perfect classic margarita recipe

February 22nd is National Margarita Day and Cinco de Mayo isn’t that far away, so it’s time to sharpen up your bartending skills and learn to make a perfect classic margarita.

Margaritas can come in all shapes, sizes and flavors; fruity, frozen, skinny and spicy, but today we’ll focus on the classic margarita.

It’s easy to make and it’s DELICIOUS. Cheers!

(If you’re in Rhode Island and would rather go out for margaritas, check out our guide to Rhode Island’s Best Margaritas.)

What’s in a Margarita?

There are 3 main ingredients in a margarita:

  • Tequila (100% agave, labeled white, silver or blanco)
  • Cointreau, Gran Marnier or a high quality Triple Sec (emphasis on high quality)
  • Freshly squeezed Lime Juice (emphasis on freshly squeezed)

With a classic version, that’s all you’ll really need, along with some ice, salt for the rim, and lime for garnish.

Of course, you can add all kinds of ingredients to create your own unique flavors. We cover some variations at the bottom of the page.

Instructions:

Measure your ingredients.

For a single serving you’ll want to measure as follows (double for 2 drinks and keep the ratio constant for pitchers.)

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) tequila
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce Cointreau, Grand Marnier or high quality Triple Sec like Combier
  • 1 lime wedge or round, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon light agave nectar (optional)

Salt your glasses:  You might be wondering if it’s necessary to salt the rim? The only correct answer to that question is yes.

Make sure you do this first or things could get quite messy. Pour a layer of Kosher or sea salt onto a small plate. Run a slice of lime the slice along the rim of your glass. Dip the top of the glass into the salt, then roll it from side to side to catch the salt around the rim.

Add ice cubes to your glass and set it aside.

Combine your ingredients in a cocktail shaker: Combine your tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, and a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.  (A mason jar works just as well & is a fun way to serve your cocktail or you can just stir it together in a measuring cup.)

Shake it up: Shake or stir up the mixture until it’s combined and chilled.

Taste and add sweetener if desired: After tasting, if you like your margarita sweeter just add a teaspoon of light agave nectar and shake it up again.

Strain and serve on the rocks. Presentation matters! We recommend using a large ice cube if you have them and garnish with a slice of lime.

perfect classic margarita recipe

TIPS:

-Use 100% agave tequila labeled white, silver or blanco.

There are a lot of great tequilas on the market today but Espolon is a great tasting, affordable option to try, or you can go up market with Casamigos, Patron, Clase Azul or others. Just stay away from those cheap options that provided terrible Tequila experiences in college.

– If you’d prefer a light sprinkling of salt all around the rim, just pour a very thin layer of salt onto your plate and run the lime slice around the entire rim of the margarita glass. Or, just salt 1/2 of the rim to help control the amount of salt.

– If you’re looking for an easy way to add heat to your margarita, try Ghost Tequila, 100% agave azul blanco tequila with a kick of spice from the infamous ghost pepper.

New call-to-action

MARGARITA VARIATIONS:

There are of so many ways to make a margarita and so fun to experiment but if you want to try some easy tweaks to a classic recipe, here are a few ideas.

  • Add jalapeño or serrano chiles: If you love a good spicy margarita, muddle in a few slices of fresh jalapeño or serrano peppers (or try making a jalapeno simple syrup) for a spicy kick. You can add a chili salt rim for even more of a kick.
  • Add fresh herbs or fruit:  Try muddling fresh mint, basil, lavender, or cilantro for a fresh herbacious taste. Muddle a few pieces of juicy fruit like strawberries, peaches, watermelon or mango at the bottom of your shaker before adding ice and the other ingredients or mix and match. Strawberry basil, blood orange chili and cilantro jalapeno are some great combinations to try.
  • Add a splash of fresh fruit juice to your shaker: Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, pomegranate or cranberry juice can be great additions to your mix.
  • Try different rim salts: Mix in raw sugar or spices, like ground cinnamon or chili powder, to add an extra layer of complexity to your drink.
  • Use mezcal: If you enjoy a smoky flavor, mezcal margaritas will do the trick.  It can be overpowering though, so if you want just a hint of smokiness, use a 50/50 mezcal/tequila blend.
  • Add high quality flavored syrups: If you’re looking for something different, adding high quality syrup with flavors like prickly pear or blood orange can be delicious; add some chili syrup or jalapenos for a great spicy/sweet balance.
  • Make it “skinny”: If you want like to shave off some calories (and alcoholic content), try substituting freshly-squeezed orange juice in place of Cointreau to make a skinny margarita.  It’s refreshing and the margarita still tastes great.
  • Freeze it: For a frozen version, blend the basic margarita ingredients (with or without your variations) in a blender along with a few ice cubes. Serve over a couple of ice cubes to slow the melting.