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.
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?
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.
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
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.
The classic Margarita recipe only requires the following ingredients:
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.
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
You don’t need any special equipment or gadgets to craft a classic Margarita at home. Our recipe requires the following basic bar tools:
Don’t give up if you’re missing one or more of these basic bar tools. Get creative instead. For example, you could use an angled measuring cup instead of a jigger. In fact, we use this alternate tool to measure the lime juice.
Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.
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.
Purchase a Japanese Jigger from Amazon if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.
Pour the fresh lime juice into the same shaker.
Although you could hypothetically use store-bought lime juice, there’s nothing better than using the fresh stuff.
Add ice and shake until the ingredients are chilled and combined. This step should take 10 to 20 seconds.
Purchase a Boston Shaker from Amazon if you don’t have a shaker or want an inexpensive upgrade. This shaker has made our mixology life better since it doesn’t leak and is easy to clean.
Strain the shaken cocktail into an ice-filled glass of your choice.
Use a Margarita glass if you’re feeling fancy.
Garnish with a lime wheel or wedge.
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.
Margarita Drink Alternatives
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:
The Margarita was probably invented in Mexico. However, the classic tequila’s exact history is a mystery.
The Classic Margarita is a shaken sour cocktail crafted with just three ingredients – tequila, triple sec and lime juice.
Blanco Tequila, Triple Sec, Lime Juice, Coarse Salt (for rim), Lime Wedge (for rim), Lime Wheel (for garnish) and Ice Cubes
The Classic Margarita is shaken, not stirred.
Our Classic Margarita recipe is so easy that you'll never think about using Margarita Mix again.
- 2 ounces blanco tequila
- 1 ounce triple sec
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- coarse salt (for salt rim)
- lime wedge (for salt rim)
- lime wedge or wheel (for garnish)
- ice cubes
- 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.
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Japanese Jigger - Premium Double Cocktail Jigger, 1oz/2oz made from Stainless Steel 304
Premium Cocktail Shaker Set: Two-Piece Pro Boston Shaker Set. Unweighted 18oz & Weighted 28oz Martini Drink Shaker made from Stainless Steel 304
OXO SteeL Cocktail Strainer
Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer (Lemon)
Wusthof CLASSIC Paring Knife, One Size, Black, Stainless Steel
Amazon Brand - Happy Belly Sea Salt, Fine Ground, 16 Ounces
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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 and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: February 2, 2022