Martinez may have perfected the frozen margarita, but it was his father who planted the seed for the cocktail. The young Martinez grew up bussing tables at his dad’s Mexican resto, El Charo, where he’d see him blitz a few frozen margaritas in a blender for his customers, back when liquor couldn’t be sold by the drink in Texas eateries. This changed in 1970, when an amendment made it lawful to sell individual cocktails once approved in local-option elections.
When Dallas voted yes, the younger Martinez opened his own restaurant, Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine. (Today, Mariano still owns and frequents five restaurants across Texas.) The first night was a roaring success—except the bartender was buried in margarita orders and began haphazardly tossing ingredients into the blender just to keep up, resulting in less-than-delicious frozen margaritas. “The blender is obviously easiest and quickest if you’re making small batches but almost impossible to use in a restaurant because of the sheer volume,” explains Rodarte. “For example, at Beto & Son, we will sell over 500 variations of a frozen margarita in a day. I doubt a blender would last us even a week.”
Martinez tried and failed to obtain a Slurpee machine from 7-Eleven, then bought a secondhand soft-serve ice cream machine to solve the problem. After toying with his dad’s recipe to get the ideal consistency and flavor, he finally nailed it. Boozy and impeccably chilled, the drink changed the cocktail world and the Tex-Mex restaurant scene (which Dallas is famous for) forever. “I’m sure it was unfathomable by Martinez at the time, but as a Dallasite, I can confidently speak for all of us when I say Dallas would not be the same place without this innovation,” says Rodarte.
The original machine produced countless cocktails for an entire decade before breaking down. Today, it sits in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where it’s been since 2005.