The best Classic Margarita Recipe that’s fresh and tart and so very simple to make. With just a few ingredients, it’s the perfect tequila cocktail!

classic margarita cocktail in a salt rimmed glass

Classic Margarita Recipe

I’ll admit that I’m a bit partial to “anything Rick Bayless”.

If you’re ever in Chicago and get the chance to visit any of this amazing chef’s restaurants (Xoco, Frontera Grill, and Topolobampo), I do believe you’ll agree that his authentic Mexican food and drinks ROCK!

It’s quite the scene as hungry Bayless fans flood into Frontera Grill, often after standing in line for hours. The noise level picks up as their excellent wait staff starts shaking their drink shakers high and low from all over the lobby and bar area.

Then the margaritas start flowing.  It was here that I tasted the best margarita ever. And, no, it’s not just because I’m partial to “anything Rick Bayless”.

You’re gonna love this simple Classic Margarita Recipe. Promise!

margarita ingredients

Homemade Margarita Ingredients

Margaritas are so easy to make! For the most basic margarita on the rocks, you really only need 3 ingredients:

  1. Fresh limes
  2. Tequila
  3. Orange liqueur

I also like to add a small splash of simple syrup, for just the slightest hint of sweetness. But many people do without. I always have simple syrup in the fridge, for sweetening our hot and iced coffees and teas. If you’ve never made it before, simply boil equal parts water and sugar on the stovetop, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then keep it in a covered jar or bottle in the fridge – it’ll last for at least a month!

If you like a salted rim on your margarita glass, also add course salt to the list. I’m a total sucker for the salted rim, LOVE IT.

And of course, you’ll need some ice.

My Best Tip for Making a Margarita from Scratch

Without hesitation, I beg you to use fresh lime juice. No bottled lime juice. No pre-made margarita mix. Just buy a few limes and enjoy a fresh and truly authentic margarita. It’s THE BEST!

What is the Best Tequila for Margaritas?

Grab a blanco (or “silver”) tequila for the best margaritas. This type is more mellow than darker tequilas, giving your cocktail a clean, smooth flavor.

As far as specific brands go, Patrón Silver is the crowd-pleaser of the margarita bunch. I like to keep a bottle on hand, but it is on the pricier side. A less pricy option, with a cool label to boot, is Espolòn Blanco. 1800 Tequila Silver is another smooth, safe bet.

What is orange liqueur?

Orange liqueur is simply a sweetened alcoholic beverage with orange flavoring. There are many to choose from and they all range in flavor and price.

I like to keep a bottle of Cointreau on hand for margarita making. But Grand Marnier is beautiful. And Triple Sec is a more budget-friendly option.

how to make a salted rim

How to Make a Salted Rim

If you have a glass, a lime wedge, and a small dish of course salt, you can make a salted rim. It’s super easy!

Simply run the cut side of a lime wedge around the rim of your glass. Then dip the wet rim into the course salt, straight down and then straight back up. Do not twist the glass in the salt, or you risk losing some of the granules that are already attached.

For the salt, use course kosher salt or any specialty margarita salts. I have this inexpensive margarita salt, in its own dipping dish with sealable lid, and it works great. And I was given this bamboo bar rimmer (in the photo above) as a gift, which is extra lovely when entertaining.

how to make a margarita

How to Make a Margarita

  • Salt the rim of a 10 to 12-ounce glass.
  • Add crushed ice to fill glass two-thirds full.
  • Pour lime juice, orange liqueur, and tequila over ice.
  • Stir for 10 seconds to combine, slightly dilute, and chill the drink to absolute perfection.
  • Taste test and add a bit of simple syrup if drink is too strong or tart for your liking. Give another stir.
  • Squeeze a fresh lime wedge over the top and add to the drink. ENJOY!

Variation Ideas

Our Minnesota kitchen has seen much experimentation when it comes to margaritas. If you’re looking for options that swerve a bit from the traditional, I have a few for you to try.

Check out these fun riffs on the classic Mexican margarita:

three glasses of a classic margarita

How to Make a Pitcher of Margarita

My recipe is for a single margarita cocktail.

So if you want to make margaritas for a crowd, let’s say 8 people, then you would simply multiply all ingredients times 8. It’s ultra easy to scale up to suit any size of gathering.

For 12 drinks, I’ve done all the math for you with this Margarita Recipe for a Crowd.

Just don’t add ice to the pitcher, as it will water down the cocktail as it melts. Put the ice in individual glasses as you make the drinks!

tacos and a margarita

What to serve with margaritas:

The fresh, tart lime juice in this cocktail makes it the perfect thirst-quenching drink for any Mexican meal. Of course, I have a few recipe suggestions for you:

Like this recipe? Pin it for later!

pinterest image of traditional margarita in a salt rimmed glass

A few more tequila cocktails you might like:

a margarita in a salt-rimmed glass

Classic Margaritas

Yield: Makes 1 margarita
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

This classic margarita recipe is fresh and tart and so very simple to make!

Ingredients

  • 1 fresh lime wedge
  • coarse salt - optional, for rimming the glass
  • crushed ice
  • 1-1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-1/2 oz. orange liqueur
  • 3 oz. blanco (or "silver") tequila
  • a splash of simple syrup, if desired for a hint of sweetness (see below for how to make)

Instructions

  1. for the salted rim (optional): Spread salt on a small plate or dish - or use this easy container. Moisten rim of 10 to 12-ounce glass with lime wedge. Turn glass over and dip rim into salt.
  2. for the drink: Add crushed ice to fill glass two-thirds full.
  3. Pour lime juice, orange liqueur, and tequila over ice. Stir for 10 seconds to combine, slightly dilute, and chill the drink to absolute perfection.
  4. Taste test and add a bit of simple syrup if drink is too strong or tart for your liking. Give another stir.
  5. Squeeze a fresh lime wedge over the top and add to the drink. ENJOY!


To make simple syrup:
Simply boil equal parts water and sugar on the stovetop (I usually use 1 cup each), and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then keep it in a covered jar or bottle in the fridge - it'll last for at least a month!

Notes

from a farmgirl's dabbles

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 246Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 2gSugar: 26gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe?

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classic margarita with fresh limes

This post was originally published May 2014. Some of the photos and text were updated in 2020.