The Margarita Cocktail is one of the most famous Mexican alcoholic beverages. Especially in Northern America, where it led the list of popular cocktails for two consecutive years (2016 & 2017), according to market research company Nielsen CGA.
It is hardly surprising this summer cocktail is such a crowd-pleaser. The blend of tangy fresh lime juice, citric orange notes, and a bold tequila flavor combined with salt is simply delicious.
Quick Facts Classic Margarita
- Method: shaken
- Flavor profile: boozy, sour, salty
- How to serve it: over ice
- Glassware: rocks glass or Margarita glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 22% ABV, 24 grams of alcohol per serving
With 25% ABV or slightly above, depending on your choice of tequila, this drink is not only delicious, but it also packs a punch!
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Cocktail Shaker
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 2 oz Tequila
- 1 oz Fresh lime juice
- 0.5 oz Cointreau
- 0.25 oz Agave syrup
- 0.25 cup Sea salt / Fleur de Sel - for garnish
- 1 lime wedge - for garnish
- Use a wedge of lime and rub around the rim of a glass.1 lime wedge
- Dip the glass rim in sea salt and add some ice cubes to chill it.0.25 cup Sea salt / Fleur de Sel
- Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake it and strain it in the prepared glass.2 oz Tequila, 1 oz Fresh lime juice, 0.5 oz Cointreau, 0.25 oz Agave syrup
- If you want, you can garnish it with the lime wedge.1 lime wedge
Ingredients & recommendations for the classic Margarita
The Margarita Cocktail is a simple mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime with a splash of syrup. Looking at this short list of ingredients, you can see that there's nowhere to hide. Quality is key here, so stay away from anything that says Margarita Mix on the label and use the ingredients instead for the best results:
- Tequila: You don't need to spend a fortune to get tequila blanco of decent quality. Make sure not to use a tequila type called mixto because it is not 100% Blue Weber Agave. If you need suggestions, head to this article featuring the 12 best Tequilas for making Margaritas.
- Triple Sec: The same care is needed when choosing the triple sec. Some products are overly sweet. To keep it short and sweet, my favorite is Cointreau. Yes, there are more affordable options, but Cointreau is versatile, available everywhere, and top-notch.
- Syrup: You can use either simple syrup, agave nectar, or a mix of both. Agave syrup enhances the agave taste of the cocktail, which can be a little intense for some. Hence, I often revert back to regular simple syrup for the classic Margarita recipe for my guests.
- Fresh lime juice: always make it fresh - and squeeze it shortly before mixing your drinks for the best result and the perfect acidic zing. Storebought, bottled juice is a dealbreaker in a Margarita.
- Salt for the rim: The final touch is the salt rim. Don't use ordinary table salt because it will let your whole drink down. I recommend kosher salt, sea salt, or fleur de sel. The latter is my favorite because it is super flaky, looking pretty on the glass and tasting fantastic. It will lift your cocktail to the next level.
Best Practices for Mixing this Drink
In addition to the ingredients listed, you need a cocktail shaker, a strainer, some ice, and a rocks glass. You can also go with the characteristic Margarita glass, but that's more common for fruity riffs.
When your equipment is all set, I recommend using lots of ice in your cocktail shaker and also for serving. Don't go with crushed ice, though. It will water down this fabulous cocktail too much.
Stay away from premixed stuff and bottled citrus juice. A Margarita relies on these zesty, fresh flavors. Also, consider putting salt only on one side of the rim, or serving the drink it with a biodegradable straw. As unlikely as it seems to me, not everyone likes the salt with every sip.
Apart from the described Tommy's Marg, there are many more possibilities to tweak the original formula. For instance, you can omit the syrup and make a drier version or replace tequila with another agave spirit for a smoky Mezcal Margarita. Other options are:
- the Spicy Grapefruit Margarita
- the White Christmas Margarita Punch
- the Coconut Margarita
- the Mango Margarita on the rocks
- our non-alcoholic Margarita version
Is Triple Sec necessary for Margaritas?
Yes, triple sec is absolutely necessary if you want your classic Margarita to taste as it does in your favorite cocktail bar. However, it is a question that comes up frequently for multiple reasons.
One is the so-called Margarita mix, which saves you the trouble of using triple sec, limes, and syrup but brings you a below-average drink.
The other reason is a riff called Tommy's Margarita, created in the 1990s. The recipe omits the triple sec and is a simplified version of the classic.
However, as I want to emphasize once again, orange liqueur -in form of triple sec or at least Curaçao- is an essential part of the original Margarita recipe. When leaving this intensely orange-flavored element off, you will never achieve the authentic flavor of the traditional Mexican cocktail.
History of the classic Margarita Cocktail
The first known written documentation of a Margarita recipe was in the Esquire magazine. In their December 1953 issue, they printed a recipe asking for an ounce of tequila, a dash of triple sec, and the juice of half a lime. Yet, the recipe likely is a few decades older than that.
One of the very early stories is from Baja California, Mexico. According to this, one Mr. Herrera supposedly created the cocktail in 1938. He prepared a Margarita for a customer allergic to many spirits but not tequila.
With a drink as famous and beloved as the classic Margarita, many would have liked to be linked to its history. It is hardly surprising that there are various stories and claims about who made it first. It is impossible to tell which is true, but I want to share some more theories:
Jose Cuervo, one of the most renowned tequila producers, says the cocktail was invented for a Mexican showgirl in 1938. There are numerous similar accounts and claims by others for who the drink may or may not have been created.
Historian David Wondrich makes a general connection between the Margarita and Daisy Cocktails. That doesn't seem farfetched, considering that Margarita is the Spanish word for Daisy, but he couldn't shed light on the invention of the drink itself.
What all stories have in common is the timeframe (sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s) and the approximate location (somewhere around Acapulco).
Regardless of the true origin of the Margarita, it took until the 70s for the recipe finally take off. But boy, taking off it did. Today, we have National Margarita Day, held on February 22nd, and it's also the ultimate drink for all Cinco de Mayo celebrations.