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Our best margarita recipe is simple and classic, bursting with fresh lime balanced by crisp tequila and citrusy orange liqueur. Here’s how to make it—in 5 minutes with 3 ingredients! A true fan favorite.

Margarita recipe in glass with limes and salt rim
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There’s a reason the margarita is the world’s most popular tequila cocktail! This classic drink hits just the right balance of boozy tequila, zingy lime, and sweet orange liqueur. Alex and I are cocktail experts and certified mixologists with over 300 cocktail recipes in our library, but guess what? We keep coming back to this classic formula as one of our top cocktails of all time.

Why we love this margarita recipe: It takes just 3 ingredients for the best margarita recipe you’ll make over and over again. The drink is refreshing and perfectly balanced: boozy, zingy, salty, and sweet. We have made it countless times, and even featured it in our latest cookbook! You’ll love it, we promise.

“It was perfect. So many recipes out there are too sweet. This is a homerun!” -Rachel

Ingredients in this margarita recipe

The margarita is one of the most popular classic cocktails of all time, likely invented in Mexico in the late 1930’s. Margarita means “daisy” in Spanish, so it was probably a spin on the Brandy Daisy. The Daisy is a historic family of drinks with base liquor, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and soda water. Swap in tequila and lime, and you’ve got a margarita!

The margarita became popular during the Prohibition era, when Americans would travel to Mexico to get alcohol. Of course, it’s achieved iconic status today! You can serve the classic straight up, or on the rocks in a lowball glass. The ingredients in a classic margarita recipe are:

  • Tequila: A mid-price range tequila blanco is ideal, but you can also make the drink with tequila reposado for more nuanced, smooth flavor notes.
  • Triple Sec or Cointreau: We like a margarita with Cointreau orange liqueur, which adds additional sophisticated notes. You can also use Triple Sec, a more inexpensive orange liqueur with more straightforward flavor.
  • Lime juice: Always use the juice of fresh limes: bottled just can’t compare to fresh citrus.
Margarita ingredients: tequila and limes with margarita recipe in glass.

Best tequila for margaritas

Most experts say tequila blanco is best for margaritas. Tequila blanco (or “new” tequila) is unaged and has that classic tequila burn. But tequila reposado adds an intriguing depth of flavor. Try this margarita recipe with both and enjoy the flavor differences (we like it both ways). Here are a few tips for picking the best tequila for margaritas:

  • Any mid-priced tequila tastes great in a margarita. Look for 750 ml bottles in the range of $22 to $35.
  • Tequila blanco is ideal for margaritas. It has a straightforward agave-centric flavor and spicy finish. Some brands we like are Espolon Blanco, El Tesoro Blanco, Patrón Silver, and Casamigos.
  • Tequila reposado (aged) makes a smooth, sophisticated margarita. Tequila reposado is aged 2 to 12 months in oak barrels. It has a smooth flavor and notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel. Some brands we like include Casamigos, Milagro Reposado, and Suerte Reposado.

How to make a margarita: step by step

The simple margarita recipe is quick and easy: mix it up as a single drink, 2 drinks at once, or make a margarita pitcher. Make sure to prepare the glass rim and garnishes before making the drink. Here’s how to make a single drink (or go to the full recipe):

  1. Step 1: Rim the glass with salt. A margarita salt rim enhances the drink’s sweet and sour flavors. Add the salt to a plate in an even layer, then take a lime wedge and slide it around the rim of the glass. Dip the outside edge of the glass into the salt, rotating until it’s covered.
  2. Step 2: Shake the drink in a cocktail shaker. Place the 1 ½ oz tequila, 1 oz Cointreau and ¾ oz lime juice in a cocktail shaker and add 4 ice cubes. Shake it until the drink is cold.
  3. Step 3: Strain into the glass. If serving the margarita on the rocks in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass, add clear ice. Serving straight up in a stemmed margarita glass works too. (Our personal preference is in a lowball!)

Margarita rim ideas: salt, Tajín, and more!

You can use simple kosher salt for the rim or step it up with colorful margarita salt with lime and orange zest. Or, try a Tajín rim: it’s a Mexican seasoning blend of chili peppers, lime, and salt that adds a burst of tangy, spicy flavor.

A quick history of the margarita

🍹 A popular story suggests that the margarita cocktail was invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera, a Tijuana-based bartender and head of the restaurant Rancho La Gloria. He claimed he invented the recipe for a customer who wanted a cocktail but was allergic to all alcohols except tequila.

But according to VinePair, a more likely origin could be a story in a 1939 Albuquerque Journal, which suggests that an Irish bartender named Madden in Tijuana may have invented the drink as a riff on the brandy Daisy. He accidentally used tequila and in doing so creating an entirely different drink.

