How PATRÓN Ushered in the Age of the Premium Margarita

This article is part of a series highlighting the importance of additive-free and authentic tequila, partnered by PATRÓN. Discover more at The World of PATRÓN.

In 1989, the Margarita was celebrating its 50th anniversary in the cocktail pantheon. Of course, the details may not be entirely accurate — back then the date and place of a new cocktail’s creation were rarely noted for posterity. But as near as anyone can tell, the ubiquitous combination of tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur (with optional salted rim, of course) can be traced back to the Tail O’ The Cock restaurant on La Cienega St. in Los Angeles, where, in 1939, a female customer asked bartender John Durlesser to replicate a drink she’d had in Mexico. This may make the drink she’d had the original Margarita. But for our purposes, the Tail O’ The Cock is Margarita’s ground zero.

The drink’s popularity was mainly limited to the West Coast until the 1950s when tequila started showing up in bars and liquor stores nationwide. By 1989, 50 years after its creation, the Margarita was one of the most popular cocktails in the U.S., consumed in bars from divey to luxe, and a must-order at Mexican restaurants, which by now dotted the American landscape. Tequila’s popularity soared along with that of the drink. But as quantities consumed went up, the quality of the preparation went down. Fresh-squeezed lime juice was replaced by sour mix and quality orange liqueur was subbed out for cheaper expressions. Even the tequila itself was diluted. Periodic agave shortages meant that “mixto” brands — composed of as little as 51 percent Weber Blue Agave — made up the lion’s share of the tequila market.

It was at this low point in tequila’s history that the seeds were sown for its revival, which ushered in a golden age for the Margarita that continues unabated to this day. In 1989, the founders of PATRÓN teamed up with the now-late master distiller, Francisco Alcaraz. Alcaraz created a legacy with PATRÓN, leading its distilling team for 30 years until his retirement in 2020, when he passed the torch to the current maestro, David Rodriguez. What Alcaraz and PATRÓN set out to do went beyond changing people’s perceptions of what tequila could and should be. Whether by accident or design, they also transformed the way in which the spirit was used in cocktails, most notably for the Margarita.

PATRÓN is the brand that elevated the tequila category, putting it on the same level as fine whisky or Cognac. Forget about mixto tequila — PATRÓN was, and of course still is, distilled from the finest Weber Blue Agave and is 100 percent naturally pure tequila. Rather than mass-producing tequila cheaply and quickly, PATRÓN invested more time, care, and craftsmanship into every step of the process, pioneered the ultra-premium tequila category. They achieved this by selecting the Weber Blue Agave at its peak, cooking it in small ovens rather than diffusers, using longer fermentation periods, and careful, small-batch distillation methods. All these steps are taken with care and expertise with no corners cut and no added sugar or artificial ingredients. The result was a tequila that almost single-handedly elevated the entire category.

Of course, those drinkers who were now ordering Margaritas made with PATRÓN weren’t going to settle for having a premium tequila adulterated with sour mix and cheap triple sec. Fresh-squeezed lime juice and high-end orange liqueurs became the standard for a quality Margarita. Some bars even started rimming the glasses with gourmet salts from the most exotic locales on the planet. It’s no surprise that with the emphasis now on quality, the Margarita became more popular than ever.

More than 80 years after its creation, and three-plus decades after PATRÓN changed the perception of the tequila category, its tequila – made using the same time-honored, handcrafted process – still makes a simply perfect Margarita.

With the cocktail renaissance of the 21st century in full swing, there’s a Margarita for any time, place, and occasion, and PATRÓN is a perfect fit for them all. Lots of drinkers associate Margaritas with un-aged tequila, usually referred to as blanco or silver. PATRÓN Silver makes a classic Margarita (tequila, orange liqueur, fresh squeezed lime juice, with an optional salted rim) that’s the standard by which the drink should be judged. But it also holds its own in flavored expressions, whether on the sweet side, as with a Perfect Pineapple Margarita, or something more savory, like a Basil-Lime Margarita. Even the kick of jalapeños in a spicy Margarita doesn’t overwhelm the agave-forward flavor of the PATRÓN Tequila used to make it.

For a change of pace, PATRÓN Reposado, aged in a variety of oak barrels for three to five months, brings a darker, richer palette of flavors to the cocktail. It mingles in perfect harmony with hints of light oak, allowing for the 100 percent  naturally perfect tequila with no artificial flavorings or ingredients to come center stage. PATRÓN Reposado shines brightest in a Perfect PATRÓN Margarita, which is essentially the classic recipe, with the Reposado adding a richer hue while retaining the agave flavor for which PATRÓN is famous. The expression also makes the quintessential Tommy’s Margarita, an enormously popular variation, which subs out the orange liqueur for agave nectar.

With its dedication to meticulous, traditional tequila-making processes, PATRÓN still sets the benchmark for tequila, which is the key ingredient for your Margarita base. And even with the multitude of elaborate variations of the classic cocktail served around the globe, one thing is certain: If that Margarita is made with PATRÓN, it’s simply perfect.

This article is sponsored by PATRÓN.