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invention of the Margarita

Posted by Scott Arnold 
I am interested to learn about the claim that the Margarita was invented for Peggy (Margaret) Lee in 1948 By Balinese Room head bartender Santos Cruz. (Galveston, TX) Does anyone have any information?
Re: invention of the Margarita
June 10, 2002 01:46AM
We knew that a rose had been name in her name, but a drink? Imagine that.

I was quite surprised by your question. I thought to myself, "what?? That's absurd." Live and learn. I looked this up on the internet, and it turns out that, yes, there is a rumor that margaritas were invented in Peggy Lee's honor.

Unfortunately, all I found was the same information that you provide, as given by columnist Kate Heyhoe, in the online magazine Global Gourmet Today. If you haven't checked it out already, go to www.globalgourmet.com/ggt/ggt0598/ggt050798.htm

In any case, there are many stories about how (and by whom) the margarita was created. Many of those stories place the invention in Mexican territory, which is not surprising when you take into account the name of the drink (margarita), and the general perception of margaritas as the daintier, "feminine" version of a "manlier" drink of Mexican origin (tequila).

One of those stories claims that a Mexican man invented the drink, naming it in honor of his girlfriend, who was of course called Margarita. Another story claims that the drink was invented at the (Mexican) vacationing home of a wealthy American socialite named Marjorie Soames; since the invention took place in Mexican soil, the inventors would have changed Marjorie's name to a Spanish equivalent.

There is also a story claiming that another bartender invented and named the drink in 1940 in Palm Springs, in honor of a showgirl named
Marjorie King. (If I'm remembering correctly, Peggy Lee was in Palm Springs around that year, seeking fortune in Hollywood, but I have never heard of her using the pseudonym Marjoris King, nor is she known to have ever been a showgirl.)

So, the versions seem to be many, and it's anyone's guess which one is true. Maybe none are. Or maybe all are, to a lesser or greater extent (each of these people could have though that they were inventing the drink, when someone had already done so), although the constant presence of a Marjorie or a Margarita in each story already tells you that there is falsehood or distortion of facts involved. Some of the stories are dated as far back as the 1930s, some into the 1940s, some on the first half of the 1950s.

But, of all the stories, the one involving Peggy is the most baffling yet. Why give the name "margarita" to a drink in her honor? When you write "Margaret" between parentheses, do you mean, or are you asking if her true name (or her second name) was Margaret? If so, the answer is that Margaret was not part of her name. (The real one was Norma Deloris, and in show business she went by Peggy.)

Something that suggests that there might be some degreet of truth in the Peggy version: the year chosen. In 1948, she was at the height of her popularity, thank to her novelty hit "Ma?ana," in which she adopted a Mexican accent. She and her husband Dave Barbour wrote the song while they were vacationing in Ensenada. If I'm not mistake, this vacation happened after Dave had had life-threatening surgery, the result of (kidney?) damage brought about by his excessive drinking at the time.
So ... we have the connection with Mexico, and, through Dave, we have the connection with drinks. Somewhere in print, Peggy mentions Dave favorite drink, before he reached sobriety, and I vaguely recall that it was something that sounded positively explosive, and that might have involved tequila. (Then again -- my memory may be playing tricks on me -- all the more since I don't drink, and hence know little about this!)

In any case ... Given Peggy's popularity at the time, it would not be surprising if a (presumably hispanic) bartender had come up with the idea of naming a drink in her honor. (But I still can not figure out how the bartender was honoring "Peggy" with a drink named "margarita." "Norma" or "Dolores" would have made more sense.)

There is another tenuous connection in that you say that the bartender worked at The BALInese Room, and Peggy hit the charts with her version of the Broadway song "BALI Ha'i" -- but that hit happened the following year, 1949.

In summary: I for one don't know! But if you ever find out more details, I hope that you post them here.

Anyone has heard, or knows anything else about this intriguing rumor?

Re: invention of the Margarita
June 10, 2002 01:53AM
Further online research has revealed that there is a drink named ... Peggy Lee! Or so I seem to gather, from a page written in a foreing language -- apparently German. The page does not give any details, other than the instructions on how to make a Peggy Lee:

4 cl gin
2 cl torr vermouth
1 st?nk Pernod
1 st?nk Dubonnet

If anyone wants to try it, let me know what it tastes like! Hopefully it won't send any one to the hospital ... Disclaimer: Ivan does not in any way take responsibility for the information, comments, or suggestions made above.

