This Classic Margarita Recipe is light and refreshing and made right at home with just a few simple ingredients. No need for premade mixes or artificial ingredients, all it takes to make the very best margarita is fresh lime juice, agave, tequila, and orange liqueur.
Slightly sweet, somewhat sour, and always refreshing, margaritas never disappoint.
One of my favorite cocktails to sip on warm summer nights (right up there with the gin and tonic), you’ll find countless variations of this seemingly perfect cocktail including on-the-rocks, blended, or pre-mixed.
Today we’re going to make my all-time favorite classic margarita recipe. It’s super easy and a great starting point if you’re new to the awesome world of tequila cocktails.
In this post, I’ll be answering all kinds of questions. If you only want to know how to make this recipe, I suggest jumping to the recipe card at the bottom of the page. If you want to learn about the ingredients, some alternatives or options, how to make it skinny/blended, and tips and tricks, I’ll cover all of that awesome information below.
Origin of the Margarita
There is much debate over the origin of the margarita. From the date to location, it appears no one really knows.
With that said, the margarita is a popular Mexican and American cocktail with references dating as far back as 1930. Some speculate that margaritas were derived from the Brandy Daisy (“margarita” is Spanish for “daisy”), a cocktail made with Brandy, lemon juice, Yellow Chartreuse, and club soda, and served on the rocks. As people started drifting over the border during the Prohibition, they would replace the brandy in the “Brandy Daisy” with tequila.
What Alcohol is in a Margarita?
The most popular alcohol used to make margaritas is, tequila! It’s the classic choice. However, if you want to try something a little different (but equally delicious), mezcal is also good.
In addition to tequila, you will also need a little bit of orange liquor (Cointreau is the best).
What is tequila?
Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant. Tequila comes in a range of colors from clear to dark amber and a variety of flavors and aromas. There are two main categories of tequila sold- mixtos and 100% agave. Mixtos use no less than 51% agave with other sugars (such as glucose and fructose) making up the remainder.
When shopping for tequila, you want to buy 100% Blue Weber Agave Tequila. Trust me. It’s right there on the bottle so there shouldn’t be any confusion.
Types of tequila:
- White tequila (Silver/Blanco/Plata Tequila) – produced without, or with a very little, aging process. White tequila must contain 38-55% alcohol and is considered the purest form as little to no aging has occurred.
- Gold Tequila (Joven/Oro Tequila) – typically gold tequila is a white tequila with the addition of grain alcohols and caramel colors. Higher quality tequila brands, however, may offer a gold tequila that is a mix of white and Reposado tequila.
- Reposado Tequila (“Rested” Tequila) – aged for a minimum of two months in wooden containers typically making the color darker.
- Añejo to Extra Añejo Tequila (“aged” to “ultra aged”) – tequila that has been aged between 1 to 3 years in small oak barrels.
What are some of the best tequila brands for margaritas?
- Patrón (silver retailing for approximately $40 and the añejo for $60).
- Dos Lunas Tequila (añejo retailing for approximately $50 and the blanco for $30).
- Tequila Corazón (approximately $30 for tequila blanco).
- Sauza Silver (the best budget-friendly pick at $15).
What is mezcal?
Mezcal is a distilled beverage made from any type of agave plant. Mezcal is typically enjoyed straight as it has a strong smoky flavor but is also enjoyed in cocktails such as the margarita.
Like tequila, there are two main types of mezcal- Type I and Type II. Type I simply indicates that it is a Mezcal made with 100% agave. If you can’t find anything that says “type I” look for “100% agave” on the label instead. Type II, on the other hand, is made with at least 80% agave with some other fermenting ingredient making up the rest. As you may imagine, Type I is of higher quality and will taste better.
- White Mezcal – produced with little to no aging process, white Mezcal is, well, white. Or clear.
- Dorado Mezcal – similar to tequila gold, Dorado Mezcal is a white Mezcal with some color added.
