Food & Drink

50 Frozen Years!

A celebration of cocktail innovation and the infamous story behind our favorite invention, the frozen margarita machine.

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Zane Harrington
Posted on Feb 24, 2021

Not all frozen margaritas are created equal. In fact, whenever a bartender anywhere serves a frozen margarita, they can quickly say a "thank you" to Mariano Martinez in Dallas, Texas, for lightening their load with his innovation and contribution to American culture.

The story begins with a high school dropout who had dreams of opening his own business. With $500 in hand and a small business loan, Mariano Martinez opened Mariano's Hacienda in East Dallas. While the food and atmosphere kept hungry guests coming back, it was the margaritas – his father's secret recipe – that brought them back for seconds.

Guests raved about Mariano's margaritas, but unfortunately, as word got out, crowds only increased. Ice, blenders, tequila, and overwhelmed bartenders can only lead to one thing: an inconsistent meltdown. His bartenders simply couldn't keep up with the growing demand that left some perfect, and others seriously lacking. With disappointed customers and frustrated bartenders, Martinez knew he had to come up with a solution.

In 1971, after weeks of no idea what to do, he stopped into a 7-Eleven for his morning coffee. Low and behold, it was the Slurpee machine that sparked the idea that will live on forever! Martinez hypothesized that if he altered his recipe slightly, he could get the drink to freeze in a similar machine, maximizing efficiency and eliminating watered-down drinks. He went and bought an old soft-serve ice cream machine and tinkered with his recipe's ratios until it resulted in a frozen margarita that was served to perfection with every pour. And just like that, the world's first frozen margarita machine was born, forever freezing in time the Dallas' claim to America's favorite cocktail.

Mariano with his invention.

Today, 50 years after revolutionizing the American food and beverage industry, the original machine sits in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, right next to Julia Child's kitchen.

Inspired by Mariano's genius invention, VisitDallas launched the Margarita Mile in 2018. Today, visitors to Dallas can enjoy five decades of heritage and innovation and pay homage to this invention on the Margarita Mile – a self-guided trail of Dallas' best and brightest margaritas, conveniently collected in a colorful app.

Want to get a taste of history for yourself? Raise your glass high to the legend that lives on today at the original Mariano's location. Mariano's is one of 17 stops along the Margarita Mile waiting for you to explore and there's no better time to do so, as 2021 is all about celebrating 50 years of Dallas' favorite frozen cocktail.