No. It’s better: Tequila!
That’s right, this time out we’re tackling the famous Margarita cocktail.
A drink that seems to be made slightly differently in every bar, I’m here to clear up any confusion surrounding the drink and give you an excellent, simple Margarita recipe so you can get started making your own tequila and lime-flavored surprises.
The Classic Margarita Ingredients
So what’s in a Margarita?
Most of us know it’s tequila and some lime, but beyond that, we’re just shooting in the dark. Let me clear it up.
The cocktail is a mix of tequila, fresh lime juice, orange liqueur, agave syrup, and finally kosher salt (for the rim of your glass).
While that might sound like a lot, don’t worry. We’ve got plenty of different options to sub in and out if you don’t have any of the specifics that we’ve listed here.
Non-negotiables are going to be tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. As long as you have those three things, you can make a cracking Margarita with simple ingredients found in every bar.
Before we get into making substitutions, let’s have a look at what sort of tequila you want to be using. Made from 100% agave plant, and distilled in Mexico, the top pick is Patron Silver.
It’s a bit more towards the premium end of the market, but it’s certainly there for a reason.
Smooth in texture, and without that nasty burn of cheap tequila, Patron Silver is the undisputed first choice for a Margarita base.
If you’re not wanting to spend too much money, Jose Cuervo Silver is your safest bet.
The tequila you’ll find on the back of many bars across the world, Jose Cuervo Silver isn’t quite as smooth as the Patron, but it’s certainly no bottom-shelf drain cleaner.
At just over half the price of its luxury counterpart, it’s definitely the buy if you’re mixing up Margaritas on a budget! Just make sure you’re using Blanco (or clear, silver) tequila.
Gold tequila just won’t give the right texture or flavor for a Margarita.
Let’s get into the substitutions.
While most of the Margarita ingredients are standard stuff for any bartender, agave syrup and kosher salt are a bit more niche.
The bad news is you can’t exactly make a truly authentic Margarita without them.
The good news, however, is that a couple of easy substitutes will make you just as great tasting a drink, and only the most seasoned tequila expert would ever be able to tell the difference.
Starting with the agave syrup, there’s a simple solution (pun intended). Swapping it out for straightforward, 1:1 sugar syrup is going to keep the sweetness of your drink the same.
You’ll lose a tiny bit of that agave flavor but that’s so present in the tequila that it’ll make minimal difference to the taste of your drink.
Experiment with both white and brown sugar syrup and see what you prefer to perfect your personal Margarita recipe.
Now, onto the kosher salt that rims the glass.
You could just skip this step entirely but, come on, tequila and lime without salt? I don’t think so. Still, if you’re making it by the pitcher for a party it’s certainly an option.
The key here is to rim your glass with nice salt, not just overly ground and processed table salt.
Your best bets here are pink Himalayan salt or coarse sea salt. Both are going to give that slightly rough texture as you drink that’s so closely associated with enjoying the Margarita.
Which one you decide to go with is entirely up to you.
Now that all that’s out of the way, let’s get on with how to actually make the things!
How To Make a Margarita: A Classic Margarita Recipe
Step 1: Mix
Add 2 ounces of Blanco Tequila, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, and a ½ ounce each of Orange Liqueur and Agave Syrup to your shaker. Fill with ice and shake for about 30 seconds until chilled.
Step 2: Rim and Strain
Rim your pre-chilled coupe glass with Kosher Salt, and then strain in the mixed drink. By wetting the rim of the glass with lime juice, the salt will stick much easier and give that classic salt, lime tequila taste.
Make sure there are no chunks or flecks of ice in your drink.
Step 3: Garnish and Enjoy
It really is that simple to make. Once your drink is ready simply garnish with a lime wheel and then drink like it’s a siesta!
How To Make a Pitcher of Margaritas
Now Margaritas aren’t just popular in the dimly lit, dating scene of late-night speakeasy-style cocktail bars. They’re a big party drink and that means they come by the pitcher.
However, you’re not going to individually shake and strain each cocktail into a big jug so here’s a handy step-by-step on how to make a pitcher of Margaritas:
Step 1: Build
Add 18 ounces of Tequila, 12 ounces of fresh lime juice, and 8 ounces of Orange Liqueur and Agave Syrup to your pitcher. Fill with ice
Step 2: Stir
Give your pitcher a big stir with a bar spoon. Then, take your glasses and rim them using the Lime Juice and Kosher Salt, the same as in the previous recipe.
Step 3: Serve
Pour your drinks for you and your guests, using your wooden spoon to hold back the ice cubes. Garnish each with a lime wedge and enjoy!
Like all super popular cocktails, the Margarita has been riffed on plenty of times. Here are a few of the best variations of the Margarita that you simply need to try:
Instead of a shaker, put your ingredients into a blender and wizz it up! Much like a frozen Daiquiri, this drink is going to come out as a tequila-flavored smoothie with an incredible boozy kick.
The Frozen Margarita is absolutely great for parties and warm summer evenings and puts an exciting new twist on the Mexican classic.
If you like your drinks a bit sweeter and fruitier, then this is the Margarita for you.
It’s basically the same as making a Frozen Margarita, except adding a few frozen strawberries to the blender and swapping the lime garnish for a strawberry.
This is a great way to make a Margarita and adds a totally new spin on the classic drink.
You’d be surprised how well strawberry and agave balance each other!
One of the most common variations of Margaritas you’re going to find, the Spicy Margarita pairs the strong kick of the tequila, with the strong kick of jalapeno peppers (as though the Margarita wasn’t strong enough already).
Start this one by muddling a couple of jalapeno peppers in the bottom of your shaker with your Agave Syrup.
Then add the rest of the ingredients, fill with ice and shake and strain as normal. Garnish with a jalapeno slice on a cocktail stick and you’ve got a cocktail, not for the faint-hearted!
Created in the early 90s at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, the Tommy’s Margarita has become a staple on cocktail menus ever since.
Ditch the Orange Liqueur and the Agave Syrup and replace them with ¾ ounce of Agave Nectar. Now, syrup and nectar aren’t quite the same things.
The nectar is what is distilled to ultimately become tequila whereas syrup has added sugar and other preservatives. Despite that, Agave nectar is actually about 1 ½ times sweeter than the syrup due to its natural flavor.
A great substitute for Orange Liqueur in nearly any drink, Agave Nectar is a great asset for any bartender to have.
The last variation on this classic drink we’re going to be looking at is the Breakfast Margarita. Inspired by the Breakfast Martini, this unique cocktail keeps the same basic recipe for a Margarita, but with two teaspoons of orange marmalade.
This sweetens the drink with that pleasant breakfast taste, with the drink designed to be enjoyed at any time of day.
Now I’m not sure about drinking this alongside my morning croissants, but it’s certainly a brilliant tasting drink that works just as well in the evening as any other Margarita.
I started bartending in 2017, just 4 days after my 18th birthday, at a cocktail bar in my hometown. I immediately fell in love with the art and science of mixology and have since worked in bars across Yarm, York and Liverpool in England.