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Classic Margarita

The classic Margarita is one of the most popular cocktails in the world. It’s also one of the easiest cocktails to craft at home with just three ingredients and no special bar tools.

Classic Margarita from Above
©2foodtrippers

Who doesn’t have a Margarita story?

Most of those stories involve imbibing Margaritas in bars, on beach vacations or during Cinco de Mayo, a celebration that grew in popularity (fueled by beer and liquor company promotions) during the 1980s, parties.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Crafting classic Margaritas requires no unique skills. Instead, the key is to commit the drink’s ingredient ratio to memory.

What Is A Classic Margarita?

Classic Margarita with Tequila Bottle
The classic Margarita is the most popular tequila cocktail at bars around the world. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

A classic Margarita isn’t fruity-tooty. It’s not crafted with Margarita mix and it doesn’t have an ingredient list as long as your arm.

Instead, a classic Margarita is a shaken sour cocktail crafted with just three ingredients – tequila, triple sec and lime juice. Some mixologists, including us, choose to salt the cocktail’s glass – an optional yet necessary add-on.

Discover more sour cocktails to craft at home.

Classic Margarita with Green Background
Crafting a classic Margarita is easy once you determine the ideal ingredient ratio. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Crafting a classic Margarita at home is all about the ingredient ratio.

Our Margarita recipe uses a 2:1:1 ratio of tequila, triple sec and lime juice to achieve a balanced sip. You can go heavier on the tequila or lighter on the lime juice but, at the end of the day, it’s all about personal preference.

To us, the 2:1:1 ratio hits the inimitable Margarita flavor sweet spot where sour lime, sweet orange and earthy agave combine to create a drink better than the sum if its parts.

History Of The Margarita

Classic Margarita with Black Background
The Margarita has multiple origin stories but nobody knows which one is true. Your guess is as good as ours. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

You might think that the Margarita was invented in Mexico and you’re probably right. Unless you’re wrong. Yes, the Margarita is another cocktail whose history is a mystery.

Although the Margarita is associated with America’s neighbor to the south, it’s unclear where the first Margarita was crafted. Cities like Ensenada, Juárez and Tijuana are top contenders for the honor. However, what is clear, is the drink’s popularity.

The tequila cocktail was popular long before Michael Madsen whipped up a frozen version in Kill Bill Volume 2 in 2004 or when the movie Practical Magic made “Midnight Margaritas” a thing in 1988. It even predates Jimmy Buffet lamenting about his lost shaker of salt in 1977 by decades.

Ingredients

Classic Margarita Ingredients
The classic Margarita’s ingredient list is delightfully short with just three required ingredients – tequila, triple sec and a lime. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The classic Margarita recipe only requires the following ingredients:

  • Blanco Tequila
  • Triple Sec
  • Fresh Lime Juice
  • Ice Cubes
  • Coarse Salt (for rim)
  • Lime Wedge (for rim)
  • Lime Wedge or Wheel (for garnish)

You may already have all of these items in your pantry and liquor cabinet. If not, you should be able to find them locally regardless of where you live.

Tequila and Cointreau Bottles
We used these bottles of Jose Cuervo Especial tequila and Cointreau triple sec to craft classic Margaritas at home. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Two of the classic Margarita’s ingredients are liquors – blanco (white) tequila and triple sec. While you can and should use your favorite brands, we use Jose Cuervo Especial tequila made with blue agave and Cointreau in our recipe.

Distilled in Mexico, Jose Cuervo Especial tequila has a 38% ABV. Although it’s not the best tequila for sipping, the entry-level tequila is just fine for crafting cocktails.

Discover our favorite tequila cocktails.

And, while there’s nothing wrong with Grand Marnier and Orange Curaçao, Cointreau is our favorite triple sec. Made in France, the balanced liqueur has a 40% ABV.

Discover our favorite Cointreau cocktails.

How To Craft A Classic Margarita

Classic Margarita Mise en Place
Once we gathered these tools and ingredients, we were mere minutes away from Margarita bliss. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

You have a decision to make before you craft your classic Margarita. Do your want a salt rim or not? If you’re on the fence, we say go for it. It’s an easy move that provides big briny returns.

