Here’s the absolute best simple margarita recipe! Serve this drink on the rocks with the classic ingredients: lime, Cointreau and tequila.

Simple margarita recipe

Stop right there. Here’s the best margarita recipe you’ll find: zingy, clear, and classic. It’s simple and uses only 3 ingredients. Did you know that a classic simple margarita doesn’t even use added sugar? Many restaurants and pre-made mixes have loads of sugar. But you won’t miss it here! This drink is perfectly tangy and balanced. Make a single drink, or a pitcher of this cocktail for a night with friends. Here’s how to make a classic margarita on the rocks in just 5 minutes.

Want a pitcher instead? Go to Perfect Margarita Pitcher.

What’s in a margarita? 3 simple ingredients!

There’s nothing I love more than a basket of chips and salsa and a margarita in my hand. At restaurants and bars, I tend to ask the bartender if they can “make it tart.” Little did I know, a true margarita drink contains no added sugar! That’s right: no simple syrup at all. You’ll find that this makes the very best margarita recipe you’ll find.

This popular Mexican cocktail was invented in the 1930s. It’s a classic sour cocktail that’s on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. This means that there’s an “official” definition (Want the exact quantities? Jump to the recipe). Here’s what’s in a margarita:

  • Tequila
  • Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • Lime juice
Best margarita recipe

Make a classic margarita on the rocks: 3 simple steps!

Now that we know the ingredients…how to make a margarita? This simple margarita recipe is “on the rocks,” meaning that it’s served over ice. It’s incredibly easy to make; here’s how!

  1. Rim the glass with salt. A classic margarita has salt on the rim. Why? The salt enhances the sweet and sour flavors in the drink! How to make the perfect salt rim? See below.
  2. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Take that tequila, Cointreau and lime juice and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes. This gets it extremely cold. What if you don’t have a cocktail shaker? See below.
  3. Strain into a glass and add ice. Strain the drink into a glass and add ice. What kind of glass to use for the best margarita? Well, it’s a very flexible drink. The margarita drink is often served in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass like you see here, though of course you can use the classic curved margarita glass too.

What’s the best tequila for margaritas?

Many sources say tequila blanco is best for margaritas. Tequila blanco (or “new” tequila) has been aged less than 2 months and has that classic tequila burn. But tequila reposado also works! Here’s our preference for the best tequila for margaritas:

  • Tequila reposado is aged longer, at least 2 months. This gives it a more nuanced flavor than tequila blanco, with notes of vanilla and oak. We like this drink best with reposado, but you can use whatever you prefer!
  • Either way, try to find a mid-price range tequila. You don’t want to be making this drink with the cheap stuff!
Classic margarita recipe

Do you really need Cointreau?

Yes! The very best margarita recipe has Cointreau. Triple Sec is often used in margaritas, but it just doesn’t do it here. Cointreau has a orange perfume flavor that’s well balanced between bitter and sweet, but Triple Sec can have a more harsh flavor. If you’re not sure whether you want to buy a bottle, there are lots of Cointreau drinks like the Sidecar, Lemon Drop Martini, and Cosmopolitan.

Fun fact: “triple sec” means triple distilled: it’s actually not a brand name! Cointreau is a brand of triple sec: it’s triple distilled.

What cocktail shaker do I need? What if I don’t have one?

Cocktail shakers are inexpensive and absolutely worth having if you find yourself making lots of cocktails like this simple margarita recipe. Here’s the cocktail shaker we use: Favorite Cocktail Shaker. A cocktail shaker quickly chills cocktails by shaking them against ice, and it has a perforated lid so you can pour out the cocktail without pouring out the ice.

What if you don’t have a cocktail shaker? Use a glass mason jar and a strainer! Place the cocktail in the jar and fill it with ice. Put on the top (or cover it with your hand) and shake away! When you pour the drink into a glass, pour it through a strainer to strain out the ice.

Margarita salt

How to make a perfect salt rim

Last, let’s talk about the glass rim in this classic margarita recipe! The best type of salt to use is kosher salt or flaky sea salt: they have a nice chunky texture. Or try our Best Margarita Salt — the orange and lime zest makes the glass look perfectly look festive! Here are our tips to making the perfect rim:

  1. Spread the salt on a plate in an even layer.
  2. Take a lime wedge and cut a notch in the middle: then slide it around the rim of the glass. This perfectly moistens the glass rim without having to use your fingers!
  3. To rim the glass, you’ll want the salt on the outside of the glass only, not the inside where it can fall into the drink. To do this, tilt the glass so that only the outside edge goes into the salt.
  4. Shake off any loose salt into the sink.

Another drink with a salt rim? Our Salty Dog.

Dress it up with clear ice!

How to make a stunning simple margarita on the rocks like in the shot above? Use clear ice. Clear ice is artisanal ice used in cocktails because of its crystal clear look and beautiful organic shapes. It’s the best way to take your cocktail from good to glamorous! Alex and I try to have a batch ready before we have a cocktail hour because this ice truly steals the show.

You can make clear ice at home and it’s so easy! All you need is a small cooler and 24 hours, and your cocktails will look like you ordered it in a fancy bar. Here’s how to make clear ice.

Simple margarita recipe, margarita drink

Can you make margarita mix?

You can! Margarita mix is great for parties so you don’t have to juice a lime every time you want to make a drink. Here are a few options:

  • Margarita mix: This margarita mix recipe that makes a big pitcher of 8 to 16 drinks. It uses a bit of lemon as well to get the sour mix vibe going.
  • Sweet and sour mix: You can also make sweet and sour mix! For each drink, mix 2 ounces tequilam ½ ounce Cointreau and 1 ounce sweet and sour mix.

