Decades before Jimmy Buffett marketed beach-bum chic via "Margaritaville" and endless tie-ins, there was ... the Margarita.

This versatile, summery tequila cocktail has numerous backstories, none certain.

The generally accepted ones have a Mexican restaurateur concocting the drink to satisfy a customer allergic to spirits other than tequila; or a bartender trying to re-create by memory a forgotten cocktail. Another has a Texas socialite mixing whatever bar ingredients she had.

And then there's the one about a guy smitten with Rita Hayworth, who was born Margarita Cansino.

Either way, it's one of the country's most popular cocktails, if not numero uno. Indeed, the first frozen Margarita machine is in the Smithsonian. Pick your version: straight up, on the rocks, frozen, fruity. Try one at these local spots - not while "nibblin' on spongecake."

Besito (2 locations)

402 New York Ave. , Huntington, 631-549-0100

1516 Old Northern Blvd. , Roslyn, 516-484-3001

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The two branches of Besito prepare at least six types of Margaritas, with your preferred tequila. Have one while your waiter pounds away at custom-made guacamole. They range from $8 to $11.

Don Juan (2 locations)

535 Old Country Rd., Westbury, 516-333-1020

4899 Merrick Rd., Massapequa Park, 516-798-1172

These casual eateries send out all the expected dishes; the assorted Margaritas start at about $6.50.

Four Food Studio & Cocktail Salon : 515 Broadhollow Rd., Melville, 631-577-4444

The high-style New American restaurant-and-bar offers an array of lively Margaritas with a scene to match. Figure about $12 per.

Quetzalcoatl : 296 Main St., Huntington, 631-427-7834

A warm, satisfying Mexican restaurant where you can kickoff with a good Margarita before, or during, dinner. About $7.

Rein Bar & Bistro : 45 Seventh St., (The Garden City Hotel), Garden City, 516-747-3000

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The clubby, colorful establishment has all the basic Margaritas and a harvest of fruity ones, with a choice of tequilas. About $12.50.

Cabo : 3A N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-255-0065, caborvc.net

The margarita is king at Cabo. The tangy cocktails come in three sizes and 15 flavors, including mango, raspberry, passion fruit and melon. And, yes, you can get it served in a coconut. Appetizers range from chalupas to guacamole. Tuesdays are karaoke night.

Make your own Margarita

THE INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 to 2 ounces silver tequila 1/2 to 1 ounce triple sec 1 lime Salt Ice cubes

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THE TECHNIQUE

1. Wet the rim of a cocktail glass with a cut lime. Dip the glass in salt.

2. Put the tequila, triple sec and some ice in a shaker. Add a little lime juice. Shake and strain into a glass.