The Ultimate Guide to Margaritas

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Browse our margarita guide for everything you need to know about America's most popular cocktail.

No matter the time of year, margaritas are a go-to cocktail. Bright, refreshing and so easy to make, it’s no wonder this cocktail is often ordered by the pitcher. To make things easier for your next backyard party, girls-night-in or Mexican dinner, we gathered all of our intel into this handy margarita guide. Here you’ll find essential background information, ingredients, tools, recipes and so much more.

Make yourself a quick lime margarita and get reading!

What Is a Margarita?

Alcoholic cocktail recipes and ideas. Avocado and lime margarita with salt, on a white marble kitchen table. Copy space; Shutterstock ID 735617161; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHRinna Bondarenko/Shutterstock

The margarita is a cocktail that’s a combination of tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice. A margarita can be enjoyed on the rocks or blended, with a salted, sugared or plain rim and is usually served with a slice of lime.

The International Bartenders Association (IBA) designates the margarita a “contemporary classic” and it’s regularly ranked among the top-selling cocktails in the world.

History of Margaritas

Like most cocktails, the history behind the margarita is muddled. The two most persistent inventors, according to Smithsonian Magazine, are Carlos “Danny” Herrera and Margarita Sames. Herrera is said to have mixed the first margarita for a picky patron at the Rancho La Gloria in Tijuana, Mexico sometime around 1938. The competing legend is that Sames, a Dallas socialite, made the cocktail while vacationing in Acapulco a decade later.

Despite these claims to fame, the more likely explanation is that the margarita was created as a variation of the daisy. A daisy cocktail contains the spirit of your choice, citrus juice, orange liqueur and is topped with soda water.

So, it wouldn’t be surprising for bartenders to make omissions or substitutions according to the ingredients they had on hand. As Mia Mastroianni tells Liquor.com, “such a simple cocktail could have happened in nine different places throughout the country where people said, ‘Oh, I can try it this way without the soda water,’ and it evolved into tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime. That’s your classic Margarita.” Not to mention, margarita means “daisy flower” in Spanish.

What Do You Put in a Margarita?

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Despite its murky beginnings, the ingredients of a margarita are definite: 100% agave tequila, orange liqueur and freshly-squeezed lime juice. Our classic margarita is made with a 3-2-1 proportion, meaning a single serving contains 1-1/2 ounces of tequila, 1 ounce of Triple Sec and 1/2 an ounce of lime juice.

Basic Margarita Ingredients

Tequila

For the best-tasting margarita, we suggest using high-quality Blanco tequila. Blanco tequila is unaged and has a bright taste, which results in a refreshing cocktail. If you prefer a more mellow beverage, though, reposado tequila is also a solid choice. Here’s more on the different types of tequila.

Since tequila is the dominant flavor in a margarita, going with a brand you like is very important. Those who are new to tequila, or haven’t branched out from their usual brand, can ask their bartender for tequila suggestions, or check out our picks for the best tequilas for making margaritas.

Orange Liqueur

There are many orange liqueurs and each one will bring something different to a margarita. Curaçao, which is made with laraha oranges and beet alcohol, is the most affordable and sweetest choice. The French brand, Cointreau, has a balanced sweet-and-bitter orange for a more complex margarita. Cognac-based Grand Marnier has notes of vanilla and oak, in addition to orange. And then there’s triple sec, which varies widely in price, flavor and sweetness.

When choosing an orange liqueur, keep in mind that it’s used in a ton of other classic cocktails, like the cosmo, sidecar and Long Island iced tea. So, it’s worth spending a couple of extra dollars for a bottle that you truly enjoy.

Lime

Freshly-squeezed lime juice is the only kind of lime juice that belongs in a margarita. Despite its ease, bottled lime juice will make your cocktail taste bitter and artificial, which is something you definitely don’t want.

Get every drop of juice out of your lime by rolling it firmly along your counter a few times. Cut the lime in half and use a citrus reamer or your hand to squeeze out the juice.

