How to Make a Margarita Like a Professional Bartender

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Learn how to make a margarita with our easy-to-follow guide. You'll be juicing limes and shaking up drinks like a pro!

Few things go better together than a warm afternoon and a cold margarita. Sure, there are plenty of refreshing drinks out there, but there’s something about this simple cocktail that makes it the star of summer. Whether it’s on the rocks or blended, you can’t go wrong with this salty-sweet-sour combo. (It’s delicious in these margarita dessert recipes, too!)

For far too long I didn’t know how to make a margarita at home, so I left it to the professionals at bars and restaurants. But this classic drink doesn’t have to be saved for special occasions. You only need a few key ingredients and some ice to make your margarita dreams come true. It’s my go-to drink on a hot summer day after gardening, or I’ll whip up a batch when friends stop by to hang out in the backyard.

What Makes a Good Margarita?

Ingredients how to make a margaritaJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

A margarita is a classic drink composed of tequila, orange liqueur and lime, usually served with a salt rim on the glass. It’s often mixed with agave syrup, which goes naturally with tequila as they’re both made from the agave cactus. It can be served up (shaken with ice and then strained), on the rocks (poured over ice) or frozen (blended with ice). As for tequila, there are a ton of different types: Some are better for sipping while others are great tequilas for margaritas. The go-to for margaritas is blanco tequila, an unaged, clear tequila.

There are infinite ways to spice up your margarita (including adding actual chiles), but the basic ratio for a good margarita is as simple as 3, 2, 1, meaning 3 parts tequila to 2 parts orange liqueur to 1 part lime. You can find other essential rules in our margarita guide.

How to Make a Classic Margarita

This classic margarita recipe makes 1 cocktail, but can easily be multiplied to make a batch.

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Ingredients

  • 2 lime wedges
  • Coarse salt, for the rim of the glass
  • 1-1/2 ounces blanco tequila
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Tools You’ll Need

You only need to have a few bar tools on hand to mix up batches of margaritas like a pro. A good cocktail shaker and a cocktail measuring cup are great basics for any bar. A lime juicer is very helpful, especially if you’re making a big batch. And of course, you don’t need a special glass to enjoy any drink, but if you’re looking to really step up your game, then some fun margarita glasses will be the perfect finishing touch. Here’s our complete list of essential margarita tools.

Directions

Step 1: Salt the rim

Salt the rim how to make a margaritaJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

If you remember with enough time, chill your glass beforehand in the freezer!

Get a shallow bowl that is slightly larger than your glass and fill with a thick layer of salt. Cut a notch in the middle of one of your lime wedges so it can fit around the rim of your glass. Run the lime all the way around the rim of the glass, then dip the rim in salt. Fill your glass with ice.

Step 2: Shake it up

Shake it up how to make a margarita Margarita Step 2 Shake Option 2Jamie Thrower for Taste of Home

Fill the shaker with ice then add the tequila, triple sec and fresh squeezed lime juice. Cover well and shake hard for about 20 seconds.

Step 3: Strain and enjoy!

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Strain directly into your prepared margarita glass. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.

How to Upgrade Your Margarita

There are so many ways you can upgrade your margarita recipe! Try out some of these varieties to shake things up a bit.

  • Spice up your salt rim. I like to add lime zest and a pinch of cayenne to the salt. You can also add a bit of sugar to the mix.

  • Try it with mezcal! A mezcal margarita is a very different experience but just as delightful. Mezcal is an Oaxacan spirit—like tequila, it’s from the agave plant, but has a smokier profile. It can make a lovely margarita with a complex flavor.

  • Add some fruit for a flavored margarita. This is a classic way to personalize your margarita. I love to add fresh berries in the summer, either muddled into a drink on the rocks or blended in a frozen margarita.

  • Cointreau is a type of triple sec, or orange liqueur, which is a classic choice for margaritas. But there are many types of triple sec out there that would be just as delicious. You can also try other types of orange liqueurs like Grand Marnier or Curacao, which will change the flavor slightly.

Tips for How to Make a Margarita

  • Whatever tequila you choose, you’ll want to make sure it’s 100% de agave or puro de agave. My favorite tequila for margaritas is Espolon Blanco Tequila, but some other crowd-pleasers are Casamigos Blanco and Patron Silver.

  • Fresh limes are key to a great margarita. They’re easy to squeeze with the citrus juicer, and you’ll be glad you made the extra effort since they make the drink so fresh and flavorful.

  • Triple sec is another key ingredient for margaritas, but if you don’t have any you can still make a delicious cocktail using some type of simple syrup or sweetener in lieu of it. Try this Texas red river margarita or a batch of frozen lemon-berry margaritas, neither of which need triple sec to have a good time.

  • A salt rim is an important part of a margarita, both aesthetically and to give it that salty kick. Some people like to do just half of the rim, which looks elegant and is great for folks who want some sips without the salty component. Other people like to do a pretty thick salt rim, about 1/2-inch deep. The most important part of the salt rim is to make sure your glass is wet enough for the salt to stick! If you run out of lime, just wet it with some water.

  • If you’re looking for something even simpler, there are some great margarita mixes out there. Try the Tres Agaves Organic Mix or Stirrings Simple Margarita Mix. Just add tequila and you’re ready to roll.

  • Margaritas are a great cocktail for a small gathering or a not-so-small party, because they’re easy to batch up. Dust off your pitcher and check out how to make margaritas for a crowd.

  • And of course, we can’t leave frozen margaritas out of the conversation! Here’s how to whip up a delicious batch of frozen margaritas—I find them particularly thirst-quenching and I love them on the hottest days of summer. But they’re great anytime, especially next to a pool.

Up next: Learn how to make a skinny margarita!

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Risa Lichtman
Risa Lichtman is a chef and writer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the owner/chef of Lepage Food & Drinks, a small food company featuring Jewish seasonal foods, providing takeaway all around Portland. She has previously published poems in Poetica Magazine, the anthology The Art of Bicycling, Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature, and The Dos Passos Review. She lives with her wife Jamie, their dog Isaac, and their cat Sylvia. Follow her at @risaexpizza, or find her delicious food offerings on @lepagefoodanddrinks.