Virgin Margarita

This virgin margarita tastes just as good as the real thing! This mocktail is tangy and lightly sweet, with a secret ingredient that takes it over the top.

Margarita mocktail

Craving a margarita but can’t drink? Or serving a crowd and need a non-alcoholic option? Enter this virgin margarita! It’s tangy and refreshing, punctuated by that classic salt rim. Even better, it’s got a surprise that brings a bit of “funk” to the flavor that’s reminiscent of tequila. With a focus on tart flavors and balanced with just enough sweet, it’s truly the mocktail version of our Classic Margarita! (Side benefit: it’s lower calorie too!) Here are all our secrets.

What’s in this virgin margarita?

Here’s how to make everyone’s favorite cocktail into a margarita mocktail! The margarita is a classic alcoholic drink on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. This means that there’s an “official” definition of the margarita: tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. But how to make that taste as intriguing…with no alcohol at all? (A zero-proof margarita, if you will?) Here’s what we used did:

  • Lime juice: Always.
  • Lemon juice: Using lemon as well as lime brings nuance to the citrus.
  • Tonic water: Bubbles add a sparkle!
  • Maple syrup or simple syrup: Just a drizzle balances the tartness.
  • Pickle juice: Yes, pickle juice adds that tequila “funk”! Keep reading for why…
Virgin margarita

The secret? Pickle juice.

The secret to making this virgin margarita taste over the top delicious? Pickle juice. Adding intrigue to the flavor of a mocktail is essential to making them more than just fruit juice. It’s customary to experiment with all sorts of things, including non-alcoholic spirits. But we didn’t want to add a special ingredient you’d have to purchase specially.

That’s where pickle juice comes in! It brings a briny funk to this virgin margarita that makes you feel like there’s a little alcohol in it. But it’s not so much that it’s noticeable! It’s also totally optional, so you don’t have to do it if it weirds you out. But after multiple taste tests, pickle juice in a virgin margarita was the clear winner!

Less sugar than the standard virgin margarita!

We love our cocktails crisp and tart around here. So just like our Classic Margarita, there’s barely any added sugar in this margarita. This stands out from the standard margarita mocktail, which is usually so sickly sweet it’s barely a margarita at all! This shouldn’t taste like sweet syrupy juice: it should be crisp and tart. The sugar comes from two sources:

  • Only 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup or simple syrup (use whichever you’d like: maple syrup is a great natural sweetener with no refined sugar)
  • A hint of sugar in the tonic water
Virgin margarita

What is tonic water? Can I use sparkling water?

Tonic water is a carbonated water that also contains quinine and is lightly sweetened. It originally was used against malaria, but these days the quinine levels are much lower. Quinine adds a slightly bitter flavor, but it’s not as detectable with today’s lower levels. Even so, there’s something about the nuance of bitter and sweet in tonic water which is hard to replace.

True cocktails and mocktails use tonic water, so we’d recommend finding some if you can! Sparkling water adds only bubbles, but doesn’t have the nuance in flavor. We buy a brand that comes in small cans, which is nice since you’ll only use a little in this virgin margarita.

Virgin margarita

More margarita variations

If you also drink alcohol (or have friends who do), we’ve got lots more variations on this classic drink! Here are some of the best margarita recipes:

More mocktails

Need more zero-proof cocktails? Try these tasty drinks:

Margarita mocktail

When to serve a virgin margarita

Anytime works for a virgin margarita! This one is perfect as a:

  • Zero proof margarita for guests who don’t drink alcohol
  • Mocktail for pregnant women
  • Baby shower drink (make one for mom, then classic margaritas for guests)
Print
Virgin margarita

Virgin Margarita


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (73 votes, average: 3.95 out of 5)

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

Description

This virgin margarita tastes just as good as the real thing! This mocktail is tangy and lightly sweet, with a secret ingredient that takes it over the top.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup or simple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon pickle juice (optional but recommended!)
  • 3 ounces tonic water
  • For the garnish: Lime wheel

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 flaky sea salt (or for a festive look, use Margarita Salt).
  2. In the serving glass, stir together the lime juice, lemon juice, maple syrup, and pickle juice (adds just the right funky flavor to mimic tequila). Add the tonic water and ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and serve.

  • Category: Mocktail
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: Virgin Margarita, Margarita Mocktail, Zero Proof Margarita

Subscribe for free weekly recipes & more!

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

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

Cookbook Author and photographer

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.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Debbie
    May 7, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Do you recommend that I use the pickle juice from a jar of DILL pickles or another type of pickles?
    P.S. I’ve made so many of your recipes during quarantine for COVID-19. What a bright spot during these dark days! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me become a vegetarian!

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.