Spinach Branding takes the surrealist eye with Mirror Margarita
Few cocktails share the cinematic past of the Margarita. The classic tequila-based drink comes with multiple tales of origin spanning the 1930s and 40s, some even creep into the 50s, and extend from Tijuana to Rio, Texas and beyond. And like most enduring cocktails, the Margarita’s history is peppered with myths and conflicting narratives – all of which further excite the sense and add to the drink’s allure.
Several bartenders, restaurateurs, drifters and socialites claim authorship. Among the more notable names on the list of dedicatees is the glamorous 1940s movie idol Rita Hayworth who westernised her name on arrival to Hollywood, and the singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee.
We came across all this delicious information while doing background research for a new client who specialise in the Margarita. Hacha Bar has created the unique Mirror Margarita mix to challenge our notion and perception of the tequila classic. The London Agaveria, a space dedicated to tequila and mezcal, has created a drink that distils the flavours and sensations of the Margarita in a single bottle. The Mirror Margarita is as crystal-clear as water but offers the perfect balance of sweet and sour notes.
Tasked with refining the brand identity, the Spinach team set out to unravel the Margarita’s storied past. The recipe, we discovered, first appeared in 1930 in My New Cocktail Book by G. F. Steele. Meanwhile, without noting a specific inventor, a drink called the Tequila Daisy was mentioned in the Syracuse Herald as early as 1936. Then, the first known publication of the Margarita recipe appears in the December 1953 issue of Esquire magazine calling for an ounce of tequila, a dash of triple sec, the juice of half a lime or lemon and salted rim.
One of the more established origin tales sees the Margarita as a natural evolution of the Daisy, a popular Mexican cocktail of a base spirit (typically brandy or gin), liqueur (usually orange) and citrus (lemon or lime). It’s believed that in the 1930s, the spirit in the Daisy was at some stage replaced by tequila, and since margarita is daisy in Spanish, a new cocktail was named thus.
Another narrative with a dash of the Spaghetti Western takes place sometime between 1938 and 1948 between Tijuana and Rosarito at the roadside Rancho La Gloria. Here, the bartender Carlos ‘Danny’ Herrera created a tequila cocktail for a young actress and showgirl by the name of Marjorie King, who was allergic to most spirits. Herrera later told the Los Angeles Times that he came up with the combination of tequila, triple sec, citrus, salt and ice, christening his invention Margarita because he thought the name was the closest Spanish equivalent to Marjorie.
We couldn’t help but be drawn to the glamorous story of the Dallas socialite Margarita Sames who in 1948 mixed Margaritas up for her guests at her Acapulco holiday home over Christmas. Tommy Hilton, of the hotel empire fame, was among the guests and loved the Margarita so much he introduced the cocktail to his chain of hotels. Since an ad for the Margarita had already appeared in 1945, it is unlikely Sames invented it, but she certainly helped popularised it in the US and beyond.
Yet, among the most alluring of all is the Margarita’s connection to Rita Hayworth. In this adaptation, sometime in the 1940s Enrique Bastate Gutierrez, a bartender at The Foreign Club in Tijuana, named his invention to honour the beautiful Margarita Carmen Cansino who performed there as part of a dance act. Cansino later changed her name to Rita Hayworth and went on to become one the most idolised stars of Hollywood.
The actress famously used to say: ‘Men I know sleep with Gilda but wake up with me’ – referring to her iconic character in the namesake 1946 film. On screen Hayworth seduced men and women alike with her famous dance scene, in which she removes her glove in a particularly sensual way while singing ‘put the blame on Mame’ – a scene censured in Spain, due to its alleged erotic nature. Alas given the dates, Hayward is unlikely to have been the namesake for the cocktail but, allegedly, she couldn’t resist a Margarita or two.
All this came into play when Spinach began working on the Mirror Margarita brand identity, logomark and e-commerce website. ‘We were immediately captivated by the brand, the people behind it, Deano Moncrieffe and Emma Murphy, and this intriguing cocktail,’ says Leigh Banks, branding director at the London agency. ‘The drink they have created is as clear as water, yet the taste profile is incredibly complex – mirroring (literally) the taste and sense of the Margarita cocktail,’ he says. ‘It’s a distillation of the complex notes that make up this cocktail without resorting to the obvious.’
The background research into the drink, and the sensation when experiencing Mirror Margarita, led the team to the work of the surrealist artists. ‘It reminded us of the early surrealists and the work of the pioneers of the movement, namely the visual artist and photographer Man Ray,’ explains Banks. Alongside his fellow surrealists, Ray created intriguing, complex images that play with our perception of reality.
Banks says Mirror Margarita is a unique, one-of-a-kind drink that you have to try to believe. ‘The flavour profile is unexpected, refined and delicious. And we were taken by how people responded to the drink. As with all great products, Mirror Margarita had something special about it, which made our job very simple,’ he continues. ‘It’s not often that you work with a product with such a clear proposition. All we had to do was focus on the drink’s uniqueness. The positioning line of “explore clarity, discover purity” perfectly captures the Mirror Margarita.’
The Mirror Margarita website went live in November.
Images Mirror Margarita © Hacha Bar
Spinach Branding is a specialist branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.< Back