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Cinco de Mayo and the world's first (Slurpee-inspired) margarita machine

May 05, 2011|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
(National Museum of American…)

There are plenty of histories of Cinco de Mayo and the 1862 battle that became a symbol of Mexican pride and heritage. Rarer is the history of a machine that churned out what has become one of the holiday's hallmark celebratory drinks: the margarita.

The Smithsonian Institution, keeper of our national treasures, a few years back added to its esteemed collection a dowdy brown box that claims the auspicious title of the world's first margarita machine.

Why? Given that the margarita blew past the martini as America's most popular cocktail in the 1970s, curator Rayna Green of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., thought such a machine would be a fitting pop culture icon to bring to the museum as part of our Tex-Mex culture -- if she could verify the history.

That turned out to be a very big "if," as many laid claim to such an invention. But then she struck cold, so to speak, in a Dallas restaurateur. She explains on the museum's blog:

"In 1971, young Mariano Martinez started serving margaritas in his new restaurant, Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine. His customers created a high demand for the newly popular frozen drink. With their blenders hard-pressed to produce a consistent mix for the drink they made from Mariano’s father’s recipe, his bartenders were in rebellion.

"Then came inspiration for the beleaguered boss in the form of a Slurpee machine at a 7-Eleven, a machine invented in Dallas in 1960 to make carbonated beverages slushy enough to drink through a straw. But the 7-Eleven Corp. wouldn’t sell him a Slurpee machine. He and a friend, a chemist named John Hogan, tinkered with the recipe (hint: the secret is in the amount of sugar) and adapted a soft-serve ice cream machine to make margarita slush, and word of mouth signaled a hit for his fledgling business."

The machine was a hit for Martinez, and you can read the rest of its history at "A frozen margarita tale for Cinco de Mayo".)

Alas, the margarita machine isn't currently on display at the museum, but I take comfort in knowing it is safely tucked away at the Smithsonian. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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