Posted on February 22, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe
We will start this off right.
#1 – Click the Link.
#2 – Press Play (or skip the ad, if pops up first)
#3 – Turn up the Volume. Now you’re ready. You’ll understand why……
Hot on the heels of National Drink Wine Day comes my second favorite drink…The Margarita. Literal translation of margarita is the daisy flower. Early in the 20th century, the Tequila Daisy cocktail contained a spirit, citrus juice, a sweetener or liqueur and a fizzy drink. Did they reverse The Daisy into it’s literal translation?
Finding who invented it is the challenge. A popular story is of Carlos Herrera, the owner of, Rancho La Gloria, a restaurant located between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico, who created the drink, in 1938. A customer, former Ziegfeld dancer named Marjorie King, requested a drink but knew she was allergic to many types of spirits but not to tequila. He used the same ingredients previously used for doing tequila shooters. Lime and salt.
However, the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, published in 1937, contains a drink called the Picador. The list of ingredients is tequila, cointreau and lime juice. Perhaps Carlos Herrera knew of the drink but changed the name on the spot for her.
Don Pedro Sanchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira was the first to mass produce tequila in a region that is now called Jalisco.
Don Jose Maria Guadalupe de Cuervo was the first person to receive a documented license, in 1795, to produce tequila.
Typically, the people of Mexico do not drink Margaritas so is it an American influence?
Another possible inventor might have been Danny Negrete. He is credited with producing the drink for his sister in law, Margarita, as a wedding present at the Garci Crespo Hotel in 1936. He later worked at the Agua Caliente Race Track where a famous actress whose real name is Margarita (read further for her identity) performed in her teen years in the early 1930’s. He may have named it for her.
Some establishments are now adding agave nectar, a sweet and syrupy liquid which does have to be watered down. Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco boasts 400 varieties of tequila and uses the nectar in their Margaritas. Julio Bermejo is the first person to use an organic version of the nectar. The tiny bar in the middle of nowhere has become renowned across the world thanks to him. The nectar has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of any sweetener which is a healthier option for diabetics. They use freshly squeezed lime juice – no sour mix in a bottle in this bar! It’s a great year to go as they celebrate their 50th year.
I couldn’t be happier with the number of Mexican restaurants on the rise in Ottawa. Burrito Gringo type places are popping up all over the city. I thought there weren’t any authentic Mexican restaurants here, however, with a bit of footwork, I discovered a few of these establishments have been here for many years.
The first day of my research took me to Taqueria Kukulkan, at 1730 Montreal Road, which has been open for about 3 years. It’s humble in appearance. You expect a fast food experience at first sight by the size of it. When you see the tables set with wine glasses, napkins with cutlery and a foil-wrapped heart shaped chocolate on top, you know you’ve misjudged.
The quality of staff, food tableware and cleanliness will blow you away. And they’re licensed! Their liquor cabinet houses mostly tequila of many brands. One of the most amazing aspects, in my opinion, is the fact that the chefs are preparing and cooking your food literally in the same room as the clientele but you wouldn’t even know it. They work quietly, attentively and in sync with each other. You can hear the mariachi music playing in the background.
I fell in love with the place with it’s Mexican colors, flags, paintings, engravings that differ from table to table, and I hadn’t even received my food yet!
Well, I am partial to Spanish style and that love blossomed with every trip I made to Mexico and California where I was very fortunate to vacation over the years since childhood. In restaurants in Mexico, you are served complimentary guacamole with corn chips, while here, in North America, many places offer you bread and butter. Need I say more?
As a kid, the moment the guacamole dish hit the table, I dove in. Kukulkan didn’t disappoint with it’s heaping serving and home made corn chips. I highly recommend giving this place a try for it’s homey feel and deliciously authentic meals. You will find me here today since, by coincidence, it is Margarita Wednesday, a weekly event.
Ottawa needs more authentic Mexican restaurants, not necessarily those Tex-Mex places, which are great, too, but I’ll take getting swept away to Mexico any day.
My love for mariachi music has spanned most of my life so I had hoped to find a Mexican restaurant that showcased a live Mariachi Band once in awhile. Enjoying dinner with trumpets, acoustic guitars and a whistler, you can’t go wrong! In Mexico, a band of 3 or 4 musicians weave their way among the patrons and play for your table. It’s festive and lifts your spirits. If you’ve had the YouTube music link, I supplied, playing, maybe you agree? After visiting 5 Mexican establishments, I had yet to find a live mariachi band. My 6th option finally brought me positive results.
The most famous Margarita I know of is Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) whose real name is Margarita Carmen Cansino.
