Classic Margarita Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Cocktail

Discover how to craft the perfect classic margarita, an iconic cocktail celebrated globally for its refreshing, citrus-infused taste, spotlighting the authentic essence of Mexican tequila. This easy-to-follow recipe doesn’t require lavish ingredients or lengthy preparation—just a zest for mixing and a generous serving of limes. Perfect for enhancing your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, dive into this timeless beverage that seamlessly combines simplicity with sophistication.

Margarita ingredients | Image: Menu Acapulco
Margarita ingredients | Image: Menu Acapulco

Margarita Ingredients

If you’ve found yourself wondering how to make a margarita, the easiest way the overcome the obstacle is to think about the basics. While store-bought margarita mixes are a handy and super-easy way to make the iconic cocktail, nothing compares to the real thing. Margarita ingredients are simple to find and more often than not, you’ll find them at the back of the liquor cabinet, along with a few novelty shot glasses, party hats and swizzle sticks that haven’t been touched since your 21st birthday. Here are the essential margarita ingredients;

  • 2 parts Tequila
  • 1 part triple sec liqueur
  • 1 part lime juice
  • Salt
  • Cubed ice

While not as simple as the old fashioned or a gin & tonic, the margarita is still a fairly easy-to-organise cocktail that only requires a few basic ingredients. Where the flavour will come out is in your choice of tequila and triple sec. A spicy tequila will cut through the acidity of the lime juice, whereas a smoother tequila will need to be weighed with the salt. It’s a delicate balancing act that you will need to traverse.

Bartender making a Margarita | Image: Rachel Claire/Pexels
Bartender making a Margarita | Image: Rachel Claire/Pexels

Margarita Recipe

Now, on to the real thing. Once you’ve gathered your ingredients and got your equipment sorted, you’re ready to get stuck into the margarita recipe. The recipe that we are using in this special Cinco de Mayo feature is the one put forward by the International Bartenders Association. This recipe is the go-to method for how to make a margarita cocktail. Even better, it’s super simple and easy to make. Here is the method for making the perfect margarita cocktail;

  1. Fill your Margarita glass with ice (to chill)
  2. Combine 2 part tequila with 1 part triple sec and 1 part lime juice in a shaker.
  3. Add lots of ice
  4. Shake hard for 30 seconds to chill the liquid effectively
  5. Run a lime wedge around the outside of the rim of your glass
  6. Roll the rim in salt
  7. Using your strainer, double-strain the mix into the glass
  8. Garnish with a lime wedge and serve immediately

There you have it, the ultimate margarita recipe. Now you know how to make a Margarita that will not only impress the ladies but celebrate Mexican culture at the same time. The biggest thing you need to worry about is finding a tequila that won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

Classic Margarita | Image: Brian Jones/Unsplash
Classic Margarita | Image: Brian Jones/Unsplash

Where Does the Margarita Drink Come From?

Mexican culture is traditionally vibrant and colourful and it’s little wonder our preferred Mexican cocktail shares a similar set of characteristics. A favourite of the holiday-maker and party-goer alike, the margarita is arguably the most common and well-loved tequila cocktail in the world. So, how did the margarita become Mexico’s most celebrated drink?

Jerry Thomas' The Bartenders Guide or How To Mix Drinks: The Bon-Vivant's Companion | Image: Amazon
Jerry Thomas’ The Bartenders Guide or How To Mix Drinks: The Bon-Vivant’s Companion | Image: Amazon

History of the Margarita

The legend of the margarita cocktail is one steeped in rich history and shrouded in mystery. According to cocktail historian (yes, that is a thing) David Wondrich, the Margarita is merely an adaptation of the popular American cocktail the Daisy. The brandy-based cocktail first gained popularity in the late 19th Century, with the earliest known recipe published in the second edition of Jerry Thomas’ The Bartenders Guide or How To Mix Drinks: The Bon-Vivant’s Companion way back in 1876.

Thomas wrote that the Daisy was to be made with a few dashes of gum syrup, Curacao liqueur, lemon juice, brandy and Jamaica rum. However, while the Daisy certainly had some flavour similarities to what we now know as the margarita, it wouldn’t be until 1938 that we saw the classic cocktail take shape.

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'Esquire' December 1953 | Image: Esquire
‘Esquire’ December 1953 | Image: Esquire

The most famous story of the margarita’s inception involved popular restaurant owner Carlos “Denny” Herrera. In 1938, Herrera allegedly created the archetypal margarita at his Rancho La Gloria restaurant, for customer and former Broadway dancer Majorie King, who was famously allergic to many spirits, but not tequila.

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Other stories involve Dallas socialite Margarita Sames, singer Peggy Lee and the legendary Balinese Room in Texas, but there is little to substantiate these claims. All we know is that the Margarita cocktail first appeared by name in popular culture in the December 1953 issue of Esquire. Other publications had referenced a tequila Daisy but Esquire was the first to pen the Margarita name. If ever there was a shred of doubt that the Margarita was indeed a derivative of the Daisy, one needs only look at the translation. Margarita is Spanish for Daisy.

Things to Consider for the Margarita Cocktail

When it comes to making a classic margarita at home, it’s not just as straightforward as slapping some ingredients in a shaker. To get the most out of your concoction, here’s waht you need to consider.

Tequilas | Image: Dan Murphy's
Our choices for best tequilas to use for a Margarita | Image: Dan Murphy’s

What is the Best Tequila For a Margarita Cocktail?

Whatever your budget, flavour preference or profile, there will be a tequila for you. The perfect Margarita hinges directly on the tequila you chose for the base, so this is a significant decision. Here, we’ve put together seven of the best tequilas for Margaritas for a choose your own Cinco de Mayo adventure.

Cocktail Kit | Image: Myer
Cocktail Kit | Image: Myer

Margarita Equipment

To make the perfect margarita cocktail, you will need a few things in your bartending arsenal. While not entirely essential, these tools of the trade will make the job of creating the colour cocktail far easier, and make you look like you know what you’re doing simultaneously. Here is what you need to make a Margarita;

Margarita FAQs

Can you make a Margarita without Triple Sec?

Yes. You can substitute Triple Sec for unsweetened orange juice concentrate, however, it has less intensity than the liqueur.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated in parts of Mexico and the United States in honour of a military victory in 1862 over the French forces of Napoleon III.

Where was the Margarita invented?

One of the earliest stories of the Margarita suggests it was invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria.

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Nick Hall

Nick Hall

Nick Hall is an award-winning journalist and the current Editor-in-Chief of Man of Many. With an extensive background in the media industry, he specialises in feature writing, lifestyle and entertainment content. Nick is the reigning Mumbrella Publish Awards ‘Editor of the Year’ and B&T ‘Best of the Best - Journalist’, courtesy of his work with Man of Many.

Prior to working at the men’s lifestyle publication, Nick spent two years as a journalist with Inside Franchise Business, focusing on small business, finance and legal reporting.