Classic Margarita Recipe

Fresh lime juice, triple sec, and good tequila are all you need to make the best margarita possible.

A classic margarita in a rocks glass with salt and a lime wheel on the rim.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • A good-quality tequila needs no sugar, beyond what's in the triple sec, to balance the acidity of lime juice.
  • Cointreau makes for a balanced, smooth margarita without taking away from the tequila.

Tequila, orange liqueur, lime: The perfect margarita is all about fresh, crisp flavors. While this cocktail has suffered years of abuse thanks to low-quality sour mixes, one sip of this classic version makes it clear it's a classic for a reason. And honestly, it's so easy to whip up with just those three ingredients (plus the salt), there's absolutely no reason to reach for bottled mix ever. This recipe, which we created by testing the most popular ratios, is the one we reach for.

As always with such simple preparations, the quality of ingredients matter. The lime juice needs to be fresh; the tequila, while no need for it to be from the tippy toppest shelf, should be of good quality so that it's smooth, not harsh; and the triple sec should be balanced and smooth—Cointreau is the traditional choice, and a good one.

According to cocktail historians, the origins of the margarita are hard to pin down. David Wondrich, in both Imbibe! and The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails (the latter co-authored with Noah Rothbaum), works through the various claims of creation without landing on a winning theory. What does seem clear is that the margarita is a descendant and relative of the daisy and the sidecar ("margarita," for what it's worth, is Spanish for "daisy"). In effect, a margarita replaces a sidecar's brandy with tequila and lemon juice with lime, and then adds the salt for good measure.

It's worth adding that, for all our adherence to this classic version, we're still also big fans of a good old frozen margarita.

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Click Play to See This Crisp Classic Margarita Come Together

Recipe Facts

Prep: 5 mins
Active: 5 mins
Total: 5 mins
Serves: 2 drinks

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Ingredients

  • 1 lime wedge, plus 2 lime wheels for garnish

  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt, for glass rims

  • 4 ounces (120ml) high-quality blanco tequila (see notes)

  • 2 ounces (60ml) triple sec, such as Cointreau

  • 1 1/2 ounces (45ml) fresh juice from 2 limes

Directions

  1. Run lime wedge around the outer rims of 2 rocks glasses and dip rims in salt. Set aside.

  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. Fill with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled, about 15 seconds (the bottom of a metal shaker should frost over).

  3. Fill glasses with fresh ice and strain margarita into both glasses. Garnish with lime wheels and serve.

Special equipment

Cocktail shaker, cocktail strainer

Notes

This recipe works best with a high-quality tequila. If you're using a budget brand that's a little harsh, swap the proportions for the Cointreau and lime juice and add 1/4 ounce simple syrup to each drink.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
206 Calories
0g Fat
13g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 206
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 293mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 17mg 84%
Calcium 15mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 63mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)