- Reposado Mezcal – aged between 2-9 months.
- Añejo Mezcal – aged between 1-3 years.
- Espadín. The most common of all the agave, this accounts for approximately 90% of all mezcal production. Versatile and distinct between brands, you may recognize similar notes and flavors as it is the genetic grandfather agave plant to the blue agave (aka the plant used to make tequila).
- Tobalá. Also known as the “king of mezcals”, tobalaá is rare as it is mostly harvested in the wild. Fruity and complex, this variety can be somewhat pricy.
- Tobaziche. While this species of agave grows in different parts all over Mexico, the taste and names vary completely based on where it is grown. In general, however, it has a savory, herbal flavor.
- Tepeztate. Hugely popular, yet hard to find due to its 30-year mature process.
- Arroqueño. The mezcal made from this agave is known for being floral, spicy, and even chocolatey.
What is Orange Liqueur?
Orange liqueur is basically sweetened alcohol with orange flavoring. The alcohol part may be a neutral spirit (something like vodka) or pot-distilled (such as a grape brandy).
There’s loads of opinion and thought when it comes to picking orange liqueur. For the sake of simplicity, simply remember that Triple Sec, Grand Marnier, and Cointreau are all orange liqueurs. Yes, it is somewhat more complicated than this, but when it comes to purchasing one or the other (at least for a margarita) any will work (although Cointreau is my personal fav out of the three).
How to Make a Margarita
If you choose to salt the rim of your glass, simply run a lime wedge around the rim of your cocktail or margarita glass. Carefully dip into a shallow dish filled with coarse kosher salt and set aside.
Add the tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, and agave syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Seal and shake well until chilled.
Fill a margarita glass (or rocks glass) with ice and pour directly over the ice. Garnish with additional lime, if desired.
What is a Skinny Margarita?
What exactly defines a margarita as being “skinny” versus “non-skinny”? The sugar content.
The more sugar, which is found in simple syrup, agave, and margarita mixes, the “less skinny” your margarita will be. Of course, this also means it will taste sweeter.
I sweetened this particular margarita recipe with a little agave, but feel free to sweeten it with simple syrup if you prefer (just don’t add too much! or it won’t be “skinny”!)
Tips & Tricks
- Although the margarita is traditionally served in margarita glasses, feel free to serve in whatever suits your personality (like these rocks glasses).
- The quality of your ingredients is pretty important. This does not mean that you need to buy top-shelf tequila, but 100% blue agave tequila is an absolute must.
- I also strongly recommend fresh lime juice (aka juice that was just squeezed out of limes).
- Shake everything together with ice in a cocktail shaker or ever a mason jar with a lid. It’s the best way to get your margarita nice and chilly.
Looking for more delicious cocktail recipes? Try these reader favorites:
- Paloma Recipe (How to Make a Paloma Cocktail)
- Easy Sangria Recipe
- Long Island Iced Tea Recipe
- Frozen Peach Wine Slushies Recipe
- Cherry Turmeric Painkiller Cocktail
- Limoncello Gin Cocktail Recipe with Fresh Thyme
- Cherry Bourbon Milkshake Recipe with Espresso
Have you tried making this Classic Margarita Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
- 2 fluid ounces Blanco tequila - or preferred spirit
- 1 fluid ounce fresh lime juice
- ½ fluid ounce Orange liqueur
- ½ fluid ounce Agave syrup - optional
- Lime wedges - to garnish
- Kosher salt - to rim each glass (optional)
- Prep your glasses (this step is optional)- to salt the rim of your glass, run a lime wedge around the rim of your cocktail or margarita glass. Carefully dip into a shallow dis filled with coarse kosher salt and set aside.
- Combine and shake. Add the tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, and agave syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Seal and shake well until chilled.
- Pour and serve on the rocks. Fill a margarita glass (or rocks glass) with ice and pour directly over the ice. Garnish with additional lime, if desired.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)