet, not too tart, not too liquidy and just boozy enough– it is a cravable thing of beauty. For the history I turned to our friend in Austin, food and beverage writer Claudia Alarcon.

Forward by Stephen Halpin

For tips on executing your own Frozen Margaritas in your bar, check out Operation Brain Freeze.

Operation Brain Freeze

The Frozen Margarita History

Uncover the history of the Frozen Margarita and how it came to be a classic tequila cocktail.

In the 1970s, the margarita surpassed the martini as the most popular American cocktail. This extraordinary feat may not have been possible without the invention of the blender and the ingenuity of a young entrepreneur from Dallas.


The story starts in 1938 when Fred Waring, the blender’s original inventor, introduced the brand new modern appliance to Mabel Stegner, a famed home economist and author. In her 1952 book, Electric Blender Recipes, Stegner included a recipe for a blended strawberry daiquiri, a slushy drink that would become the originator of all blended cocktails. By 1956, the Esquire Drink Book included a small section on frozen blended drinks.



In her excellent book ¡Viva Tequila!, author Lucinda Hutson explains that, during the daiquiri craze of the 1950’s, Mexican bartenders substituted tequila for the rum and added tropical fruits, blending the mixture to an icy frappe. Fruity daiquiris are still found in modern day Mexico, especially in coastal resorts and establishments frequented by tourists. It is quite possible that they also experimented with blending a margarita into a slushy drink.


But the rise of the frozen margarita to iconic status had to wait until 1971, when a Dallas restaurateur named Mariano Martinez Jr. started serving blended margaritas based on his father’s recipe at his restaurant. Thanks to their popularity, Martinez was serving over 200 per night out of just one blender. But, the drink was complicated to prepare, and bartenders simply couldn’t keep up with orders.


After a sleepless night trying to come up with a solution, an exhausted Martinez walked into a convenience store for coffee. Looking at the slushy machine there, the aha!” moment arrived: he could pre-mix the margarita and serve it out of such a machine. But the convenience store corporation wouldn’t sell him a machine. Undeterred, he enlisted help from a friend, a chemist named John Hogan, to rework the recipe so it would reach the right consistency. They adapted a soft serve ice cream machine to dispense the newly perfected cocktail and on May 11, 1971 the frozen margarita as we know it was born. The rest, as they say, is history. The cocktail made Martinez’s restaurant a total success, and soon restaurants and bars around the country had their own margarita machines, now standard bar equipment. Martinez’s original margarita machine is now part of the collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.


Nowadays, frozen margaritas come in a variety of flavors, like strawberry and mango (which can also be offered swirled into the original lime flavor), and even exotic variations like the creamy avocado margarita. Be careful however of mass-produced frozen margaritas made with commercial mixes and cheap tequila. They can be overly sweet, with an artificial-tasting flavor. Whether on the rocks, straight up or frozen, fresh lime juice and good quality tequila like Patrón make all the difference when it comes to America’s most popular cocktail.


* Claudia Alarcon, a native of Mexico City, is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer