Classic Margarita

Everyone needs to know this recipe for Classic Margaritas. Learn how to make one with fresh ingredients or margarita mix, plus how to customize them with your favorite flavors. Now the question is, will you make just one or a whole pitcher? (Instructions for both included!)

Two margarita glasses with lime wedges on them.

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Classic Margarita recipe

Whether it’s Friday night or Taco Tuesday, Cinco de Mayo or National Margarita Day (which is Feb. 22), there’s nothing like a good margarita to celebrate with.

Margaritas are easy to make with store-bought mixes, but making them from scratch is even better — and not as hard as you’d think.

Once you know how to make them, you can whip up a single glass or a pitcher of classic margaritas with ease at any time.

Below, I’ll walk you through my favorite classic lime margarita recipe, plus info on the best tequilas, how to make them with different flavors and even how to make them with margarita mix.

More classic cocktail recipes: MojitoMoscow MuleGimlet

A margarita with lime wedges in a glass.

Why you’ll love this recipe

You’ll love this easy margarita recipe, for a few reasons:

  • This is the BEST margarita recipe that you’ll want to make again and again.
  • You’ll be amazed at how much better homemade margaritas with fresh juice taste than ones made with a mix.
  • They’re easy to make and easier to customize with flavors, tequilas, sugar or salt — and more.
Two lime margaritas on a wooden cutting board.

What is a margarita?

The margarita is one of the most popular cocktails. The recipe hails from Mexico and is made from lime juice, tequila and a sweetener. Sometimes the lime juice and sweetener are combined into a cocktail mixer known as sour mix or margarita mix to make the drink more efficient to prepare.

This classic cocktail can be served on the rocks (AKA over ice) or as a frozen margarita, and with either salt or sugar on the rim.

Classic lime margaritas are often modified with various flavors, such as strawberries or prickly pears. Spicy margaritas are popular too — try them with jalapeño syrup or jalapeño tequila.

Though the margarita is often thought to be the national drink of Mexico, that title actually belongs to the Paloma, a grapefruit tequila drink.

A lime margarita with lime slices and a cocktail shaker.

Tools & glassware

To make a margarita or two, you’ll need a basic bar tool set that includes a cocktail shaker, a Hawthorne strainer and a jigger for measuring ingredients.

If you’re planning to make a big pitcher of classic margaritas, you’ll need a wooden spoon to stir everything together.

You’ll also want to grab a few plates for preparing the glasses with salt and sugar rims.

Margaritas are often served in margarita glasses, stemmed glasses with big bowls for iced and frozen drinks. They can also be served in rocks glasses, which are short glasses.

Ingredients for classic margaritas.

Ingredients

The classic margarita only needs a few simple ingredients to be absolutely delicious, which is why they need to be high-quality ingredients.

Best tequila for margaritas

Margaritas traditionally call for tequila, which is a transparent spirit made from the Blue Weber Agave plant in Mexico.

My favorite tequila brands right now are Sauza, El Jimador and Lunazul, but there are tons more out there. For top-shelf margaritas, try Don Julio, Patron or Milagro.

You can mix your favorite tequila into these margs. There are a few types of tequila that I detail in my Tequila 101 crash course.

I like to use blanco tequila (or silver tequila) for most margs. Clear and colorless, it works really well in any margarita recipe. Reposado tequila is aged, and can add another level of flavor. 

Gold tequila has added caramel color to make it seem aged, so I don’t usually recommend it, but it will taste just fine if you use it.

You can also substitute the tequila for mezcal to make smoky mezcal margaritas.

A lime margarita in a glass with lime slices.

Fresh lime juice

Using fresh citrus juice in a cocktail brings the best, zestiest flavor. It will make a serious difference, trust me!

Tip: Room temperature citrus is easier to juice than cold, refrigerated fruit. Set your citrus fruits out on the counter for a couple hours to warm up before juicing them.

If you have the bottled concentrate, that works too. But it can be a bit more tart than fresh lime juice, so keep that in mind. If you have the time to juice, you won’t regret it:

Margarita mix or sour mix is another option. Though you can buy it at the store, homemade sour mix is a great way to incorporate the authentic flavor of real lime juice. You can sweeten it with agave nectar or homemade simple syrup.

Three bottles of orange liqueur side by side on a white marble surface.

Orange liqueur

Though it’s optional, orange liqueur gives any margarita a hint of orange flavor and another layer of depth and complexity. The sweet orange flavor balances out sour lime.

A top-shelf orange liqueur like Grand Marnier or Cointreau will give a more sophisticated flavor. Triple sec and curaçao are low-cost versions that are quite delicious, too.

If you use blue curaçao, which is a blue-colored orange liqueur, you’ll wind up with blue margaritas.

Sweetener

You have a few options for your homemade margaritas. However, skip adding a sweetener if you’re using sour mix!

  • agave nectar: The best choice is agave nectar, which is a sweet syrup made from the agave plant. It pairs really beautifully with tequila since they are made from the same plant.
  • simple syrup: Another option is making a batch of simple syrup, which is easy to make with sugar and water.
  • flavored syrup: You could also use a homemade honey syrup or dress your margs up with more flavors like strawberry syrup or elderflower syrup.
  • sugar-free syrup: For a skinny margarita, use a sugar-free syrup made with your favorite sugar-free substitute.
Two limes with their skins scraped off sit behind a jar of margarita salt with lime shavings.

Salt rim vs. sugar rim

Salt or sugar? The rim is the best part! (Though you can skip both if you like.) Salt is classic, but it all comes down to personal preference

Salt on the rim provides a harmonious balance with the tart lime juice, but sugar can make the drink taste even sweeter.

If you like a salt rim, sea salt or kosher salt works well. I don’t recommend using regular table salt. Try to use coarse salt, though a flaky salt will be too coarse. A flavored salt like this lime margarita salt makes a delicious difference.

You can also use flavored salts. I love this chile-lime seasoning for its pretty color and delicious flavor. I also love making my own flavored salts, such as this orange salt.

A glass of lime margarita with a slice of lime.

Garnishes

Cut a few wedges or wheels of fresh limes for garnishes for your cocktails.

You could also make lime twists or swirl slices around a cocktail pick, like I did.

Margarita flavors

Lime margaritas are fantastic on their own, but flavored margaritas are a fun way to mix things up. Here are a few favorites:

In addition to flavor, you can even make margaritas with beer, with wine to make margarita sangria or even with sparkling wine to make champagne margaritas.

A clear glass sits on its side on a white plate of lime salt with a gold cocktail shaker in the background.

How to rim a glass

When you’re ready to make margaritas, you’ll want to start by rimming your glasses. Here’s what to do:

  1. Pour sugar or salt on a plate, about a couple tablespoons worth.
  2. Rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass.
  3. Roll the rim of the glasses in the salt or sugar to coat the rim.

If you’re interested in some cool effects for salty rims, check out my tutorial on how to rim a glass.

A person pouring a drink into a glass.

How to make a classic margarita

Ready to make the perfect margarita from scratch? Here’s what to do:

  1. First, rim your glasses. Place salt or sugar on a plate. Rub a lime wedge around the rim of your glass. Roll the outer edges the margarita glass in the salt (or sugar) to coat the rim. 
  2. Then, add ice to the glasses and repeat the salted rim process for as many glasses as you need! 
  3. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the tequila, lime juice, triple sec and sweetener (simple syrup or agave syrup).
  4. Shake vigorously, then strain into the rimmed glasses.

You can easily quadruple a single margarita recipe to make four margaritas in one standard cocktail shaker. Anything more, and you’ll either need to make them twice or make a pitcher.

How to make a margarita pitcher 

If you want to make a pitcher of margaritas for a crowd, that’s super easy to do! (See the recipe card for the amounts below.)

  1. Get out a big pitcher. Add the tequila, simple syrup, lime juice and triple sec. 
  2. Stir together with a long wooden spoon. 
  3. Store the pitcher covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. 
  4. Just before you’re ready to serve, rim the glasses. Don’t do it ahead of time, as the rims will get dry and crumbly. 
  5. Add ice to the glasses and pour in the delicious margarita mixture. 
Two margarita glasses with lime wedges on top.

How to make margaritas with mix

If you are using margarita mix or sour mix to make your margaritas, you will have to modify the recipe if it doesn’t use sour mix.

Most mixes don’t yet contain tequila — that’s by design, so the mixes can be used to make other drinks like whiskey soursdaiquiris and gimlets.

A basic rule to follow is to use equal parts tequila and margarita mix. If you’re using a store-bought mix, follow the recommendations on the packaging.

If you’re following a recipe: Add up how much sweetener and lime juice the recipe calls for, and then use that much sour mix. (Keep the tequila amount the same.) For example, if the recipe calls for 2 ounces tequila, 1 ounce syrup and 1 ounce lime juice, you’ll use 2 ounces tequila and 2 ounces margarita mix.

For a pitcher, follow the same idea. Add up how much sweetener and lime juice, then use that much mix to make a big batch of this tasty cocktail. Or use equal parts tequila and sour mix.

A glass of lime and cucumber margarita on a wooden cutting board.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making this recipe:

  • Quality ingredients matter in a cocktail. For great-tasting cocktails, a good bottle can make a big difference. Go for a mid-price tequila and a nice orange liqueur. If you want to go top-shelf, make a Cadillac Margarita.
  • Use a nice salt or sugar for the rim. I suggest making your own margarita salt or using sanding sugar.
  • Add a garnish of a lime wedge or a lime slice on the rim.

What to serve with margaritas

Margaritas are always good with Mexican food. Serve them with one of these ideas:

Want more ideas? Here are even more margarita pairings.

A lime margarita in a glass with lime slices.

FAQ

What is a classic margarita?

A classic margarita is a Mexican cocktail made with tequila, lime juice and a sweetener. Sometimes, margaritas are flavored with fruity, herbal or spicy flavors to create unique combinations.

What is the best tequila for a classic margarita?

Blanco tequila, also called silver tequila, is the best tequila for margaritas. It is unaged and clear in color, so it doesn’t alter the color of the finished drink. Its flavor is light and bright, allowing the lime juice and other ingredients to shine.

What are the ingredients for a traditional margarita?

A classic margarita typically contains tequila, a sweetener and fresh lime juice. It can also contain a splash of orange liqueur such as triple sec or Cointreau, which gives the drink a little added sweetness to balance out the tart lime juice.

More margarita recipes

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Two margarita glasses with limes and garnishes.

Classic Margaritas

Yield: 1 cocktail (or a pitcher)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Enjoy this drink on the rocks or, for a frozen treat, toss margarita mixture and ice into a blender and serve chilled.
5 from 3 votes
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ingredients

for 1 margarita

  • ounces tequila
  • ½ ounce triple sec
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce agave nectar or simple syrup
  • salt or sugar for rim
  • lime wedge for rim and garnish

for 2 margaritas

  • 3 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 2 ounces simple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • salt or sugar for rim
  • lime wedge for rim and garnish

for 4 margaritas

  • 6 ounces tequila
  • 4 ounces lime juice
  • 4 ounces simple syrup or agave nectar
  • 2 ounces triple sec
  • salt or sugar for rim
  • lime wedge for rim and garnish

for 12 margaritas (pitcher)

  • 2 ½ cups tequila
  • ¾ cups triple sec
  • cups lime juice
  • cups simple syrup or agave nectar
  • salt or sugar for rim
  • lime wedge for rim and garnish

instructions

For 1 to 4 margaritas:

  • Place sugar or salt on a plate. Rub a lime wedge around the edge of each glass.
  • Roll the rim of each glass in the salt to coat the rim. Add ice to the glass.
  • In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add tequila, triple sec, lime juice and agave nectar (or simple syrup).
  • Shake vigorously, then strain into the prepared glass.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge.

For more than 4 margaritas:

  • In a medium pitcher, combine the tequila, lime juice, triple sec and agave nectar (or simple syrup). Stir together with a wooden spoon.
  • Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap or its lid and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Just before serving, prepare the glasses. Place sugar or salt on a plate. Rub a lime wedge around the edge of each glass.
  • Roll the rim of each glass in the salt to coat the rim. Add ice to the glass.

notes

You can make the margarita mixture ahead of time. Store it in the fridge until you're ready to serve it. However, don't prepare the salt/sugar rims ahead of time, as they will harden and become dry and crumbly. Add the rimmer to the glass just before serving.
If using a margarita mix/sour mix, add up how much sweetener and lime juice the recipe calls for and replace with the same amount of mix. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 ounce syrup and 1 ounce lime juice, you’ll use 2 ounces margarita mix.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 cocktail (or a pitcher)

amount per serving:

Serving: 4ounces Calories: 226kcal Carbohydrates: 28g Sodium: 2mg Sugar: 23g
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