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I know tequila fans like to have their say about what tequila is best for Margaritas. But as I’ve learned with just about everything, the buck stops here. Ok, just kidding. (Actually, I’m happy to let it stop somewhere else.) But I was having drinks made by a well-known bartender a while back and a few people pointed out online that I wasn’t drinking a Margarita, which was a surprise to me because that’s what the bartender told me it was. And one thing I’ve learned is never to argue with someone serving you drinks. Or food, for that matter.

I recently went to a tequila tasting of top-quality tequilas made by a Frenchman who told me of his uphill battle in France was convincing people that tequila could be a liquor worthy of serious consideration. Helping to overcome that image, I went to a tequila tasting at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Paris where there were many varieties of tequilas to taste and compare. Unfortunately, the downside of a tequila tasting is that you don’t remember what you had, especially when the tasting is followed by an open bar. But all the drinks were excellent – whatever you call them – and I’m more and more inclined to drink a little more tequila these days, especially in Margaritas.

As for mixing up Margaritas yourself, some like them up, others prefer them frozen or on the rocks. Salt or no salt? (I recently read that salt was initially used to “sanitize” the rim of the glass.) And, of course, what type of tequila to use is your choice. My only suggestion is that you whip up a batch of guacamole, open up a bag of chips, and start squeezing some limes. Then you can call yourself happy.

The Perfect Margarita

Adapted from Spirits of Latin America by Ivy Mix
I've recently revised my Margarita recipe after making this one, adapted from Ivy Mix, who is the owner of Leyenda cocktail bar in Brooklyn, which has just the right proportions for me. You’ll find lots of opinions about what tequila to use and if you can, you’ll be happily rewarded if you use a tequila that is 100% agave – I like blanco (white.) Mexican or golden limes have more flavor, and yield more juice, than rock-hard green limes. I chill glasses in advance, which helps the salt stick to the rim. You can also just swipe the rim with a cut lime then dip it in coarse salt.
Course Drinks
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword cocktail, spritz,, margarita
Servings 2 cocktails
  • 3 ounces tequila, (best to use one that is 100% agave)
  • 1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces Cointreau, or another triple sec
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • Kosher or flaky sea salt
  • Add the tequila, lime juice, triple sec, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker and fill two-thirds with ice. You can also mix them by hand in a large measuring cup or pitcher.
  • Put some salt on a plate and rub the rims of the cocktail glasses with a cut lime and dip it in the salt, so some of it clings to the rim.
  • Shake or stir the margarita ingredients vigorously until well-chilled, then divide the mixture into the salt-rimmed glasses.
  • Add ice, if desired.

Related Recipes and Links




Strawberry Vodka

All About Tequila (The Tequila Society)

Tequila: A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails, and Bites (Joanne Weir/Amazon)



    • Julia @ Julia Bailey Wine

    Amazing! Thanks for reminding me about the existence of a decent margarita.

    I have been tweeking my recipe for years but it always involves both triple sec and 100% agave blanco tequila (El Tesoro is my preferred brand). Yum!

    • Msmarmitelover

    Ah love this! My recent trip to Mexico/NewMexico I did some diligent Margarita research ( dirty job but someone’s gotta do it) and tasting several with different types of tequila side by side, it was remarkable what a difference a good quality tequila made to the final flavour. A good tequila added a smoky depth.
    Mine’s with salt on the rocks thanks…..

    • Katie

    Mango margaritas are my fave — I grew up in Texas and when I was a kid the rumor was the best tequila had a dead worm in the bottle :)

    • Lacey

    Opening a can of worms here, but…. What tequila would you suggest buying in Paris and where from? We brought our own Patron over duty-free but have run out and haven’t had much luck finding it here.

    • Katie

    I had to google the worm thing and found out there actually is a “worm”
    in some bottles of mescal, not tequilla. It is the larva of a moth that infests the blue agave plant that mescal is made from. “Some say that the worm is a marketing ploy. Others say it is there to prove that the mezcal is fit to drink, and still others say that the larva is there to impart flavor.”

