Here's How to Make the Best Margarita From Scratch

Ditch the mix and learn how to make a customizable margarita from scratch.

For tequila fans, it's hard to beat a well-crafted margarita on Cinco de Mayo or—let's face it—any hot summer day. Many of us start with a walk down the margarita-mix aisle at the grocery or liquor store, but tequila and a splash of neon-yellow sweetness do not a memorable margarita make.

Fortunately, margaritas are easy to make from scratch, whether it's for your signature cocktail for a summer party or just a table for two on your back deck. Despite shelves lined with name-brand mixes that claim, "Just add tequila!" you can do better with fresh ingredients you probably have in your fridge. Try this perfect margarita recipe (with a key secret ingredient) that will have your drink going from soso to fabuloso!

The Secret Is in the Juice

We'll just tell you upfront: The secret to a tasty margarita is freshly squeezed lime juice (not the bottled stuff) and—here's the real secret—a splash of fresh OJ. That's right. Fresh-squeezed juice from an actual orange (not an orange-flavored liqueur) will produce a cleaner-tasting, more refreshing margarita.

The dry, orange-flavored liqueur commonly used in margaritas, Triple Sec—you may know it by the brand name Cointreau—is made by macerating orange peels with sugar and alcohol. The problem is that using a sweetened liqueur like this to make your cocktail means you can't customize it to your liking (sweeter, for example, or boozier) because the orange flavor, sweetener, and alcohol come out of the same bottle.

Simple Margarita Recipe Without Triple Sec

What You Need:

  • Cocktail shaker, pitcher, or mason jar
  • Tequila
  • Fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Simple syrup or agave
  • Fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • Rocks glasses
  • Ice
  • Lime wedges
  • Coarse salt

Step 1: Start With Tequila and Lime Juice

Instead of using Triple Sec or similar liqueur, start your homemade margarita with a mixture of equal parts tequila and freshly squeezed lime juice, about 2 ounces each per serving.

Step 2: Add Sweetness

Start with just a tablespoon of sweetness per cocktail, keeping in mind that you can always add more, but you can't take it away. The sweetener can take the form of a simple syrup or agave, which works well because its neutral sweetness doesn't overpower the citrus and tequila flavors. (Agave is a great substitute for simple syrup in most recipes, not just cocktails.)

Step 3: Add OJ and Ice, and Shake

Add a splash (or two) of fresh orange juice and lots of ice, and then give it a big shake. If you didn't make yours in a cocktail shaker, that's OK—just give it a confident stir. Alternatively, shake your margarita in a mason jar (with a lid, of course).

Step 4: Customize

Here's where you make this margarita recipe your own. Taste your concoction and, if it's not sweet enough or not strong enough, adjust accordingly.

Step 4: Garnish

To finish, run a lime wedge along the rim of a rocks glass and dip in coarse salt, if that's your thing. Fill the glass with more ice—all the way to the top—and pour your perfect personalized margarita over the top. Serve with an extra lime wedge for squeezing.

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