Here's a classic margarita recipe that lets all of the natural flavors shine through: tequila, lime juice, and agave.
If there is one thing to say about a margarita, it’s that you can’t make just one; the citrusy, tequila-based drink is not designed for solitude. Many a football-watching party on February 3rd will have margaritas made by the pitcher, alongside the requisite guacamole. And they will be welcomed–there is no better spread for spectator sports.
Though they seem made for each other, the drink came to be long before the Super Bowl. Rumor has it that an enlightened bartender mixed up the first margarita in Rosarita Beach, Mexico, for a showgirl named Marjorie King who was allergic to all liquor except tequila. “Margarita” is the Spanish equivalent of Marjorie. Whether or not liquor allergies like Marjorie's exist remains to be seen, but until we manage to get drinks named after ourselves, we’re drinking to her.
Know Your Tequila
• There are five types of tequila: blanco (white), joven (gold), reposado (rested), añejo (aged) and extra añejo (ultra aged). To really savor tequila’s signature flavor, choose one that is made with 100 percent agave sugars, versus Mixto versions, which only require 51 percent agave.
• We like our margaritas with a smooth, tasty reposado (lightly aged), such as Cazadores Reposado.
• Freshly concocted tequilas like blanco (white, unaged) and joven (or gold, usually a white with coloring and spices added) pack a punch but can be a bit harsh.
• Añejo (aged) and extra añejo (ultra aged) exhibit much more complexity and depth. They are best sipped neat. —Erika Kotite
Test Kitchen Notes
Ah, margaritas. You know them, you love them. The classic cocktail of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice—with plenty of salt around the glass’s rim—is sip-able year-round, but there’s nothing like a margarita on a sticky summer evening, preferably drunk outside.
Let’s talk through the details: The International Bartenders’ Association’s Official list of Cocktails says the standard ratios for a margarita is 10:4:3 (tequila: triple sec: fresh lime juice); here, we’re following 8:4:4:1 (tequila: triple sec: fresh lime juice: agave syrup). So let’s break it down. A margarita must have tequila, specifically white, or blanco, a smooth, clear tequila; or with reposado tequila, which is aged and slightly oakier in flavor and golden in color. Next up, liqueur. Triple sec, an orange-flavored liqueur, one of the most common brands of which is Cointreau, (called for in this recipe) adds sweetness and a subtle floral aroma. Next, lime: Because it’s such a central part of the drink’s ethos, the lime juice in a margarita should always be freshly-squeezed as opposed to bottled (there’s really no contest when it comes to flavor). The IBA doesn’t recommend a sweetener, as triple sec is quite sweet, but you’ll find many margaritas, including this one, suggest at least half an ounce of agave or simple syrup.
Some prefer margaritas frozen, which simply means blended; this version is on the rocks, so you avoid the brain-freeze, but on absolutely sweltering days, sometimes there’s nothing like a frozen drink. Just toss everything in the blender and give your cocktail a quick blitz. The salt rimmed glass, however, is non-negotiable. —The Editors
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Serves 2
fresh-squeezed lime juice (plus spent lime rind)
Coarse sea salt
Additional lime wedges, for garnish
- Mix the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and agave syrup in a shaker or large measuring cup filled partway with ice and stir or shake until it's thoroughly chilled.
- Spread salt on a plate. Rub the rims of two rocks glasses with the spent lime. Turn glasses upside down in the salt.
- Fill glasses with ice and pour in the margarita mixture. Garnish each margarita with a lime wedge.
- To make a frozen margarita: Fill a blender with a few handfuls of ice, then add the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and agave syrup. Blend until the mixture is slushy (add more ice if you want it more slushy!), then pour into the salt-rimmed glasses and garnish with a lime wedge.
- To make a fruity frozen margarita: Place 1/2 cup of your favorite frozen fruit (we like strawberry, mango, pineapple, and watermelon) and a handful of ice in a blender. Add the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and agave syrup, and blend until the mixture is slushy (add more fruit if you want to amp up the flavor or make the drink colder!), then pour into the salt-rimmed glasses and garnish with a lime wedge.