Smithsonian to Exhibit World's First Frozen Margarita Machine Starting Next Week!

Martinez with his OG machine, during the 1970s
Martinez with his OG machine, during the 1970s
Courtesy of Mariano Martinez

One of my favorite stories from Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America involves the creation of the frozen margarita machine. As I point out in the book and during my lectures, there are many origin stories for the tequila cocktail, but everyone agrees on who created the machine that launched a thousand icy swirls: Dallas native Mariano Martinez, who fashioned it in 1971 from a soft-service ice cream machine and went on to become a millionaire with his eponymous restaurants.

How authoritative is this origin story? No less an authority than the Smithsonian asked for and received Martinez's first frozen-margarita machine a couple of years back, and they're now prepared to debut it to the world next week.

It'll be shown as part of the museum's "FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000," an exhibit that'll document how America became such a food-obsessed culture. Part of that story, of course, is the rise of Mexican food in the United States--and a big part of its success is owed to the frozen margarita machine.

"I am truly honored to have my machine featured in the Smithsonian's exhibit about food history," Martinez said in a press release. "I never dream[ed] of being an inventor, let alone creating something that would affect people across the country. I simply wanted to keep my customers happy, and I still get to do that every day thanks to the margarita machine."

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Hopefully, the Smithsonian will also invite Martinez, who was one of the most delightful interviews I've ever conducted (we'll still talk every once in a while, just for the hell of it.). Congrats, Mariano, and everyone else: the Reconquista continues...

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