Classic Margarita cocktail with kosher salt rim and fresh lime on the side

Classic Margarita Cocktail Recipe

By Timo Torner / Last updated on December 16, 2022

First published on June 14, 2021 

The Classic Margarita is the perfect combination of Tequila, lime, Triple Sec, and syrup. And one extra that's no less important: the salt rim. Here's our favorite recipe for this classic.

The Margarita Cocktail is one of the most famous Mexican 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

Yet, 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.

Ingredients of the classic Margarita

Looking at the ingredients of a Classic Margarita, there's no way to hide. Therefore, always go for fresh lime juice and choose your Tequila wisely. Also, stay away from the so-called Margarita Mix that you only have to mix with ice and Tequila. The result will be far from a quality drink. Use the ingredients instead:

  • Tequila: You don't need to spend a fortune to get Tequila 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, look at 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. Sure, there are more affordable options, but Cointreau is versatile, available everywhere, and top quality.
  • 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 mostly use simple syrup for the classic Margarita recipe.
  • Fresh lime juice: squeeze it shortly before mixing your drinks for the best result and the perfect acidic zing.
  • Salt for the rim: The final touch for every Margarita is the salt rim. Don't use ordinary table salt, as it will spoil your drink. Instead, I recommend kosher salt, sea salt, or fleur de sel. The latter is my favorite because it is super flaky, which looks pretty on the glass and tastes fantastic. It will lift your cocktail to the next level.

How to make it

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.

  • Step 1: Use a lime wedge to moisten the rim of your glass. 
  • Step 2: Dip the rim in fleur de sel or any other salt of your choice. 
  • Step 3: Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake well for about 10 seconds.
  • Step 4: Strain your drink over ice into the prepared glass.
  • Step 5: Garnish your cocktail with a lime wedge.
Straining Margarita cocktail into cocktail glass with salt rim and lime wheel

Is Triple Sec necessary for Margaritas?

That is a question that comes up frequently for multiple reasons. One is said Margarita mix, which saves you the trouble of using Triple Sec, limes, and syrup but brings you a below-average drink. Another is the fact that people are sometimes confused by orange liqueur and Triple Sec - The latter is a type of orange liqueur, though.

The third 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, orange liqueur in form of Triple Sec - or sometimes 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.

Variations

Apart from the described Tommy's Marg, there are many more possibilities to tweak and twist the original formula. For instance, you can replace Tequila with another agave spirit for a smoky Mezcal Margarita. Other options are:

Spicy Mezcal Margarita variation

Origin of the #1 Tequila Drink

With a drink as famous and beloved as the classic Margarita, many would have liked to be linked to its history. No surprise, there are various stories and claims about who made the Tequila drink first. It is impossible to tell which one is true, but I want to let you in on some theories:

One of the very early stories is from Baja California, Mexico. There, one Mr. Herrera supposedly created the cocktail in 1938. He prepared a Margarita for a customer allergic to many spirits but not Tequila.

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.

What all stories have in common is the timeframe (sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s) and the approximate location (somewhere in the vicinity of Acapulco).

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. 

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.

After that, it took another 20 years until the recipe finally took off. Today, we have National Margarita Day, held on February 22nd, and it's also the ultimate drink for all Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Classic Margarita cocktail with kosher salt rim and fresh lime on the side

Margarita Cocktail

The most popular and important Tequila cocktail.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Cointreau, Tequila
Servings: 1
Calories: 222kcal
Cost: $3.10

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • Use a wedge of lime and rub around the rim of a glass.
  • Dip the glass rim in sea salt and add some ice cubes to chill it.
  • Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake it and strain it in the prepared glass.
  • If you want, you can garnish it with a lime wedge.

Nutrition

Serving: 4oz | Calories: 222kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.1g | Protein: 0.14g | Fat: 0.07g | Sodium: 0.63mg | Potassium: 39mg | Sugar: 10.7g | Vitamin C: 12.25mg | Calcium: 4.75mg | Iron: 0.09mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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One comment on “Classic Margarita Cocktail Recipe”

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