    • Phil in France

    So I went with some coworkers to the Chipotle (yeah, yeah…) over on Republique, and we had margaritas. Neither of them actually knew what tequila was, and one of them, on tasting his margarita, was extremely surprised that the stuff around the rim was salt – he thought it was sugar. I dunno if this is a Paris-only thing for margaritas, but I will say that I have seen margaritas made in Paris with dyed (pink! baby blue!) sugar on the rim. I have no idea why they do that here, unless it’s to further the stereotype that a margarita is a froufrou girly party drink.

    • june2

    Just beware the dreaded “margarita dermatitis” caused by juicing limes in the sun! Just read about how it surges enough in summertime to actually have it’s own legitimate name.

    • Sissy

    In South Texas I’ve had fruit margaritas like strawberry or mango and they put sugar on the glass rim….

    • TomMeg

    I was skeptical when I saw the title of this post, thinking that your idea of a margarita might be too desserty for me, but the above recipe is exactly the kind of nice, austere, tequila-centric margarita I love.

    My ideal margarita should be an ice-free yet skull-chillingly cold tequila enhanced with some tart fruit flavor, not a fruity drink spiked with tequila.

    • Ada

    I like the fruity drink spiked with tequila!

    • Linda Townsend

    Hi David…This is the recipe that we sisters have developed over the years. The recipe makes a pitcher and we alway receive rave reviews on it. It is a hit at my “margaritas and carnitas” parties. Of course the fresh lime juice is a nonnegotiable… and these days I often at the juice of one fresh orange at the end. This recipe makes serving margaritas at your parties easy. I mix up the main batch in a pitcher, and then set up a bar with salt, fresh lime wedges and ice so my guest can be in charge of their own margaritas.

    • Emma

    Hi David, thanks for the Agave Week mention. :)

    My personal favourite for margaritas is the Fuerte from Don Fulano (50° proof!) but for sipping, I like the differences between the vintages of Ocho.

    The best place to buy these (plus many many more) in Paris is LMDW Fine Spirits shop in the 6th (Odéon.)

    • Judith Klinger

    What is a golden lime?
    Living in Italy where limes are few and far between, we do have a green lemon that turns sort of yellow when it’s been around for about a week. Is that a golden lime?

    Fooling around with the rim salt is fun. We’ve tried chili powder/sugar, hibiscus/salt, sugar/salt/dried orange peel. All fun…all reminding me I just miss limes.

    • Virginia

    Perfect recipe, only I substitute Cointreau for the triple sec.
    ~Virginia from Eugene

    • Carla West

    As the margarita was developed in Mexico in the 1940s, the liqueur of choice was Controy, which has been around since 1933. This liqueur is made in MX but can be found in the US, mostly in TX, AZ and CA. Those of us who go to MX always bring home a bottle (it costs about $8US there).

    Controy is nicely viscous and has a clean, one-note orange flavor and gives the margarita a subtle orange fragrance. It pares best with the acidity of the key limes (AKA Mexican limes), over french liqueurs, IMO.

    • Siobhan

    I lean more toward Cointreau than Triple Sec, but I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker either way. Cointreau’s certainly easier to find in France, although I did bring back a bottle of Triple Sec when I went to Portugal for the winter. (Yeah, I missed all that horrible rain, or at least the stuff that fell Jan-March.) Not partial to salt terribly, but my friends insist upon it. And although I like frozen, on the rocks is my preferred version. We love the Brazilian version of the magarita, the caipirinha, made with cachaca, which is distilled like tequila and rum. Yum!

    My friends’ faves when I make fruit margaritas? Melon margaritas using your melon sorbet recipe when they’re at their peak here in central France. They go down WAY too easily!

    • Fred Flintstone


    this is, by far, the best Margarita recipe I have tried – it is from Cook’s Illustrated.

