Carlos Herrera, 90; Restaurant Owner Invented the Margarita

<i> From a Times Staff Writer</i>

Carlos Herrera, who said he topped tequila with salt many years ago and came up with the first margarita, is dead.

He died Monday at age 90 in a San Diego hospital, five years after he moved from Tijuana to San Diego.

It was in the 1940s, in a Tijuana roadside restaurant, that he first poured the famed drink. As Herrera told it, the margarita began as an experiment when he tried to concoct something that would quench the thirst of a beautiful young showgirl named Marjorie King.

“She was allergic to everything except tequila,” Herrera said in a recent Times interview. “But she couldn’t take it straight, or even with the lemon and the salt. So I started experimenting.”


One day he mixed three parts white tequila, two parts Cointreau and one part fresh lemon juice. Herrera added shaved ice and shook the container. He drenched the rim in lemon juice and covered it with salt.

Marjorie King, like so many others after her, liked the drink. And today, people order it by the name Herrera gave it: margarita, Spanish for Marjorie.

Before he invented the margarita--which others over the years have also claimed to have done--Herrera was a Tijuana pioneer who helped develop the area. In 1932, he and his wife lived in a shack, where they had a cow, some chickens and a well. They built a house, which included a bar behind the shack.

From that modest beginning, Herrera eventually turned the house into a restaurant, and later built a small hotel to complement the restaurant.


Herrera is survived by a daughter, four grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.