Try our Casamigos Margarita or Patron Margarita recipes, each with different types of tequila!

Variation: make a margarita pitcher

Want to serve this margarita recipe for a crowd? The best way to make multiple margaritas at once is to make a pitcher. The margarita pitcher makes for 8 servings and you don’t need to shake up each drink separately, which is time consuming. Stir ice right into the pitcher to chill and dilute the drink. Here’s what to do:

  • Place 1 ½ cups tequila, 1 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec, and ¾ cup fresh lime juice in a pitcher.
  • Add 3 handfuls ice and stir until cold.
  • Pour into the prepared glasses. 
Margarita Recipe

Use clear ice for margarita on the rocks

❄️ The best way to make a margarita on the rocks? Use clear ice, artisanal ice that is crystal clear and can be cut into beautiful organic shapes. It’s a great way to take a cocktail from good to glamorous! You can make your own clear ice at home using a small cooler or clear ice tray. Go to How to Make Clear Ice.

A few margarita recipe variations

There are many variations on the classic margarita! While the classic simple margarita remains our favorite, there are lots of great ways to mix up the formula. Here are some of our top margarita recipes:

Frequently asked questions

What tequila should I use for the best margarita?

For the most authentic flavor, use a 100% agave tequila. Blanco (silver) tequila is the classic choice, but reposado (aged) tequila can add a smoother flavor profile.

What’s the perfect ratio for a margarita?

A common starting point is the 3:2:1 ratio – 1.5 oz tequila, 1 oz orange liqueur, and ½ oz lime juice. Feel free to adjust these proportions based on your taste preference.

Can I use pre-made sour mix?

While convenient, pre-made sour mix often contains artificial ingredients and added sugar. Fresh lime juice provides the best flavor for a classic margarita.

My margarita is too sour/sweet! How can I adjust it?

Taste your margarita as you go! Adjust the sweetness with agave nectar or simple syrup, and the tartness with fresh lime juice. Start with a small amount of sweetener and add more to taste.

What’s the best way to rim a glass for a margarita?

Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass to moisten it. Dip the rim upside down into a plate filled with coarse kosher salt or another flavored salt of your choice.

How can I make my margarita extra special?

Infuse your tequila: Let fruits, herbs, or spices infuse your tequila for a unique twist.
Get creative with fruits: Muddle fresh fruits like strawberries, mangoes, or peaches for a fruity twist.
Spicy kick: Add a jalapeno slice or a dash of hot sauce for a spicy margarita.

Can I make margaritas ahead of time?

Pre-squeeze your lime juice and prepare any simple syrup in advance. However, assemble and serve margaritas right before drinking for the freshest flavors and perfect consistency (especially for frozen margaritas).

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Best tequila for margaritas

Classic Margarita Recipe


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 5 reviews

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

Description

Here’s how to make the classic margarita recipe! It’s easy with just 3 ingredients: tequila, lime, and orange liqueur.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ½ ounces tequila blanco or reposado*
  • 1 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt or flaky sea salt, for the rim
  • Lime wedge, for the garnish

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. 
  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.
  4. For a margarita pitcher (8 servings): Place 1 ½ cups tequila, 1 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec, and ¾ cup lime juice in a pitcher. Add 3 handfuls ice and stir until cold. Pour into the prepared glasses. 

Notes

  1. For a spicy variation, add 3 to 4 jalapeno pepper slices to the cocktail shaker, or go to Jalapeno Margarita.
  2. For a smoky variation, replace half the tequila with Mezcal, or go to Mezcal Margarita.
  3. For a frozen variation, go to Frozen Margarita
  4. For a virgin variation, go to Virgin Margarita.
  5. For fruity variations, go to Pineapple Margarita, Strawberry Margarita, Mango Margarita, or these 25 Margarita Recipes.
  • Category: Cocktail
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktail
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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5 Comments

  1. Amanda says:

    Very strong, but great! I made 3 double batches. Making the drinks was very fast and easy. I juiced 9 limes and had just enough juice for 3 batches.






  2. Rachel says:

    It was perfect. So many recipes out there are too sweet. This is a homerun!






  3. Dhiren Thakkar says:

    Excellent, I have never tasted tequila before in my life. I found your recipes very simple and easy to follow. I will make sure to carry a bottle of tequila while going back to India.






  4. Sabrina says:

    love this with Cointreau or even Triple Sec, I’ve only ever used some kind of margarita mix! thank you






  5. Rin says:

    Can I use any type of tequila for a margarita?