How to Make a Margarita
Whether sipped by the pool, at a fiesta, or just because it's Tuesday, margaritas are a guaranteed crowd-pleasing drink. An instant celebration, this refreshing cocktail of tequila, orange liqueur (such as triple sec), and fresh lime juice is typically served in a festive glass with a salted rim. We'll show you how to make a margarita in several different ways, and share favorite recipes to try.
There are plenty of ways to make margaritas — shake them with ice, blend them into a frozen treat, or if you're in a rush, short-cut your way to success with a margarita mix.
This handy guide shows you three ways to make a classic margarita at home, plus plenty of tasty variations, so you can plan your next cocktail party.
How to Make a Margarita on the Rocks
A margarita on the rocks is the most traditional way to make a margarita cocktail. Making a homemade margarita on the rocks is simple. Basic recipes combine tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice to create a tangy, earthy, and slightly sweet drink. Instead of triple sec, some recipes balance out the drink's tartness with simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water simmered until thick and syrupy) or agave syrup, a natural match for agave-based tequila.
While good tequila is important for a delicious margarita on the rocks — scroll down to see how to choose the best tequila for a margarita — fresh lime juice is just as crucial. Yes, squeezing limes by hand takes time, but the flavor is far superior to bottled lime juice. As for triple sec, it really depends on your budget. Grand Marnier and Cointreau are top quality but not the most economical options. There are many other, less expensive triple secs, including Bol's Triple Sec, which will also make a lip-smacking margarita.
Ingredient amounts can vary, but you can't go wrong using the standard 2-1-1 formula per drink or pitcher of margaritas:
- 2 parts tequila
- 1 part lime juice
- 1 part triple sec or agave syrup
- Fresh ice
- Kosher salt or sea salt(optional)
- Lime slice for garnish (optional)
- A cocktail shaker
- To mix the margarita, add your ingredients, along with fresh ice, to a cocktail shaker. A cocktail shaker will perfectly incorporate the ingredients, making for a smoother, better-tasting drink.
- The final component to a margarita is the salt rim on your cocktail glass, which complements the sweetness and tartness of the drink. To make the salt rim, moisten the edge of a glass with a lime wedge. Dip the rim on a plate sprinkled with salt (we like Kosher salt).
- Now shake the cocktail. How long should you shake your margarita? Chef John recommends, "Shake your cocktail mixer until frost forms on the outside, and then strain it over fresh ice." Why fresh ice? "The ice you use to make the drink will melt too fast in the glass -- so large, fresh, still frozen cubes are the way to go."
See how to make a great margarita on the rocks. "For best results, use fresh ice," says Chef John, "and of course use fresh limes, as well as a nice bottle of triple sec, like Cointreau."
Ready to make a margarita on the rocks? Try these top recipes to get started:
How to Make a Frozen Margarita
Frozen margaritas are thicker, slushier versions of traditional margaritas. They're ultra refreshing when it's hot outside, and whipping them up makes any occasion instantly more festive. Frozen margaritas are great for a crowd, plus they're even easier to make than margaritas on the rocks.
To make frozen margaritas, you'll need a blender — and plenty of crushed ice. Unlike a margarita on the rocks, we don't recommend using fresh lime juice in a frozen margarita. Because frozen margaritas require a good amount of ice to blend, you need a tangy ingredient that packs more punch than lime juice.
Frozen lime concentrate, which you'll find in the freezer section of most grocery stores, has just the right amount of intense lime flavor to stand out in a frozen margarita. Plus, its cold, icy texture will also give your margarita a smoother consistency. Here's one more thing to love about frozen lime concentrate — you can use the empty container as a measuring cup for the tequila.
- Crushed ice
- 1 can frozen lime concentrate
- 6 ounces tequila
- 2 ounces triple sec or agave nectar
- Fill a blender with crushed ice.
- Pour in the frozen limeade concentrate, triple sec, and tequila.
- Blend until smooth. Pour into cocktail glasses and garnish with a salt rim and lime wedge if desired.
Video: Frozen Margaritas
See how to make frozen margaritas the easy way using frozen limeade concentrate, tequila, and triple sec. Home cook (and bartender) Julie Harris gave this recipe a 5-star rating and suggests adding 1/2 ounce orange juice to each serving to make it even better.
Want to make frozen margaritas? Of course you do, so try these easy recipes:
How to Make a Margarita With Margarita Mix
If you have the time, make your margaritas from scratch. But if you're in a hurry — or if you're making margaritas for a large crowd, using margarita mix can be a valuable shortcut. While you'll miss the fresh lime flavor of a homemade margarita, you'll be able to fill a pitcher (and keep your guests happy) in a fraction of the time.
Of course, not all margarita mixes are created equal. Avoid mixes that are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and other artificial ingredients. Instead, look for margarita mixes made with real lime juice, cane sugar, or agave syrup. With better quality ingredients in the mix, your margaritas will taste closer to the real thing.
To make margaritas with margarita mix, you'll need a cocktail shaker to blend the ingredients together. If your margarita mix has a recipe printed on the label, you can simply follow that. Otherwise, follow this basic ratio per drink—
- To mix the margarita, add your mix and tequila, along with fresh ice, to a cocktail shaker.
- To make the salt rim, moisten the edge of a glass with a lime wedge. Dip the rim on a plate sprinkled with salt (we like Kosher salt).
- Now shake the cocktail until frost forms on the outside of your shaker. Pour into a cocktail glass and serve.
How to Make a Strawberry Margarita, and Other Variations
Now that you know how to make a great margarita, let's switch up the classic recipe. Boost your margarita's nutrition by infusing it with strawberries, bananas, grapefruit, and cucumber. Or pump up the flavor with unexpected secret ingredients like beer or jalapeños. You can also substitute the tequila in a margarita for mezcal, an intense, smoky-flavored spirit that's also derived from the agave plant.
Check out these tasty margarita variations:
Best Tequila for Margaritas
For tastiest results, use a blanco, or clear, tequila made with 100 percent agave. (To know if your tequila is made with 100 percent agave, simply check the label.) This type of tequila has the smoothest, cleanest flavor, and it blends seamlessly with the other ingredients in a margarita.
You don't have to spend a fortune on tequila, but better quality tequila does build a better margarita. Fortunately, you can find plenty of quality options that will cost you less than $30 for a 750 ml bottle (we like Lunazul Blanco Tequila). Avoid mixto tequilas, which may include partial amounts of agave, sugar, food coloring, and other ingredients.
- The 8 Best Margarita Machines for When It's Five O'Clock Somewhere
- Our Top-Rated Margaritas
- Check out our entire collection of Margarita Recipes.