How to Make the Best Margarita, Every Time


There's a right and a wrong way to make the classic cocktail.

Classic Margarita

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Oset Babür-Winter

The Margarita is one of the most riffed-upon classic cocktails out there, but at its core, this simple drink calls for blanco tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau orange liqueur. While the actual inventor of the drink remains up for debate, most cocktail historians agree that the Margarita's history is intertwined with that of another family of cocktails called the Daisy, which similarly call for citrus juice and orange liqueur along with tequila, vodka, or gin. The Daisy category made its debut in Victorian times, and the word Margarita translates to daisy in Spanish, another reason why many believe that this iconic cocktail is essentially a Daisy that calls for tequila as its base spirit.

While you're probably used to enjoying a Margarita with a signature flaky sea salt rim, we enjoy experimenting with garnishes like black lime and chili salt, as well as hatch chili salt, both of which add additional layers of flavor to this sour, sweet cocktail. Some bartenders prefer to use Grand Marnier, another orange liqueur, in place of Cointreau, while others add ingredients like Grenadine or passion fruit syrup for extra sweetness. One of the most famous riffs, the Tommy's Margarita (created by Julio Bermejo of Tommy's tequila bar and Mexican restaurant in San Francisco in 1990), calls for light agave nectar in place of orange liqueur.

While you'd think a Margarita would be simple enough to make, there are a few common mistakes that can turn them from excellent to, well, not so much. Thankfully, our executive wine and spirits editor Ray Isle has some helpful tips for making the perfect Margarita on the rocks, as well as a mean frozen margarita recipe. Check out his key rules below (seriously, skip that margarita mix), and head over to our margarita gallery for even more recipes.

Use 100% Agave Tequila

Isle says you have two choices for your tequila. There's basic, inexpensive tequilas made with a mixture of grain spirits and agave spirits (fun fact: tequila only has to include 51 percent agave spirits to be called tequila), but they're typically colored with caramel coloring and grain spirits aren't very tasty, either. Plus, the bottle Ray picks up includes natural flavors — "What are those natural flavors? The only flavors in there should be tequila," he quips.

The second and best option is 100 percent blue agave tequila. He gives 1800 as an example, which is made entirely from an agave plant — it's pure tequila and tastes much better.

Use Fresh Lime Juice, Always

Isle says there are three things in a Margarita: tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau. You want to make sure you're using fresh lime juice (you know, squeezed from an actual lime) to give your Margaritas the best flavor. The pre-squeezed, pre-packaged lime juice you'll find in the grocery store uses lime oil to give it more flavor, and you want pure lime juice.

Tiny Ice Is Not Your Friend

Small pieces of ice will melt faster than bigger pieces of ice, in turn diluting your Margarita. Always use bigger pieces of ice for the best results.

Skip the Margarita Mix

Isle says the best Margarita is the simplest Margarita — so don't use Margarita mix, which can have high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and other ingredients you want to avoid.

Frozen Margaritas Call for a Different Ratio

As tempting as it is to dump your "on the rocks" Margarita in a blender with tons of ice, don't. Isle says a frozen Margarita recipe requires different proportions—for each drink, you'll want two ounces of tequila, one ounce of Cointreau, one ounce of simple syrup, and one and 1/4 ounces of lime juice, which is slightly more than the on-the-rocks recipe. In the video above, Isle makes enough of the mixture for two drinks, and then combines it with two and half cups of ice in the blender. After blending, rub the edge of the glass with lime, salt the rim, and voila! You've got a perfect frozen Margarita too.

Pro tip: Pre-mix your Margarita mix ahead of time and chill overnight, so it's ready to go in the blender the next day.

How to Make the Perfect Margarita on the Rocks

Isle recommends salting the rim of your glass first — you can use a lime to help it adhere. Then, combine two ounces of tequila, one ounce of Cointreau (good quality Triple Sec will work, but he prefers this), and 3/4 ounce of lime juice in a shaker. Then, shake it up, and pour over ice in a glass.


  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila

  • 1 ounce cointreau

  • 3/4 ounce lime juice

  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (for garnish)


  1. Combine all ingredients in an ice filled cocktail shaker and shake for 20 seconds, until frosted on the outside.

  2. Rub the rim of a coupe or rocks glass with a lime wedge and dip the glass into a plate filled with flaky sea salt to rim.

  3. Strain cocktail into rimmed glass.

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