Galveston family makes claim to margarita fame

This National Margarita Day, a local family reminds KPRC of its claim to history

Santos Cruz, Sr. at the Balinese Room in this undated photo
Santos Cruz, Sr. at the Balinese Room in this undated photo (The Cruz Family)

HOUSTON – National Margarita Day might have you remembering the first time you tried a margarita. Was it in a bar or at a friend’s house or somewhere on a beach?

The memories may be fuzzy. That seems to happen with this drink.

Many people claim to have mixed up the first margarita, but it’s unclear who actually has.

However, one Galveston family has made a claim to that fame for years. But it's not fussing about it.

Steven Cruz wrote to KPRC2 Wednesday to share that it was his grandfather Santos Cruz that created the drink at the Balinese Room in 1948.

Santos Cruz Jr., Steven Cruz’s father, explained that the Balinese Room hosted a lot of big-name entertainers.

When singer Peggy Lee came to town, Santos Cruz made a drink that Peggy Lee and her husband, Harry Barber -- fresh from a trip to Mexico -- were sure to enjoy. He whipped up a drink reminiscent of a popular “Sidecar” cocktail. Instead of brandy, triple sec and lime juice, Santos used tequila instead of brandy, and salt – not sugar – to line the glass.

The younger Cruz said Lee liked the drink, and she asked what it was called. His father told her she could call it whatever she wanted. Her husband, according to the younger Cruz, eventually named it the margarita – a take on Peggy's more formal name, Margaret.

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