Here's to you, our Peggy Lee.

"Peg" & "Peggy" are old-fashioned abbreviations of "Margaret" - like Bill for William, Hank for Henry etc.

Since I've enjoyed many a Margarita - as I have enjoyed many a Peggy Lee record - I'm ALL for claiming the cocktail in Miss Lee's honor!!!
Re: invention of the Margarita
June 11, 2002 10:38AM
Well, actually it's Swedish, Ivan.

"torr" means "dry"
& "st?nk" means "a dash of"

I actually had a brief conversation with Ron McMaster a few days ago, very pleasant fellow, and he was unaware of the praise his transfer of "Beauty and the Beat" is getting - he said "they just don't tell me these kind of things" - which is a great shame!
He also said he did very little remixing of the master tape as it was in pristine condition. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that it has scarcely been played back, as a second-generation copy constitutes the "old, fake live version." With the technology they had way back then, they could not add the applause and announcements to the original master tape - those additions had to be dubbed on another (=second generation) tape. Bearing these facts in mind makes it easier to understand why the new version sounds so much more immediate and detailed.
A toast to McMaster who stays true to the Peggy Lee legacy! smiling smiley

Re: invention of the Margarita
June 11, 2002 04:37PM
I am loving this thread, because I'm learning so many things! Obviously, I had no idea that "Peggy" could be a nickname for Margaret. Raises in turn the question of how or why this name and nickname came to be associated.
One thing is for sure -- there are some weird name-nickname associations in the English language. At least, "William" and "Bill" make more sense in my mind.

Swedish? Shadey, thanks for the clarification. I did not really know what language it was, but seeing that I could undertand the meaning of most words, I thought that it could be German, becauuse I studied German in school, though that was too long ago for me to remember much of it.

Anyway, it makes perfect sense that Sweden, or someone Swedish, would come up with a ndrink named Peggy Lee, since Peggy's heritage was part Swedish ... So, hopefully she is remembered as something of a national treasure in Sweden and Norway. (Is she, Shadey? Your answer might warrant a new thread.)

Wonderful to learn all those details about Beauty & the Beat. Now the picture is taking a much clearer shape.

By the way, if you talk to him again, tell him also that he has a fanship here.
We have been praising his work for quite a long time now, haven't we? Unfortunately, those messages were posted so long ago that they must be extremely time-consuming to find them. But I remember that you posted enthusiastically about his work on the budget Christmas CD, and that I never stopped singing the praises of his work on the EMI compilations "The Very Best of Peggy Lee" and "Peggy Lee Sings the Standards." The only item on which his work was not up to his own standards might be the EMI twofer of "Big Spender & Pass Me By." (I mean, I think that it was he who did that twofer -- at least he is listed as such at one source).

Yes, hail to the McMaster. :-)

The UK TV/Radio magazine *Radio Times* has a feature on Rita Hayworth this week, related to a series of her films on TV, and says the Margarita was named after Rita...

Paul Brownsey

Just an fyi to Ivan and others. If you stumble across websites like that and can identify the language go to:


It's not perfection, but it *is*quite* amazing - AND useful!

take care.
Re: invention of the Margarita
November 09, 2006 01:05AM
Santos Cruz just has passed within the last year. Here's his obituary... it discusses the Margarita, Peggy Lee connection...


Y'all have a great day!
Re: invention of the Margarita
November 09, 2006 02:24PM
A good day to you too, and many thanks for the obituary link, Chris Barker.

As a fan of the singer, I would of course be happy to believe the claim. However, I never fully have. And the more I read, the less likely it seems to me.

Aside from the obituary's quizzical comment about tequila, I question why Dave Barbour would want to name the drink "Margarita," when no one (as far as we know) called her by that name, and Peggy wasn't her real name. Now, if Dave would be said to have called the drink "Deloris" or "Dolores" or "Norma;" or if he were said to have given the drink one of the nicknames that he used for Peggy (I've seen at least a couple, mentioned in print), then I would be more willing to believe the claim.... As it stands now, the claim sounds like the concoction of someone who didn't know enough about the singer and her first husband, or who should have gone into additional specifics, if he strongly wanted us to believe his story.