Margarita variations!

This classic margarita recipe is perfect for sipping anytime, especially as a summer drink. But we drink it in any season! As with any classic drink, there are lots of variations on the theme of margarita. Here are some ideas:

  1. Skinny Margarita Less calories means you can drink more!
  2. Frozen Margarita What’s better than a frozen version of this cocktail?
  3. Margarita Pitcher Homemade mix plus tequila makes a pitcher for a crowd!
  4. Jalapeno Margarita Heat up your cocktail repertoire with this one; it’s got just the right kick.
  5. Italian Margarita Swap amaretto for Cointreau and you’re transported to Italy.
  6. Virgin Margarita Make it as a mocktail!
  7. Cadillac Margarita Use top-shelf tequila and Grand Marnier liqueur to add sophistication.
  8. Mezcal Margarita A smoky spin! It’s tangy with rich depth.
  9. Watermelon, Pineapple, Pineapple Jalapeno, Mango, Peach, Blackberry, Grapefruit and Strawberry Margaritas These fruity spins are sweet tart and refreshing.
  10. Beer Margarita Hops pair perfectly with tart lime and orange perfume.
  11. Patron Margarita Grab top-shelf Patron Silver tequila for this smooth variation.
  12. Blue Margarita The stunning color looks just like the ocean.

This best simple margarita recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Margarita

Best Simple Margarita (Classic Recipe!)


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

Here’s the absolute best simple margarita recipe! Serve this drink on the rocks with the classic ingredients: lime, Cointreau and tequila.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) tequila blanco or reposado*
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce (1 ½ tablespoons) fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt or flaky sea salt, for the rim
  • For the garnish: Lime wedge

Instructions

  1. Cut a notch in a lime wedge, then run the lime around the rim of a glass. Dip the edge of the rim into a plate of salt (or for a festive look, use our Margarita Salt).
  2. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes and shake until cold.
  3. Strain the margarita into the glass with the salted rim. Fill the glass with ice and serve.

Notes

*We like the nuanced aged flavor of reposado, but either works.

  • Category: Cocktails
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Margarita, Best margarita recipe, Simple margarita recipe, Classic margarita recipe, What’s in a margarita, Margarita on the rocks

More classic cocktails

This margarita is a knock-out classic! Here are a few more of our best cocktails, lime cocktails and sour cocktails you might also enjoy:

  • Paloma Cocktail Cousin of the classic margarita, this easy tequila cocktail recipe features tequila with grapefruit instead of lime! 
  • Tequila Sunrise This vibrant cocktail layers the colors of a summer sunrise using tequila, orange and grenadine.
  • Classic Mojito It’s perfectly balanced with lime, rum and fresh mint! This iconic Cuban cocktail is refreshing and just sweet enough.
  • Tom Collins Cocktail This popular gin cocktail that’s light and bubbly! Here’s how to make this refreshing drink: and don’t forget the cherry.
  • Lemon Drop Martini A zingy classic cocktail, it’s perfectly balanced and refreshingly tart, served with a sugar rim and a lemon twist.

Last updated: March 2021

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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5 Comments

  1. We’ve been experimenting with the best maragarita mix for 5 years now & your is very similar to our favorite version! We fell in love with maragritas in Costa Rica where they have a different type of lime–which is kinda half way between an tangerine and a lime. So for the lime juice part we go 50% lime and 50% tangerine (or simply 50% very good quality orange juice). We find putting the mix in the fridge for a while before drinking makes a nice difference. And we prefer reposado too (Espolon Repasado is our fave) and sometime put in a little mezcal for a smokey edge.

  2. I would like to see one Triple Sec that is actually destilled three times. The origin of the name is misleading and completly unknown. Triple Sec does not have a meaning, it is just a name. ;)

  3. The good: Great classic recipe. The only thing tweak I’d make is the Cointreau should be no more than 1:2 to the tequila (in this case 3/4 oz). But just a matter of personal taste. Start w/.5 – .75 oz, add to taste to create the recipe perfect for you. Reposado fan as well, Cuervo Tradicionale. Never settle for less than 100% agave.

    The not-so-good: You should dispense with the nutrition facts, as they are inaccurate WRT sugar (and to a lesser extent calories). 1.5 oz tequila is 100 calories by itself. One oz of Cointreau is not only 95 calories, but is 7.4 gms carbs, ALL of which come from sugar. It’s common sense, where do you think the ‘sweet’ comes from? So total sugar (albeit not ADDED) incl the tequila is somewhere @ 9 gms. That said, Cointreau has a lot less sugar than the cheapie 17 – 28% ABV triple secs, lining the bottom shelf. If I’m out of Cointreau, in a pinch I’ll use 1 – 2 TEAspoons of that garbage, and a few dashes of Angostura orange bitters.

  4. Where is it written that every recipe page has to have a five page story that nobody reads? Anyway, every now and then I try this recipe and I always think it’s too sour. I like these ratios:

    1 lime juice
    2 tequila
    1 triple sec
    0.5 agave nectar
    2 water. yes, water.

    Shake with ice. Very drinkable and not too sweet. Optionally add 0.5 orange juice. Cointreau instead of triple sec just gets you drunk faster.

    Exotico is the best value I’ve found in 100% agave tequilas. I swear you could put it in an empty Patron bottle and fool everyone.