Oddly enough, Rita Hayworth leads us to the movie, the Shawshank Redemption so I had to find out why. The film is based on Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which is in print in the short story collection of 1982’s Different Seasons. The novella is far from being about Miss Hayworth. In the movie’s production stages, they dropped the Rita Hayworth since so many actresses submitted their resumes, thinking it was a biography of the actress/dancer. An agent, representing an unnamed supermodel, even called to say it was the best script he’d read and that the part (which was non-existent) would be perfect for the supermodel. Someone didn’t do their homework.
The first great great grandchild of Queen Victoria is Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark.
And, there is the pizza, Margherita, with the simplest of ingredients: your favorite pizza/tomato sauce, basil and cheese. A couple of years ago, I had this type of pizza for the first time in the Niagara-On-The-Lake region. An absolutely delicious but simple pizza with bocconcini cheese balls sliced and scattered over the pizza.
Feleena’s Cantina, at 742 Bank St., is in the heart of the Glebe, which is close enough to catch a football game or while shopping. They receive many patrons daily. Not just for it’s convenience but for it’s truly authentic dishes, decor and tasty Margarita’s. Their trusted recipe has been the same for the last 25 years, using Triple Sec and have been operating in this location for the last 38 years. They have many types of tequila and you can choose any of these to add to your Margarita. The cost is $10.95 and is a generous serving. Please ask the server. The experienced staff is very accommodating especially when requesting off menu items. I was in the mood for chips and dipping but did not find a similar variety plate, except for chips and guacamole. She offered to bring that order with 4 additional dips. The chips are made fresh daily on site.
The colors are true to tradition and the owner paints the chairs, walls and doors. It’s easy to spend 20 minutes browsing the restaurant to see all of the original artwork. In the menu, there’s a full welcome page with the owner’s origins.
Pancho Villa, in the hub of the Elgin Street pubs, houses so many varieties of tequila, there’s a separate menu of 65 types, most are 100% agave. Enjoy their smoothness straight up on ice for optimum flavour. Their Margarita is $12.95 for the 3 ounce option and $8.50 for the 1 1/4 ounces. It has been operating on Elgin since 1984.
I had the opportunity to speak with the owner’s wife and learned a great deal. The statues on display throughout the restaurant originate from the markets in Mexico but the creator is unknown . There are over 200 types of tequila. More on this when it is National Tequila Day. To keep the dishes true to the heritage, they have an 80 year old gentleman, from Peru, work with the kitchen staff on a regular basis.
If you are planning to learn Spanish, they also offer language courses on site.
Still looking for that Mariachi band…..
The subdued but classy decor at Agave Grill, in Westboro, is not a reflection of less quality. The favorite here is the Margarita, with it’s special blend, similar to the one made at Tommy’s in San Francisco. The popular fajitas are half price on Mondays. They have been on the map for 14 years and know, by opening their doors on a holiday Monday, they will bring in many customers looking for good food and rich ambiance. Oh, and try the Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Soup!
The Ahora Mexicaine Cuisine, in the Ottawa Market, had a unique approach. They didn’t lack on colors and hand painted murals but the method of service differed. You are taken to your table where you decide on your order then approach the cash to place your order and pay. There is a free, self serve salsa bar and water decanter with lime wedges to pour your own water. The waitresses aren’t lazy. They are hustling everywhere, greeting customers, serving Margaritas (which are $7.95), removing plates, cleaning tables and answering customer questions. Their workload would be too great if they took orders as well. It’s a clever method and it works very well.
Now, for the best of all. Without looking at reviews, I can tell you Taqueria La Bonita, on Ogilvie Road between the Aviation Parkway and the Gloucester Centre, will be a hotspot in Ottawa this summer. They bring in Mariachi Bands! I asked the waitress about their Margarita’s and she said they are cool. So I ordered a glass of cool and the most amazing, most beautifully decorated drink was placed before me. Pineapple and watermelon and strawberry, oh my! You have to go! They are open 2 years now and for a Tuesday, they were full! I would recommend making a reservation for groups larger than 4. The Enchiladas Verdes proved to be scrumptious! The owners are a wife and husband team. She is from Mexico and her portraits (see below) decorate the walls. The many other pieces throughout the restaurant are all from Mexico. Enjoy the Spanish music as you take your time to browse the unique wooden menu with rustic hinges, also made in Mexico. It describes each dish and where is originates.
If I visit there once a month, it will take me about a year and a half to conquer each dish. Did I mention, you must go there?
With 2 of the newest Mexican restaurants, that you can definitely rave about, located in the east end, I think it should be renamed “Little Mexico!” Think it will catch on?
In July, I will bring you all the dirt on tequila. I hope you can join me!
#4 Now get out there and have yourself a Margarita! Salud!
“Please Drink Responsibly.”
As the man on the left says, “Por Favor Beber Responsablemente.”