No one knows for sure who invented the Margarita, but the drink seems to have emerged in the early 20th century, possibly in the 1930s. Whoever invented it certainly deserves credit (and possibly even a statue or library built in their honor), but the formula itself is about as simple as it gets: tequila, lime, and sugar (in the form of triple sec). Hard to mess up, right?
Mostly right. There are, however, certain things you absolutely need and a couple of shortcuts you should definitely avoid. (We’re looking at you, store-bought lime juice.) To make top-tier Margaritas every time, use this handy checklist. It’ll help you pick the right tequila, choose the proper sweetener, and give your glass a salt rim without spilling tiny crystals all over your otherwise tidy kitchen.
Not sure how to make a Margarita? You can find our recipe right here.
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That One Thing You Definitely Need
Tequila is, obviously, the first thing you should pick up if you want to make a Margarita. Specifically, you want blanco tequila, which is the clear kind with the least amount of age on it. For something you maybe haven’t tried before, go for Mijenta. It’s a tequila with notes of honey and cantaloupe from a relatively new company with a sustainability-minded ethos, and it’s a favorite amongst our bartender friends. That said, you have plenty of other options. Just don’t buy something that isn’t made from 100% blue agave.
Traditionally, a Margarita is sweetened with triple sec — which is a fancy way of saying orange liqueur. Cointreau is the classic choice, but just about any orange liqueur (such as Combier or Pierre Ferrand) will do, as long as the bottle costs more than $15. (There’s a lot of low-quality triple sec that’s pretty much just alcoholic syrup, so beware anything that seems too cheap.) Oh, and if you want to make a Cadillac Margarita, grab some cognac-based Grand Marnier.
An Alternate Route
As we just mentioned, triple sec serves to sweeten a Margarita. Yes, it provides a bit of orange flavor as well — but mostly it’s just there to balance the tart lime juice. That’s why you can easily substitute for agave syrup (or even simple syrup, although that’ll give you a Tequila Gimlet). We like agave for several reasons: it’s easy, cheaper than triple sec, and made from the same plant as tequila. Also, it tastes really good in a Margarita, which is technically called a Tommy’s Margarita when you use agave. Give it a shot. You’ll like the results.
The Margarita Machine
Where do all of those ingredients go? Right here in this shaker. We prefer these two-piece Boston-style shakers for Margaritas because they typically have more capacity and are easier to clean at dinner parties. Plus, this gold-plated shaker will undoubtedly make your cocktails taste better. (Not really, but maybe.)
Some Glasses That Are Just Right
In truth, Bormioli Rocco’s Bodega Glasses work for just about anything. Water, for example, or even wine. But we especially like them for Margaritas because they have the ideal size (get the 12.5oz ones), their minimalist design lets the drink speak for itself, and they’re relatively lightweight. (For some reason, rimming heavy glasses with salt just doesn’t sound fun to us.) Pick up a set, and use these daily.
An On-Theme Cup
Fun, festive, on-theme — here’s an alternative glassware option for when you’d like to channel your inner poolside retiree. These glasses are also slightly larger than the Bormioli Rocco ones, in case you have a hefty pour.
The Optional One
Do you actually need a Margarita glass? No, not really. But Margarita glasses are fun, and they work well for Frozen Margaritas (more on those later).
Where To Keep Your Batch
You can score some easy extra credit as a host (and also save time in the kitchen) by making one big batch of Margaritas. All you need to do is multiply your recipe by however many drinks you want to make, shake your drinks in small batches (up to four in one shaker), then dump everything in a pitcher like this one. Don’t forget to add ice to your pitcher, and don’t worry about diluting your drinks too heavily. If you’ve made your Margaritas properly, they shouldn’t be sitting in the pitcher too long.
An Essential Accessory
A Margarita without a salt rim is sort of like a birthday cake without any candles. It’s still good, but, deep down, a part of you knows that something is missing. To help you remember your salt rims every time, get a dedicated set of plates. These 5.75" ones from Hasami Porcelain are the ideal scenario. Their size is spot-on, they have tall lips around their edges to prevent any salt spills, and they also look great and work for any small sides or condiments you want to throw on your dinner table. The rough clay texture is another selling point, and it’s something your guests will probably remark upon.
The Proper Salt
Speaking of salt, don’t just use your table salt or whatever you throw in your banana bread. You want something coarse and flaky, like Maldon sea salt. It’ll help you keep your drink from getting too salty, and the oversized crystals look much nicer than fine ones.
The Juicing Powerhouse
Fresh lime juice is key. Trust us on this one. Most of the packaged lime juice you find in groceries stores is barely reminiscent of the real thing, so do yourself a favor and get a juicer. For occasional Margarita drinkers, a hand juicer is perfectly fine, but here’s an upgrade pick. With this Cuisinart machine, you can squeeze a pint of lime juice in minutes. Also, your kitchen will smell like limes, which is a nice smell.
Don’t get lime juice all over your very nice (or moderately nice) shirt. Wear an apron, and work like a professional instead. This one comes in over 15 different colors.
Your Storage Solution
You’re going to need a container for your lime juice. Toss it into this 33.75oz glass bottle, and keep it in the fridge for up to three days. (You can also batch around eight Margaritas ahead of time and keep them in here for the same number of days.)
How To Make Your Big Cubes
Some people think big ice cubes are only for stirred drinks like Old Fashioneds and Negronis. The thing is, most cocktails benefit from a large piece of ice — which keeps your drink colder longer and prevent unnecessary dilution. We were skeptical of spherical molds at first, but the more we use these Tovolo ones, the more we’re willing to jump on board and spread the word. These are compact, easy-to-use, and they create big, attractive balls of ice. Just add water, put on the rubber cap, and stick your Tovolo mold in the freezer for a few hours. It makes for an immediate upgrade.
The Frozen Margarita Route
In case you forget, Frozen Margaritas are also a thing. The trick is: freeze all of your ingredients first, then throw everything in a blender. A Vitamix is a wonderful choice, but this Ninja blender is a good (and much cheaper) alternative. In terms of aesthetics, however, our pick is this retro SMEG option. Just look at it. We know you want to make a batch of Frozen Margs in here, and we’d appreciate it if you’d stop pretending otherwise.
A Nice Place To Sit
Ideally, you’ll enjoy your homemade Margarita on your porch, back patio, or lawn (if you live in a place where such things exist). But if you don’t have any dedicated patio furniture, there’s no need to drag your couch outside. Pick up a foldable chair such as this sling one with a mid-century design by TMSbyNight.