This Italian margarita recipe uses amaretto to give this classic cocktail a makeover! Blood orange juice gives it an eye-catching vibrant color.
Want a simple makeover for your margarita? Try this Italian margarita recipe! Just like our Mexican Pizza, this drink is a fusion of the best of Italian and Mexican cuisines: but this time in cocktail form! This Mediterranean version of the classic cocktail swaps out orange liqueur for amaretto, and the almond essence adds a distinctly Italian vibe. Alex and I are big fans of traveling in Italy (Rome, Naples, Tellaro, and the Amalfi Coast are faves): so of course we had to try the Italian margarita! Here’s how to make it.
What’s an Italian margarita?
An Italian margarita is a variation on a classic margarita that uses amaretto in place of the orange liqueur (Cointreau), in combination with orange juice, lime juice, and tequila. The flavor has notes of almond and citrus on the finish, but the beginning of the sip tastes like your favorite margarita. Think of it as a sophisticated version of a margarita, kind of like the Cadillac Margarita! Here’s what’s in an Italian margarita:
- Orange or blood orange juice
- Lime juice
Use blood orange juice for the brilliant color!
Of course, you can use orange juice from a standard navel orange and this Italian margarita turns out with a warm orange color. But want a brilliant color? Use a blood orange! Blood oranges have very sweet juice and a hot pink color. We love this spin on because it’s so eye-catching, just like our blood orange margarita. If you can find them, they’re absolutely worth buying. You can also find bottled blood orange juice at many grocery stores.
Cheater tip: If you like the look but can’t find blood oranges, a tiny drizzle of pomegranate juice or cranberry juice would work too!
What’s the best tequila to use?
Many people suggest using tequila blanco for margaritas. But we prefer the robust flavor of tequila reposado. Here’s what to know about the best tequila for margaritas
- Tequila blanco (or “new” tequila) has been aged less than 2 months and has a strong, straightforward flavor.
- Tequila reposado (“rested” in Spanish) is aged longer, from 2 to 12 months. It has a more nuanced flavor, with notes of oak and vanilla.
Either way, try to find a mid-price range tequila when you make an Italian margarita. No cheapo tequila here. You can definitely taste the difference!
What is amaretto?
Amaretto is an almond liqueur that originates from Italy. Today it’s made around the world and is stocked in bars worldwide. It tastes both sweet and bitter (amaretto means in Italian “little bitter”). It has such a distinctive flavor, once you’ve had it once: you’ll remember it forever. You may know the flavor from the popular amaretto cookies, a popular Italian sweet.
It’s worth getting a bottle for your shelf: you can use it in cocktails and in cooking, especially desserts! More drinks that feature amaretto? Try it in an Amaretto Sour, Amaretto Coffee, or French Connection.
How to make an Italian margarita
The Italian margarita follows the typical margarita pattern: salt the rim, shake in a cocktail shaker, strain, garnish, serve. A few of our margarita recipes are mixed in a mixing glass (like the Cadillac and Skinny), but this one is straight up cocktail shaker. This lets it get thoroughly chilled and a little more diluted than the others. Here’s what to do:
- Rim the glass with salt. Our favorite way is to cut a notch in a lime wedge and run it around the glass. Then dip the glass in a plate of kosher salt or flaky sea salt.
- Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Throw in the tequila, orange juice, lime and amaretto and shake until cold.
- Strain into the glass and serve. That’s it! Strain it in and garnish with an orange and lime wedge. You’ve made your Italian margarita!
What food to serve with Italian margaritas
Quick note: what type of food would you serve with Italian margaritas? You can go either way: Mexican or Italian style!
- The drink is still pretty tequila forward, so you could go Mexican and serve with chips and guacamole and shrimp tacos.
- Or, go Italian style! It would be fun to serve this with vodka sauce pasta, a chopped salad, and a cheese board with marinated olives.
Step it up: clear ice & margarita salt
Two last notes: here are a few ways to take this Italian margarita over the top! Alex and I love to make these when we have time (especially the ice!):
- Clear Ice Clear ice is artisanal ice that is perfectly clear (not cloudy) that looks like fancy ice you’d get in a bar! It’s absolutely game changing for your homemade cocktails.
- Margarita Salt The colorful orange and green of citrus zest makes this margarita salt eye-catching and perfect for entertaining.
When to serve an Italian margarita
The Italian Margarita is really perfect for anytime you’d serve a regular margarita! You could serve it as a:
- Happy hour drink
- Dinner party drink
- Late night drinks drink
- Guys or girls night drink
- Cocktail hour drink
The Italian margarita uses amaretto to give this classic cocktail a makeover! Blood orange juice gives it an eye-catching vibrant color.
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) tequila blanco or reposado*
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) fresh squeezed orange juice or blood orange juice
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) amaretto
- 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) lime juice
- Kosher salt or flaky sea salt, for the rim
- For the garnish: Lime wedge
- 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 flaky sea salt (or for a festive look, use our Margarita Salt).
- Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes and shake until cold.
- Strain the margarita into the glass with the salted rim. Fill the glass with ice and serve (consider using our clear ice for an artisan touch).
- Category: Drinks
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: Cocktails
Keywords: Italian Margarita
More margarita recipes
Alex and I are big margarita fans over here, so we’ve got lots of spins on this classic drink. Here are our favorite ways to make margs:
- Classic: Simple, Patron, Agave, or Cointreau Margarita
- Light: Skinny, Virgin, or Frozen
- Boozy: Mezcal Margarita or Cadillac Margarita
- Fruity: Mango, Peach, Watermelon, Blackberry, Strawberry, Pineapple, Orange or Grapefruit Margarita
- Spicy: Jalapeno Margarita, Cucumber Jalapeno or Pineapple Jalapeno
- Unique: Beer Margarita, Cucumber Margarita or Blue Margarita
- Batch: Margarita Pitcher, Margarita Mix
Last updated: March 2021
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.