How To Make The Absolute Best Margarita

This classic margarita recipe is the only one you'll ever need.

Southern Living Classic Margarita in glasses to serve

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins

You don't have to be eating a plate of tacos in order to enjoy the salty, sour, slightly sweet kick of a classic margarita. The tequila-based cocktail not only makes a perfect complement to the bold, spicy flavors of Mexican food, but also anything that demands a little tequila (which is, frankly, most things nowadays).

Making a homemade classic margarita is way easier than most people imagine, so consider whipping up a batch before venturing through liquor store aisles in search of a pre-made handle or that dreaded, off-brand sweet and sour mix.

Just 3 Ingredients for a Classic Margarita

Premade, sugar-laden mixes, begone! A classic margarita relies heavily on the freshness and acidity of lime juice , accented with only a touch of sweetness from orange liqueur .

Be sure to opt for a tequila that you’d be happy to drink on the rocks. A blanco is preferred to keep things lighter, but feel free to experiment with a reposado or even a mezcal if you want a bit of depth and smoke.

And lastly, never replace that fresh lime juice with an imitation variety. The irreplaceable tartness of fresh citrus is a requirement. No questions asked.

Southern Living Classic Margarita ingredients

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How To Make a Classic Margarita

If you’ve got a cocktail shaker or a large cup with a lid, that’s all you need to shake and mix the small batch of ingredients. We have the complete recipe below, but here's a quick overview:

  1. Prep the margarita glass: Pour rimming salt into a small saucer. Rub a lime along the edge of the glass, and turn the glass edge over into the salt, pressing lightly so the salt will stick to the lime juice's moisture. Add ice to the glass.
  2. Combine the three ingredients: In a cocktail shaker, add tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur along with plenty of ice. Put the shaker's lid on tightly.
  3. Shake it up: Get an arm workout by shaking the cocktail vigorously. When the shaker is so cold you can barely handle it, stop the shaking.
  4. Strain the cocktail: Take the lid off the shaker, and pour the cocktail over the ice in the margarita glass.
  5. Enjoy! Add any garnishes you want, and sip until the last drop is gone.
Classic Margarita

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How To Make a Frozen Margarita With This Recipe

Want to make your classic margarita frozen? Easy-peasy. Simply freeze your citrus juice in ice trays, and blitz it with the tequila, orange liqueur, and ice in a blender. Freezing the juice will prevent the drink from being too watered down with even more ice.

You can also experiment by adding frozen fruits like strawberries, oranges, or even coconut for a more tropical taste.

How Is a Classic Margarita Served?

An margarita glass is obviously preferred, though a tumbler is totally acceptable. Make sure to line your glass’s rim with salt before pouring out your boozy beverage into it or there’s no going back.


Have fun with the salt rim! A pink Himalayan salt is not only pretty, but chock-full of minerals like potassium and calcium. So it’s practically a health food (we're kidding).

Experiment with black volcanic salt, fleur de sal, and even spicy salts or seasoning blends for a subtle heat on the palate. Avoid table salts or anything finely ground as they will overpower the drink and have you reaching for a water bottle.

What To Serve With A Margarita

Obviously, your lime-heavy margarita is going to pair best with dishes that also contain the star ingredient. Serve it with fish tacos , guacamole , shrimp ceviche, or carne asada to keep your meal consistent, thematic, and, most importantly, zesty.

Can You Make a Margarita in Advance?

A homemade margarita mix will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to three days. Be sure to store it without ice or the cubes will melt and water down your drink.

Frozen margaritas can be placed directly into the freezer in a freezer bag and stored for up to two weeks. Thanks to the alcohol content, it will maintain its slushy consistency once removed and placed in a blender.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is in a traditional margarita?

    Classic margaritas have just three ingredients—fresh lime juice, orange liqueur, and tequila. You can add agave syrup for sweetness, if you want, but the orange liqueur provides a good bit of sweetness.

  • Is Cointreau or triple sec better for a margarita?

    Cointreau is a type of triple sec (a type of dry orange liqueur). Cointreau is one of many brands of this liqueur, but it's generally considered the best because it has a well rounded, balanced flavor. Cheaper versions may not be as sweet and floral.

  • What can I use instead of triple sec in a margarita?

    If orange liqueur is something you'd like to avoid, you can simply scale back, replace it with more lime juice, eliminate it altogether, or swap it for a simple syrup .

  • What salt should you use on a margarita rim?

    We like bigger, flakier salt like Himalayan salt for a margarita glass rim. You can use any artisan salt you like. Just don't use table salt, which is far too finely ground and will completely overwhelm the cocktail's flavor.

More Margarita Recipes

Want to try different kinds of margaritas? Consider these recipes:


  • 1 lime wedge , to rim the glass and garnish

  • Ground Himalayan salt , to rim the glass

  • Ice

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) tequila blanco

  • 2 Tbsp. (1 oz.) orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)

  • 3 Tbsp. (1 1/2 oz.) freshly-squeezed lime juice (from 2 small limes)


  1. Prepare the margarita glass:

    Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass; set the lime wedge aside for garnish.

    Southern Living Classic Margarita rimming the glass with the lime

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Pour the salt onto a plate and dip the rim of the glass in the salt to coat.

    Southern Living Classic Margarita rimming the glass with salt

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Fill the glass with ice and set aside.

    Southern Living Classic Margarita glass filled with ice

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  2. Add ingredients to cocktail shaker:

    In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice.

    Southern Living Classic Margarita adding liquid to cocktail shaker

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Shake until chilled. Strain into the prepared glass.

    Southern Living Classic Margarita straining into glass

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Garnish with the lime wedge and serve immediately.

    Southern Living Classic Margarita in a glass garnished with a lime wedge, ready to serve

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

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