How to Make the Perfect Margarita
A perfect margarita isn’t tough to mix. All you need are four simple elements and the right formula for combining them.
I’d imagine most of us have had at least one or two experiences under our belts that involve a bottle of bottom-shelf tequila, a plastic jug of margarita mix, a blender, and some quality remorse-filled hours spent simultaneously self-soothing/-loathing on a cool bathroom floor. Try to push those memories far from your mind.
A well-made margarita is a perfectly balanced, tart-sweet, refreshing, tequila-based cocktail that doesn’t taste a thing like regret. And the best part is, you most assuredly do not need to be some sort of mixologist to make this classic cocktail—and make it right. In fact, to make the perfect margarita, all you need are the following four things:
Two Parts Tequila
Obviously, tequila is important in this scenario. For a classic margarita, I prefer to go with silver tequila (you’ll also see this labeled as “white” or “blanco”). The main difference between silver and gold in terms of tequila is that gold has been aged, while silver has not. The cleaner flavor profile of the unaged silver does it for me in the context of such a simple cocktail, but if gold is your game, you gotta do you. If you’re not 100% sure, try making a margarita with each and see which suits you better… sometimes you have to down a few drinks in the name of living your truth.
Other important thing about the tequila: Whether you go silver or gold, it needs to be good-quality liquor. It’s not at all necessary to spring for the most expensive top-shelf bottle in the store, but using the $12 handle of tequila is a great way to ruin this simple sipper (and leave you with a headache tomorrow). My personal preference for a good balance of quality and budget consciousness is Tres Agaves brand. I’ve gone through my fair share of tequila tasting and frankly, for a super clean, clearly well-crafted tequila, you can’t beat this bottle’s price tag. Their blanco is perfect for a classic margarita and costs around $24 for a 750-ml bottle.
One Part Lime Juice
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For your perfect margarita, go with fresh limes, always. It’s worth the (admittedly minimal) effort. If you plan to make a few marks or make them regularly, take a few minutes to juice a handful of limes at once so that you have plenty to pour from. Be sure to run the lime juice through a fine mesh strainer before adding it to your cocktails to get any off-putting seed particles or pulp out.
One Part Sweet
WATCH: How to Make No-Cook Simple Syrup
You need something to balance out the lime’s tartness. You have a few options here—again, it’s just a matter of preference. A common choice for the sweet element is orange liqueur, something like Grand Marnier or Triple Sec. If you don’t like that added element of citrus, don’t want to add any more booze to your beverage, or straight-up don’t have orange liqueur stocked in your home bar, no worries. A quick simple syrup works great here, too. My tequila brand of choice also has an agave nectar that is lovely for balancing the lime juice in a classic margarita.
I like mine crushed. Whatever ice you prefer, fill a cocktail shaker with it, then add your tequila, lime juice, and something sweet—and shake, shake, shake it for 30 it 45 seconds. Strain into a glass with a few more ice cubes (salt the rim first if you like), and there you go… the perfect margarita.
Now, keep in mind, all of the information above assumes you’ll be mixing up one margarita at a time—which is typically how I prefer to do. That said, if you’re mixing cocktails up for a party scenario, making individual drinks isn’t the most practical tactic. And in those cases, I thoroughly enjoy throwing pretense and perfection to the wind, and whipping up some of our slushy and delicious Big Batch Margaritas for a practically instant way to please a thirsty crowd.