A Classic Margarita Recipe. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Classic Margarita Recipe – How to Make the Quintessential Mexican Cocktail

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A classic Margarita recipe should be one of the first classic cocktail recipes a cocktail lover learns to make, especially if they’re a fan of all things Mexican, as we have long been. Popular around the globe, we learnt this classic Margarita recipe on our first trip to Mexico and still make it, wherever we are in the world.

It’s late Saturday afternoon and it’s nearing cocktail time, which today is Margarita time, seeing Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday has just ended.

The Margarita must be the most quintessential and most popular of cocktails in Mexico. And Mexicans, especially young Mexicans, appeared to drink them as much as the gringos did on our last trip to Mexico.

Come sunset, whether in our apartment rental in Mexico City or our cute casita in San Miguel de Allende, Lara would reach for the tequila, Triple Sec and limes and mix us some classic Margaritas.

If, like most travellers to Mexico, once back home you find yourself nostalgic for those evenings sipping Margaritas overlooking the Zocalo, try this classic Margarita recipe that Lara used to make during our time in Mexico.

A Classic Margarita Recipe

This classic Margarita recipe is a breeze to make and is best accompanied by a bowl of freshly made guacamole and tortilla chips. But first a little of the back story…

The History of the Classic Margarita Cocktail

The history of the Margarita cocktail is as blurred as the vision of someone who has lost count of the number of cocktails they consumed.

It’s accepted that the Margarita was invented in Mexico in the late 1930s, although there are countless tales as to whom concocted the class Margarita recipe and when and where.

One of the most accepted theories is that of tequila brand Jose Cuervo, which claims the cocktail was created in 1938 by a bartender who was smitten by a Mexican showgirl called Rita de la Rosa. A few years later Jose Cuervo ran an ad with the slogan “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name”.

It’s generally believed that the classic Margarita recipe evolved from the original Daisy, a refreshing old cocktail (said to date back to the late nineteenth century) with a base spirit (typically Brandy), lime juice, orange liqueur, and sugar syrup, with a fresh fruit garnish.

With the Margarita, tequila became the base spirit and Triple Sec or Cointreau replaced the orange liqueur. Firming up the theory that the drink was inspired by The Daisy is that in Spanish ‘daisy’ (as in the daisy flour) translates to ‘margarita’.

Like another cocktail that’s been around for a while bartenders have long ‘experimented’ with the original recipe. However most of the ‘experimentation’ has been focused on how to make the drink in as large a batch as possible. Hence the ‘slush puppy‘ technique which saves on shaking time by, well, not having to shake the cocktail at all.

The other best-known ‘innovation’ has been the ‘Margarita mix’, which generally tastes awful and artificial. If you must use a Margarita Mix, go for something organic like the Tres Agaves Margarita Mix or this handcrafted, small batch Margarita Vintage Original Cocktail Mixer by Powell & Mahoney, which they claim is made with all natural ingredients to the original 1937 recipe.

And don’t get me started on the ‘Margarita mix flavours‘, such as strawberry, lime, mango, and pineapple. While Lara has a soft spot for the pineapple Margarita at Marum here in Siem Reap, I’m of the thinking that if you’re bored with the classic margarita recipe, make something else.

Tips on Making the Classic Margarita Recipe

Firstly, it’s important to use a dedicated Margarita glass or Champagne coupe if you can. Part of the fun of sipping a Margarita is getting some salt in every mouthful, which won’t happen in a tall glass.

A classic Margarita recipe requires only a rub of fresh lime on the rim before dipping it into quality salt. But of course these days you can also find infused salts for sale, such as this Infused Margarita Lime Salt, supposedly made from the finest sea salts and real fruit.

After rubbing a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass, we just turn it upside down and dip the rim into a saucer of salt, however, if you’re making picnic Margaritas, pack this cool all-in-one ‘glass rimmer and reamer‘ for juicing your limes and dipping the rim of your Margarita glass into the juice. If you are going on a picnic, Lara takes these plastic re-usable Margarita ‘glasses’.

Finally, not all tequila is created equal. You need one that’s made from 100 percent agave with no added sugars or grain alcohols, which are labelled as ‘mixto’. It’s akin to homemade vodka, but with bigger hangovers.

The 100 percent agave tequilas have five designations, three of which are best-suited for margaritas. Blanco (silver), is not aged so is not very smooth, so if you like real alcoholic punch with your cocktails, this is your best bet. Smoother is reposado, which is aged for at least a couple of months. The final tequila that’s great for margaritas is Joven (gold), the smoothest choice. The final two types of 100 percent agave tequilas are Añejo (aged for between one and three years) and Extra Añejo (aged for at least three years in barrels), both of which are like a fine whiskey and are best sipped solo.

A Classic Margarita Recipe

A Classic Margarita Recipe. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

A Classic Margarita Recipe

AuthorLara Dunston
The margarita is easily the most popular cocktail in Mexico and Mexicans, especially young Mexicans, drink them as much as the gringos do.
Prep Time 7 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Mexican
Servings made with recipe1
Calories 160 kcal


  • 2 parts Tequila
  • 1 part Triple Sec - or Cointreau
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • lime wedges


  • Fill the glass with ice to chill it.
  • When it’s cold, put the ice into a cocktail shaker.
  • Run a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and then dip it into a bed of salt to coat the rim.
  • Add the Triple Sec (or Cointreau), tequila, then the lime juice to the shaker.
  • Shake for 30 seconds and strain into the glass.
  • If you want to be fancy you could place a slice of lime on the rim of the glass.


Serving: 1gCalories: 160kcalCarbohydrates: 43gSodium: 35mgSugar: 43g

Originally published in September 2010, during our stay in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this post has been reformatted, updated and republished in November 2017.

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Terence Carter is an editorial food and travel photographer and infrequent travel writer with a love of photographing people, places and plates of food. After living in the Middle East for a dozen years, he settled in South-East Asia a dozen years ago with his wife, travel and food writer and sometime magazine editor Lara Dunston.

2 thoughts on “Classic Margarita Recipe – How to Make the Quintessential Mexican Cocktail”

  1. Like all your Mexican recipes this was ace also. We made jugs of margaritas for the family last night as well as all your Mexican recipes. No doubt you’ve seen the comments! First time we all got together since isolation and this was a perfect way to start the party.5 stars

  2. Thanks, Trevor! We have seen all the comments and I’ve responded to them and we are thrilled, thank you. Really appreciate you taking the time and so chuffed to hear everything worked out for you. These margaritas are perfect for kicking off a party! Again, thanks so much for dropping by!

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