Photography by Kathy Tran

Mariano’s Hacienda celebrated the 50th anniversary of its famous frozen margaritas in May.

The frozen margarita madness put Dallas on the margarita map and was started by Mariano Martinez — a man with a dream and a soft-serve machine. In 1971, before anyone knew what a margarita machine was or how much it could do, Martinez’s customers were dissatisfied with their blended margaritas.

No one likes a warm margarita, but the drinks were made with just one blender, ice, fresh lime, Cointreau and agave tequila with varying results from one margarita to the next. He heard constant complaints about the inconsistency.

Something sparked the bulb of creativity in his head during a trip to 7-Eleven. He saw children drinking slurpees and decided to try the process with his restaurant’s margaritas.

“I saw the slurpee machine and thought the recipe would be very consistent,” Martinez says. “What could have been easier than pulling a lever? What could have been colder than frozen?”

On May 11, 1971, he made history when his tinkering with a soft-serve machine he found in a used equipment warehouse. He began to market his alcoholic concoction at his restaurant, and it was an instant hit in Dallas, especially among local college students. Back then, the original location was near Southern Methodist University.

Photography by Kathy Tran

“Restaurants all over Dallas began to copy what I did, and now margarita machines can be found in 46 countries around the world,” Martinez says.

Martinez’s signature margarita recipe is based on his father’s. It’s hand-shaken and served on the rocks, garnished with lime sliced to look like a daisy. And it’s Martinez’s most popular margarita, named after the man himself.

“I’ve come up with 13 hand-crafted margaritas and Mariano is now the most popular of them all,” Martinez says. The restaurant’s margaritas range from frozen to ‘sorta-ritas,’ which substitute the tequila with whiskey or bourbon. The entrees include a variety of Tex-Mex and traditional Mexican dishes. Have a taste for fajitas? They have that. Have a taste for tacos? That’s on the menu. Have a taste for queso, enchiladas or soups? They’ve got all bases covered. But the most popular item is the mesquite grilled fajitas.

“The fajitas are cooked on mesquite wood and served with our house-made flour tortillas,” Martinez says.

This year, the restaurant celebrated 50 frozen years in a couple of ways. There was the Margarita Mile — a Dallas giveaway that ran March 22 to May 11 — and an updated drink menu with 15 options instead of the usual 13. Martinez is the owner of five restaurants with two Mariano’s Hacienda and three La Hacienda Ranch locations across Dallas.

The original frozen margarita machine is now cemented as a piece of American history at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Martinez proudly donated it in 2005.

“It’s right next to Julia Child’s kitchen and the first Tupperware,” Martinez says.

Mariano’s Hacienda, 6300 Skillman St., laharanch.com, 214.691.3888.