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Here’s the classic Triple Sec Margarita recipe! Pair it with lime and tequila for the best three ingredient cocktail there is.

Triple Sec Margarita
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There’s nothing quite like the zing of a margarita: the pop of flavor as your tongue tries to decipher salt, sweet, tart, and citrus all at once. Contrary to what many people think: the classic margarita has no added sugar! It’s just three simple ingredients: lime, tequila and orange liqueur. Here’s one of our favorite ways to make it: the Triple Sec margarita! In our classic margarita we use Cointreau, but there’s a subtly different experience with triple sec. Here’s how to make one!

Ingredients in a margarita recipe with Triple Sec

The margarita is one of the most popular cocktails of all time. It’s a classic sour that was invented back in the 1930’s. No one knows the exact origin story, but it’s most likely a variant on the the Brandy Daisy (margarita means “daisy” in Spanish). The Daisy is a family of drinks with base liquor, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and soda water. It’s very similar to a Sidecar, which stars brandy and Cointreau.

The margarita on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning there’s an “official” definition. The classic margarita ingredients are:

  • Tequila
  • Lime juice
  • Triple sec

You’ll notice that our Perfect Margarita uses Cointreau, a popular variation on the triple sec margarita. Cointreau is actually a type of triple sec that tastes even smoother. It’s confusing, we know! Let’s chat more about orange liqueurs…

Triple sec margarita

What’s Triple Sec? What’s the difference vs Cointreau?

The orange liqueur family is confusing, because Triple Sec is both a family of liqueurs and a product in itself. Here’s a little background info:

  • Triple Sec is a family of dry orange liqueurs. In most liquor stores, bottles labeled Triple Sec are lower in quality and more affordable than Cointreau. Triple Sec has a more straightforward flavor vs Cointreau: it’s very citrusy, almost like an orange-infused vodka. The quality ranges based on the brand.
  • Cointreau is a type of Triple Sec. It’s a is a clear, orange-flavored liqueur made from sweet and bitter orange peels. It tastes smoother than Triple Sec, with warm spices that add complexity and nuance. You can use either in a margarita!
Triple sec
We like Drillaud Triple Sec, but there are lots of options

Best Triple Sec for margaritas

Triple Sec varies widely in quality based on price. Here’s what to know about buying Triple Sec for a margarita:

  • Look for a mid-priced Triple Sec. The very cheapest Triple Sec isn’t great. We like the Drillaud brand as a mid-range option.
  • Opt for Cointreau as a higher budget option. If you’re ok with the price tag, use Cointreau: you won’t regret it! Cointreau is technically a Triple Sec, so go for that if budget allows.

Best tequila for margaritas

You can use any type of tequila in your triple sec margarita, but it goes without saying: the better the tequila, the better the drink! Our preference is tequila reposado. Here’s why:

  • Tequila reposado is aged tequila, which is stored from 2 to 12 months. It has a nuanced flavor, with notes of oak and vanilla. It has a much more nuanced flavor than blanco.
  • Tequila blanco is un-aged, and has a more straightforward flavor and that signature tequila burn. You can use it here, but reposado makes for a more interesting drink.
Triple sec margarita

How to make a triple sec margarita: single drink

The triple sec margarita is like any other margarita: make a salt rim, stir or shake up the ingredients, and serve! Here are the basic steps (or go right to he recipe):

  1. Rim the glass with salt. Cut a notch in a lime wedge and slide that around the edge of the drink instead of wetting your finger. It’s quick and easy (and more hygienic!).
  2. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Shake the ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker (or use a mason jar with a lid).
  3. Strain into a glass and add ice. We like using clear ice: it’s crystal clear artisan-style ice that you can make at home in 24 hours and store for when you’re making cocktails. It really steps up a drink!

Or, make a pitcher!

Do you want to serve a crowd with this Triple Sec margarita? You can make a pitcher instead! You’ll need to add a specific amount of ice to dilute the drinks to the right level. Here’s how to make a margarita pitcher that makes 8 servings:

  • 1 ½ cups tequila
  • 1 cup Cointreau
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 3 handfuls ice

Add the ice and stir until cold. And that’s it! Let us know if you like this triple sec margarita as a pitcher, or single drink: and your favorite brands of triple sec!

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Triple Sec Margarita

Triple Sec Margarita

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


Here’s the classic Triple Sec Margarita recipe! Pair it with lime and tequila for the best three ingredient cocktail there is.


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


  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.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

More Triple Sec cocktails

There are so many great Triple Sec cocktails! Try these greats:

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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