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Everything You Need to Know to Make a Real Margarita

Updated January 13, 2020
how to make a margarita
So long as you know how to make a basic margarita, the party will always come to you. Three simple ingredients are all that's required to make the best margaritas—everything else you already have in your kitchen. Whether you’re wondering how to make frozen margaritas for a fiesta or just how to make margaritas at home on a weekday, you’re just a few short steps away from sublime sipping.
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The Basic Ingredients

Whether it’s served on the rocks or frozen, all margaritas start with a few basic components. If you don’t keep your bar cart stocked, you might have to go to the liquor store for some of these ingredients. The rest you’ll hopefully have in your kitchen already. Here are the building blocks for making everyone’s favorite cocktail, the margarita:

Tequila

The brand, type and price of the tequila you use will impact how the drink tastes. Bottom-shelf or cheaper liquors will taste less smooth than their more expensive counterparts. Silver tequila, also known as white tequila, is bottled right after it’s produced, which gives it a sharper taste than gold tequila, which ages before it is bottled.

Triple sec

Triple sec, also known as Cointreau or curacao, is a sweet liqueur made from bitter orange peels. The addition of triple sec is what makes a drink a margarita, and not just a lime-flavored shot of tequila.

Lime juice

The best margaritas are made with fresh lime juice, never bottled. That being said, having a margarita is better than not, so if bottled is all you have, go for it.

Sugar

The tartness of lime and triple sec need a touch of sweetness to balance out. That sweetness can come from superfine sugar, simple syrup or agave syrup.

Salt

Lastly, a good margarita needs some good coarse salt to go with it. Be sure to rim your glasses with lime juice and sea salt.

How to Make a Margarita on the Rocks

shaker, margarita and bowl of salt

Let’s start with the most classic (and the most fuss-free) way to serve a margarita: on the rocks. Get your glasses ready before you start mixing the margarita. Use a lime wedge to wipe around the rim of the glass, then dip the rim of the glass into a saucer of salt. Fill the glass with ice—cubed, not crushed.

If you are making margaritas for a crowd, only salt one half of each glass. This way your guests have a choice of how to enjoy their drink—with salt, or without.
If you are making margaritas for a crowd, only salt one half of each glass. This way your guests have a choice of how to enjoy their drink—with salt, or without.

What You'll Need

Now that your glass is prepared, you can start mixing your drink. To prepare a classic margarita, you’ll need:

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • ½ oz. triple sec
  • 1 oz. lime juice (about ½ a lime, squeezed)
  • 2 tsp. superfine sugar or simple syrup

Steps to Make a Margarita on the Rocks

  1. Throw all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, then shake well (this should only take a few seconds).
  2. Pour into your prepared glass, garnish with a lime wedge and drink up.

How to Make a Frozen Margarita

frozen margarita, tray of ice

A frozen margarita is made of the same stuff as one served over the rocks, but it’s arguably 200% more fun to drink. It's a good idea to frost your glass in the freezer for a few hours before you start making a frozen margarita, so your beverage stays colder longer. Additionally, you’ll want to freeze the lime juice into ice cube trays, too. Using the same quantities as a margarita on the rocks, plus a few ice cubes, blend all ingredients in a blender for no more than 15 seconds. You want it smooth, but not pulverized so much that the ice begins to melt.

Mix it Up

strawberry margarita, limes, bowl of strawberries

Now that you’ve got the basics of how to make a margarita under your belt, you can start to branch out. There are a few twists you can use to impress people by creating some less-conventional margarita concoctions.

A strawberry margarita is a popular choice among those preferring sweeter-tasting cocktails. Simply substitute the fresh lime juice for 1 ½ oz. of limeade, then add a handful of frozen strawberries into the mix. Mix the ingredients in a blender to create a frozen berry drink. This method works with other frozen fruits too, like mango or pineapple.

Use blue curacao in place of triple sec to create a blue margarita cocktail with a very similar taste.

You can also spice things up by adding a splash of Tabasco on top of the margarita—that'll really get the party started.

Looking for more ideas to riff off of? Check out all of our less-than-ordinary margarita recipes.

What to Serve with a Margarita

You’re going to need something to go with all that alcohol. Aside from a basket of tortilla chips and some fresh salsa, here are our favorite recipes to pair with an ice-cold margarita:



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