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

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 simple syrup! That’s right: just the sweetness of the orange liqueur. 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. Here’s what’s in a margarita:

  • 1 ½ ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • ¾ ounce 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.
  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.
  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? The margarita drink is often served in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass as you see here, though of course the classic curved margarita glass works 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 adds an intriguing depth of flavor: it’s our top pick. Here’s our preference for the best tequila for margaritas:

  • Tequila reposado is aged longer than blanco, at least 2 months. This gives it a more nuanced flavor, with notes of vanilla and oak. We like the margarita 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!

A few great tequilas we’ve tried? The Patron Margarita and the Casamigos Margarita.

Classic margarita recipe

Do you really need Cointreau?

The very best margarita recipe, in our opinion, features Cointreau as the orange liqueur. Cointreau has a orange perfume flavor that’s well balanced between bitter and sweet, while 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.) But you can use Triple Sec if it’s all you have!

Fun fact: “triple sec” means triple distilled: it’s actually not a brand name. Cointreau is a type of triple sec: it’s triple distilled. For more, go to Cointreau vs Triple Sec.

How to make a perfect salt rim

Now, 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 because it has a nice chunky texture. Or try our Homemade 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. Then shake off any loose salt into the sink.
Margarita salt

Dress it up with clear ice!

How to take your simple margarita on the rocks over the top? Use clear ice. Clear ice is artisanal ice used in cocktails: it’s crystal clear and can be cut into beautiful organic shapes. It’s the best way to take a cocktail from good to glamorous! Try to have a batch ready before cocktail hour because this ice truly steals the show. All you need is a small cooler or clear ice maker and 24 hours. Go to How to Make Clear Ice for more.

Margarita pitcher for a crowd

Shaking up drinks to order can be tedious if you’re entertaining a crowd. The solution? Try a margarita pitcher! For 8 servings, place the following in a pitcher:

  • 1 ½ cups tequila
  • 1 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • ¾ cup lime juice
  • 3 handfuls ice

Stir it together, and you’ve got 8 drinks in 5 minutes! Make sure to add the exact amount of ice: it dilutes the drinks just enough.

Simple margarita recipe, margarita drink

Can you make margarita mix?

You can! We prefer the flavor of the pitcher variation above. But margarita mix is also great for parties and you can mix it up in advance. 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 tequila, ½ ounce Cointreau and 1 ounce sweet and sour mix.

Margarita variations!

This classic margarita recipe is perfect for sipping anytime. As with any classic cocktail, there are hundreds of variations on the theme. Here are some of the most popular margarita recipes:

This best simple margarita recipe is…

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

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Margarita

Best Simple Margarita


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5 from 1 review

  • 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 (or Triple Sec)
  • 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.
  4. 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.

Notes

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

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

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.

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. Jack M says:

    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.

  2. Beverly T says:

    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.






  3. Raphael says:

    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. ;)

  4. Stefan says:

    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.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      We’ll have to try the tangerine juice! We do enjoy it with a hint of mezcal as well :)