Making a salt rim is easy. Just rub a lime wedge along the rim and then dip your glass onto a plate topped with salt. Swirl the glass in the salt before setting it aside to dry.

Once you make your salt rim (or not), measure the two liquors and pour them directly into a shaker. We use a Japanese Jigger for this step to both ensure accurate measurements and minimize spillage.

Buy a Japanese jigger from Amazon if you need a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Pour the fresh lime juice into the same shaker.

Pro Tip
Although you could hypothetically use store-bought lime juice, there’s nothing better than using the fresh stuff.

Adding Lime Juice to Margarita Cocktail
Fresh lime juice adds a pleasant zing to the classic Margarita recipe. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Add ice and shake until the ingredients are chilled and combined. This step should take 10 to 20 seconds.

Adding Ice to Margarita Shaker
Shaking the three ingredients is when Margarita magic happens. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Strain the shaken cocktail into an ice-filled glass of your choice.

Straining Classic Margarita Into a Glass
Our excitement grew as we strained this classic Margarita into our chosen glass. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Garnish with a lime wheel or wedge.

Classic Margarita with Lime Wheel and Straw
A lime wheel provided the finishing touch to this classic Margarita. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Having a party? Increase the recipe using the 2:1:1 ratio to craft Margaritas by the pitcher or jug.

We suggest pairing this popular party drink with chips, salsa and guacamole. However, there’s nothing wrong with sipping a Margarita or two alone or with a special someone.

Variations

Crafted Margarita with Bottles
The classic Margarita is just one of many Margarita options. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Once you perfect this easy classic Margarita recipe, the options for modifying it are practically endless. Here are a few ideas to get you started on a quest for your favorite version:

  • Add cayenne pepper to craft a Spicy Margarita.
  • Add ice and blend to craft a Frozen Margarita.
  • Replace the Cointreau with Topo Chico to craft Ranch Water.
  • Replace the lime juice with grapefruit soda to craft a Paloma cocktail.
  • Replace the lime juice with puréed strawberries to craft a Strawberry Margarita.
  • Replace the tequila with vodka to craft a Kamikaze cocktail.

Discover 10 essential bar tools for the home mixologist.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where was the Margarita invented?

The Margarita was probably invented in Mexico. However, the classic tequila’s exact history is a mystery.

What is a Classic Margarita cocktail?

The Classic Margarita is a shaken sour cocktail crafted with just three ingredients – tequila, triple sec and lime juice.

What are the ingredients in a Classic Margarita?

Blanco Tequila, Triple Sec, Lime Juice, Coarse Salt (for rim), Lime Wedge (for rim), Lime Wheel (for garnish) and Ice Cubes

Is the Classic Margarita cocktail shaken or stirred?

The Classic Margarita is shaken, not stirred.

Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.

Classic Margarita with White Background
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5 from 2 votes

Classic Margarita Recipe

Our Classic Margarita recipe is so easy that you'll never think about using Margarita Mix again.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Drink
Cuisine: Cocktail
Servings: 1
Calories: 225kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces blanco tequila
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 1 ounce lime juice (freshly squeezed)
  • coarse salt (for salt rim)
  • lime wedge (for salt rim)
  • ice cubes
  • lime wedge or wheel (for garnish)

Instructions

  • Pour coarse salt on a small round plate.
  • Rub lime wedge around the rim of a glass and then dip the glass into the salt, twirling the glass until the rim is well coated. Set the glass aside.
  • Combine tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker.
  • Add several ice cubes and shake vigorously until liquids are chilled and mixed.
  • Add ice to the coated glass and then strain the shaken cocktail into the glass.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge or wheel.

Estimated Nutrition

Calories: 225kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.03g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 43mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 14IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.1mg
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About The Authors

About The Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.

Disclosures

Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Funding
We purchased the ingredients and tools used to craft this cocktail.

Original Publication Date: February 2, 2022

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