Tools for Making Margaritas

Since margaritas are a fairly straightforward cocktail, they don’t require a ton of gadgets. These are the basics you’ll need to mix a marg:

  • Cocktail Shaker Bar Set: Measure the 3-2-1 proportions exactly with the jigger and then perfectly chill your cocktail with this shaker set. The stainless steel set is easy to clean and will look sleek on your home bar.
  • Vitamix Blender: If blended margaritas are your favorite, you have to get this Vitamix E310 Explorian Blender. The powerful motor and aircraft-grade blades easily pulverize ice and frozen fruit for an ultra-smooth cocktail.
  • Blue Rocco Margarita Glasses: There’s no better vessel for a marg than a classic margarita glass. This gorgeous set is handmade in Mexico and dishwasher safe, which makes clean-up a breeze. Not your style? Take a look at these other margarita glasses you’ll want to get your hands on.

Go beyond the basics with these other margarita tools, like cocktail picks, a salt set and more.

How To Make a Margarita

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Margarita on the Rocks

To make a margarita on the rocks, simply combine 1-1/2 ounces of Blanco tequila, 1-ounce orange liqueur and 1/2 an ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice in a cocktail shaker or cocktail glass, then fill it three-fourths of the way with ice. Shake or stir the cocktail until the outside of the shaker or glass has frosted, about 20 seconds.

Rub a slice of lime around the rim of your margarita glass, then roll the rim in a plate of salt until it’s coated in salt. Drop a few fresh ice cubes into the prepared glass, and then pour your chilled margarita into it. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Blended Margarita

A blended, or frozen margarita starts off by adding 3/4 cup of tequila, 1/2 cup of orange liqueur, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice and 4-6 cups of ice to a blender. If you like a sweeter margarita, you can also add 2 tablespoons of simple syrup. Blend the ingredients until the ice is crushed and the cocktail is smooth.

Salt the rims of four margarita glasses and divide the blended cocktail evenly between them.

Pitcher of Margaritas

A pitcher of margaritas is perfect for a party or poolside hangout. For eight servings, add 1 1/2 cups of tequila, 1 cup of orange liqueur and 1/2 cup of lime juice to a large pitcher. Drop-in a few handfuls of ice, then stir the pitcher until the cocktail has chilled.

Salt the rims of your desired number of glasses and allow your guests to serve themselves. Learn how to make a pitcher of margaritas for up to 12 here.

Flavored Margaritas

As you’ve probably experienced, there are a ton of fruits, veggies and herbs that can be added to a margarita. While the most popular flavors are mango margarita, strawberry margarita and cherry margarita, you’re definitely not limited to those fruits. These are some of our favorite flavored margarita recipes:

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Tips for Making Margaritas

How Do I Upgrade a Margarita?

Other than adding fruits and other flavors, some of our favorite ways to transform a margarita are to infuse the tequila, adding a splash of chili liqueur for some heat or mixing a Cerveza margarita. Take a look at this list of margarita variations for even more ways to take a marg to the next level.

How Do You Sweeten a Margarita?

For those who prefer a margarita on the sweeter side, add half a tablespoon of simple syrup, agave nectar or honey to the cocktail before chilling it. If you’re adding fruit to your margarita, you likely won’t have to add any additional sweetener.

How Do You Smooth Frozen Margaritas?

When it comes to frozen margaritas, having a good blender is really important. If you find you keep getting ice chunks whenever blending a margarita, there are two main things you can do. The first is to start off with crushed ice, instead of ice cubes. This will make it a bit easier on your blender.

The second is to use frozen chunks of fruit instead of ice cubes. Frozen fruit, especially if the pieces are small, are softer and more easily pulverized than big pieces of ice.

Which Margarita Mix Is the Best?

Since margaritas are so easy to whip up, we recommend making them from scratch instead of using a mix. If you do choose to go with a mix, Taste of Home writer and blogger behind LePage Food & Drink, Risa Lichtman, has two margarita mix recommendations. Tres Agaves Organic Margarita Mix is made with water, lime juice, agave nectar and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) as a preservative, and straddles the line between sweet and sour well. And Stirrings Margarita Mixer is another option, which is made with water, key lime juice, cane sugar, citric acid, natural flavors and Triple Sec flavors.

With either of these mixers, we’d suggest combining 1 ½ ounce of tequila and 1 ½ ounce of mix in a margarita glass filled with ice.

Now that you know everything about margaritas, learn how to make a Paloma cocktail.

Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.