Not much says “summer” like your feet in a river (or, sure, a backyard kiddie pool) and an icy cold margarita in your hand. The good news is that it’s easy to make a margarita at home that’s as good—or better—than any restaurant version. Ready to up your home marg game? Here’s what to do.
Start with a good recipe
The classic margarita recipe is pretty much the definition of elegant simplicity: Tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. Throw in a garnish or two, and you’ve got the delicious, flexible foundation for endless experimentation. Here’s a great place to start:
- Two ounces blanco tequila
- 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 ounce triple sec
- Lime wheel and salt, for garnish
Shake the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled, salt-rimmed glass, then garnish with the lime wheel. Oh, and a bowl of tortilla chips and pico de gallo on the side won’t hurt.
Got that? Great. Ready for the advanced version? Read on.
Source great ingredients
There aren’t many ingredients in a margarita, which means every single one has to count. The most important is the blanco tequila. Don’t skimp here. Mash & Grape has loads of great ones to choose from. Some of our favorites for margaritas are:
You’ll also need orange liqueur. Cardinal Spirits Valencia Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier are all good choices. Some recipes also call for simple syrup or agave nectar, which are easy to find at most grocery stores.
Finally, there’s no avoiding it: Freshly squeezed lime juice is critical for a good margarita. The bottled stuff just won’t cut it. So go ahead and put “fresh limes” on your standing shopping list for the rest of the summer. You won’t be sorry.
Assemble your tools
90% of good bartending is in the prep. The more work you do ahead of time, the better your drink will be—and the less chance that you’ll end up with an over-diluted margarita because you had to spend five minutes hunting for that commemorative Cinco de Mayo glass you wanted to use while the ice melted in your cocktail shaker.
You’re going to need:
- A cocktail shaker
- A strainer
- Something to juice your limes with
- A small plate of salt
- A glass (a rocks glass is perfect)
- Plenty of ice
Start by chilling your glass. If you’re really planning ahead, stick it in the freezer for an hour. Otherwise, you can fill it with ice water and let it sit while you get the rest of your setup ready.
Next, do a quick ingredient inventory: Blanco tequila, orange liqueur, limes, and coarse salt. Got them all? Good. Now juice your limes, making sure to save a wedge for garnish, and pour your salt onto the plate.
Now, empty your glass of any ice water, and rub the rim of the glass with a lime wedge. Roll the damp edge in the salt to create a salt rim. (if you don’t like the salt, feel free to skip it).
Plop a big ice cube in your chilled and prepped glass, fill your shaker with ice, and get ready to start mixing.
Build your drink
Pros always add their ingredients to the shaker (what they call “building the drink”) starting with the least expensive first, working their way up to the most costly component. That way, if they make a mistake and have to dump out their shaker, it costs less. It’s not a bad idea to do this at home. That usually means starting with lime juice, following that up with triple sec, and ending with the tequila.
Shake, shake, shake
Shaking doesn’t just chill your drink. It also helps dilute it a little bit, which is essential to getting the right flavor profile. So shake vigorously, with the goal of getting frost to form on the outside of the tin. Hands too cold? Use a towel.
Strain, garnish, and enjoy
Here comes the good part. Strain your margarita into your waiting prepared glass. Garnish with your lime wedge or wheel, and kick back and enjoy.
Once you’ve mastered the classic margarita, make it your own. Try swapping out half of the triple sec for agave syrup (sometimes called agave nectar). Experiment with reposado tequila, or mezcal. Add a splash of orange juice. Go wild and swap out tequila with whiskey. Voila—you’ve made a whiskey sour.