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How to make a margarita

Balance is what separates a good margarita from a bad one. Measure your ingredients carefully and you're pretty much guaranteed to make a delicious drink.
Balance is what separates a good margarita from a bad one. Measure your ingredients carefully and you're pretty much guaranteed to make a delicious drink. (BestReviews)

How to make a margarita at home

A margarita is a very simple, delicious cocktail made of only three ingredients — tequila, lime and orange liqueur. Making a margarita at home is much simpler than you might think. While it might be tempting to buy a pre-made margarita mix, it won’t taste nearly as good as one made with fresh-squeezed lime.

Start with high-quality ingredients, measure them carefully and you’re pretty much guaranteed to make a tasty drink. If you follow this simple recipe and a few pro tips, you’ll consistently make a perfect margarita. You’ll even be playing bartender in no time.

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What is a margarita?

The margarita is a cocktail dating back to the 19th century, though its exact origins are debated. The basic ingredients of a margarita are tequila, orange liqueur (like Cointreau or Triple Sec) and lime juice. The original margarita was served up in a martini glass with no ice. But you can also make a margarita with ice or frozen, with or without salt on the rim. You can also explore different flavors like strawberry, jalapeño or mango.

Margarita equipment

To make a margarita that's served "up" or "on the rocks," you'll need a cocktail shaker. The more serious bartender should try a full bar set like this one from Bar Brat. A high-quality blender is needed to make a frozen margarita. Any blender will do, but a powerful one like a Vitamix will make an ultra-smooth and fluffy cocktail without any remaining ice chunks.

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A margarita glass is a nice touch for serving but it isn't necessary. A margarita can be served in anything from a mason jar to a coupe.

Classic margarita recipe

This recipe makes one margarita. If you like your margarita a little sweeter, try adding a half-ounce of simple syrup (a syrup made from equal parts sugar and water).

  • 2 ounces of tequila
  • 1 ounce of Cointreau
  • 1 ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Ice (for shaking and serving)
  • Optional: salt or sugar for the rim

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a good amount of ice. Shake and then strain into a cocktail glass with or without salt. You can use this same recipe for a blended margarita. Add all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. A Magic Bullet is a great option for blending individual margaritas.

Tips for making the perfect margarita

Measure your ingredients carefully

The perfect margarita is all about the ratio, so you'll want to be exact when measuring the ingredients. We suggest using a cocktail jigger to get a precise measurement every time.

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Shake (or blend) well

If you’re serving a margarita up or on the rocks, be sure to shake it well and long enough so that all the ingredients meld and the drink gets very cold. A good rule of thumb is to shake the margarita in the cocktail shaker until the exterior frosts and feels almost too cold to touch.

Use a good brand of tequila

Any tequila will do but the tastier the tequila, the tastier the margarita. The main flavor of a margarita is the tequila so for a high-quality drink, it’s best to use a high-quality tequila as your base. Look for tequila labeled “100% agave,” which guarantees that it’s not made with other sweeteners like cane sugar or corn syrup.

In general, it’s best to use a silver (or “blanco”) tequila for mixed drinks, as gold blends can be too sweet and distract from the other flavors in the margarita. Most lower-price gold tequilas contain caramel coloring and other additives. But if gold tequila is all you have on hand it will work just fine.

Use fresh-squeezed lime juice

It might be tempting to use bottled lime juice but opt for fresh-squeezed limes if you can because it makes a big difference in the flavor. Limes can vary in size throughout the year, so always measure your juice according to the recipe. To juice your limes, you'll need a hand-held citrus squeezer or a citrus juicer.

Taste before your pour

The best chefs (and bartenders) taste before they serve. The sourness or sweetness of limes can vary, so you might want to adjust depending on the season. Pour a little taste from your shaker and adjust if needed. If it’s too sour, you can add some simple syrup or agave nectar. And if it’s too sweet, try adding an extra tablespoon or so of lime juice.

Salt the rim of the glass

To take your homemade margarita up a notch, try rimming the glass with coarse salt (or sugar if you like your margarita sweeter). To do this, rub the rim of your glass with a lime wedge and dip or roll it in a small dish of salt or sugar. Then tap off any excess.

Margarita variations

Strawberry margarita: Add three to four fresh or frozen strawberries for some added sweetness.

Frozen mango margarita: Add a 1/4-cup of frozen mango with your other ingredients and blend.

Jalapeño margarita: Add a few slices of fresh jalapeño to the cocktail shaker for a slightly spicy kick.

Mint or cilantro margarita: Add a handful of chopped mint or cilantro to add a touch of herbaceousness.

How to make a “skinny” margarita

To cut the calories and sugar in your margarita, you can use fresh orange juice and a little agave nectar in place of the orange liqueur. Follow the classic margarita recipe, replacing the 1 ounce of Cointreau with 1 ounce orange juice and 1 teaspoon agave nectar.

Katy Severson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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