The claim that the margarita was inspired by Rita Hayworth sounds even more far-fetched to me...

In any case, and as mentioned above, we do have a drink, apparently of Nordic origin, officially known as the Peggy Lee.

Iv?n (aka Saint Thomas)
Re: invention of the Margarita
November 11, 2006 10:26PM
A bar/restaurant in Chicago called the "Kit-Kat Club" used to have and might still have a Peggy Lee martini. I met a friend there one night and, being a big fan of Miss Lee's, had one. It was pink and had vodka and banana in it. I don't much care for bananas, hence, I only drank one. I can't remember what else was in it, but it was a little sweet. Anyhow, I thought given this discussion, some might find the above mentioned interesting. The "Kit-Kat Club" is on the west side of the 3700 or 3800 block of North Halsted Street right before Halsted merges into Broadway. Should I go back, I will have one more!
Re: invention of the Margarita
June 25, 2011 04:22PM
I had the pleasure of visiting the Balinese Room a few years ago, and was thrilled to see old photographs of Peggy and other great performers of the time, Sinatra, etc., performing there. The room has a great history of exciting times, including the finest entertainment and a little illicit gaming on the outer reaches of the pier.

They also had documented photos and written confirmation that the Margarita was indeed prepared, and named for Peggy, even tho she never went by the proper name for Peggy, ie Margaret. The story told by the Balinese, is that Peggy, while entertaining there, asked the bartender if he could prepare her a cocktail similar to a Sidecar, her drink of choice, using tequila. The Sidecar, consists of brandy, triple sec or gran marnier, and lemon juice with a sugar rim. Obviously, Mr. Cruz, if he in fact was the bartender on duty, used tequila instead of brandy, and a salt rim, instead of sugar, and the Margarita was born.

Unfortunately, The Balinese Room, was completely destroyed by Hurricane Ike in September of 2008, ironically following a massive hurricane in 2005, named "Rita"!
Re: invention of the Margarita
June 26, 2011 03:03AM
Scott Arnold
I am interested to learn about the claim that the Margarita was invented for Peggy (Margaret) Lee in 1948 By Balinese Room head bartender Santos Cruz. (Galveston, TX) Does anyone have any information?

I thought the Margarita was named after Rita Hayworth? I think I read that in a book once...

Re: invention of the Margarita
August 09, 2011 07:33PM
As shown in one of the earlier messages above, I originally was a non-believer, but by now I have come to tentatively trust that the drink was indeed named after Peggy. Ansley's comments further lead me in that direction.

The Rita Hayworth story makes sense, too, of course, but it is only one of various other competing claims as to who and how the drink came to be. The Peggy story now has the upper hand, thanks to the documentation mentioned by Ansley.

I regret hearing about the demise of The Balinese. It seems to have been a popular spot back in its heyday, frequented by many legendary acts ... Gotta wonder if the spirits of Rita Hayworth and Ike Turner (who died in 2007) were behind the hurricanes!

Re: invention of the Margarita
June 06, 2013 07:14PM
I am actually Santos Cruz Sr's grandson that personally knows the story and was the final blood relative taught by the late Margarita inventor to make the drink that was invented for Peggy Lee.

Nathan C.
Re: invention of the Margarita
January 28, 2017 06:58PM
On several occasions I would go to a bar/pool hall called "The Turf" on a downtown street in Galveston just off The Strand. There I would sit and drink Santos Cruz's margaritas served with a mix prepared in an empty Borden milk jug and listen to his old stories of the Balinese and the island when it was in its heyday. Santos had a crush on Peggy Lee in those days and the rest as they say is history. He was the nicest man and so passionate about his work and his drink. I have only visited the bar once since Mr. Cruz passed... his son was still operating the bar but he wasn't sure how long it would continue. I met Mr. Cruz that first time on an accident basically. I wandered into his bar during the middle of the day just out of curiosity... and I thank god I did. The experience and the stories I heard I will truly never forget and I am honored to have met the man who I truly believe in my heart invented the Margarita. If any of you could have seen the twinkle in his eyes the day he told me the story... you would believe too.

Dios te bendiga seƱor cruz

Justin Harwell
Re: invention of the Margarita
February 07, 2017 08:18AM
Thank you very much, Justin, for sharing such pleasant memories, and for providing further support for the claim that Santos invented the drink in Peggy's honor!

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