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

How to make a margarita

There’s a reason the margarita is world’s most popular tequila drink: this classic 1930’s sour hits just the right balance of boozy tequila, zingy lime, and sweet orange liqueur. Of course, there are many syrupy sweet and fruity spins on the theme. But as two expert mixologists with over 300 cocktail recipes in our library, we keep coming back to that classic formula as one of our top cocktails of all time. It takes just 3 ingredients for the best margarita recipe you’ll make over and over again.

Margarita ingredients

The margarita is one of the most popular classic cocktails in history. It was mostly likely invented in Mexico in the late 1930’s. Margarita means “daisy” in Spanish and was likely a variation 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 you’ve got a margarita!

The margarita became popular during the Prohibition era, when Americans would travel to Mexico to get alcohol. It has spawned many variations that have diluted the classic way to make it. The classic margarita ingredients are:

  • 1 ½ oz tequila
  • 1 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
  • ¾ oz lime juice

How to make a margarita

The classic margarita recipe is simple, and you can make it as a single drink or as a margarita pitcher. Either way, you’ll need to allow time to prepare the glass rim and garnishes before making the drink. Here’s how to make a single drink:

  1. Rim the glass with salt. The classic margarita salt rim enhances the sweet and sour flavors in the drink. Spread the salt on a plate in an even layer. Take a lime wedge and then slide it around the rim of the glass. Dip the edge of the glass in the plate of salt, then shake off any loose salt into the sink.
  2. Shake the drink in a cocktail shakerPlace 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. Strain into a glass. Strain the drink into a glass. If serving your margarita on the rocks, add clear ice. The margarita is often served in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass, but a stemmed margarita glass works too.
Margarita

History of the drink

There are a few origin stories behind the margarita. A popular story suggests that the 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 first Margarita for a customer who was allergic to all alcohols except tequila but found it too harsh to enjoy straight.

But according to VinePair, the cocktail might not have been invented by a Mexican because the country did not have a cocktail culture at that time. 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.

Margarita ingredients

Best tequila for margaritas

Many experts 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 adds an intriguing depth of flavor. Try this margarita recipe with both and enjoy the flavor differences! 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 recommend 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 (reposado means “rested” in Spanish). It has a smooth flavor and notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel. Some brands we like include Casamigos, Milagro Reposado, and Suerte Reposado.

Try our Casamigos Margarita or Patron Margarita recipes!

Variation: 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. 

Use clear ice for margarita on the rocks

The best way to make a margarita on the rocks? Use clear ice. Clear ice is artisanal ice that is crystal clear and can be cut into beautiful organic shapes. It’s the best way to take a cocktail from good to glamorous!

You can make your own clear ice at home: all you need is a small cooler or clear ice tray. Make up a batch 1 day in advance: go to How to Make Clear Ice for details!

Margarita Recipe

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 a few more variations to try:

This margarita recipe is…

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

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Best tequila for margaritas

Classic Margarita Recipe


  • 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. 
  • Category: Cocktail
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktail
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Margarita, margarita recipe, margarita ingredients, how to make a margarita

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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3 Comments

  1. 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.