    4 teaspoons grated zest plus ½ cup juice from 2 to 3 medium limes
    4 teaspoons grated zest plus ½ cup juice from 2 to 3 medium lemons
    ¼ cup superfine sugar
    Pinch salt
    2 cups crushed ice
    1 cup 100 percent agave tequila, preferably reposado
    1 cup Triple Sec

    Combine lime zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and salt in large liquid measuring cup; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors rneld, 4 to 24 hours.
    Divide 1 cup crushed ice between 4 or 6 Margarita or double old-fashioned glasses. Strain juice mixture into 1-quart pitcher or cocktail shaker. Add tequila, Triple Sec, and remaining crushed ice; stir or shake until thoroughly combined and chilled, 20 to 60 seconds. Strain into ice-filled glasses; serve immediately.

    • Adela

    As a Texan, I love a good margarita. I think blanco or reposado are great choices for tequila, and we have always used the big green limes (sometimes called “Persian Limes”). If the limes are hard or stringy, you can roll them with the palm of your hand on a counter top before cutting to release more juice. If the limes are not in season, or are very bitter, alternative choices are lemon juice or even lime juice with a splash of orange juice, both of which are common for margarita-making in New Mexico, where it is apparently difficult to get good-quality, fresh limes year-round.

    Personally, I love the proportions as follows, on the rocks, no salt:

    1.5 oz. tequila
    1 oz. Cointreau
    1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice

    • Catherine

    I agree with Fred Flintstone above… I’ve only been drinking the Cooks Illustrated margarita recipe for the last decade…no other recipe beats it, IMO. My tweaks… I allow the juice and zest to sit for day or two and use agave instead of sugar. The Cooks Illustrated article, if still online, offers interesting debate about merits of Triple Sec over Contreau.
    My favourite summer cocktail and a classic!

    • RavieNomNoms

    Who doesn’t love an ice cold margarita during the summer.

    • Jeannie Clark

    Now please do some similar research and tastings for Mojitos – I never seem to be able to reproduce the ones served in a cocktail bar.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Lacey: I agree with Emma, La Maison du Whisky (6 Carrefour de l’Odéon) is a pretty great place.

    Fred, Des, Linda: Thanks for the margarita tips/links. (Fred: That recipe seems like a lot of Triple Sec and citrus juice, although I supposed the lemon juice is milder than the lime juice. Would be interesting to give it a try – although hard to imagine waiting 4 to 24 hours!)

    Slobhan: I like the Triple Sec because it tames some of the acidity and tartness from the limes. I like tart and tangy things, but the Triple Sec seems to smooth it out.

    Carla: I remember Contoy and I think I bought it in Mexico when I used to go. Triple Sec is rather hard to find in France which is why I bought some in Lebanon. Now I’m wondering if the French Lillet would go well in a margarita?..

    Judith: Mexican limes are yellow-toned, like the ones in the photo. Those very green limes one sees in supermarkets are unripe limes that are gassed before they ripen so that they stay nice and dark green, but often yield little juice (or less than the riper ones) and the juice can be really tart (hence some recipes, like the one Fred posted, that has lemon juice in it.)

    • Jane Glaubman

    Lolz, in spite of the warning about everyone having an opinion – everyone posts their opinion! And I’ll join in. I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest in Mexican homes many times, and always margarita has meant the same thing: good white tequila in lime-ade. Never frozen, never salt (though usually served with salty snacks – e.g. chapulines), and never ever orange liqueur. I think two things are relevant about this experience:
    1) these were, by far, the best margaritas I’ve ever had
    2) I have never been able to reproduce them in the US

    The moral of the story, in my mind, is that you can’t make proper margaritas (or many other Mexican delicacies) without Mexican produce, especially limes. Mexican limes are almost completely different from American ones – you find slightly better ones in some Southern regions of the US, but I’ve never found limes that resemble the (tiny, juicy, flavorful) ones piled high in all markets and served at literally every meal in Mexico. I guess the salt and orange liqueur are meant to pick up the slack, but it’s just not the same drink – it’s like trying to make a gourmet French meal without French butter or bread or salt or cheese.

    FWIW, my friends’ tequila of preference, in Mexico, was El Jimador blanco, which for quite a while now has also been available in the US – an affordable version of all-agave, high-quality tequila.

    • JillyB

    David, you mention that triple sec can be hard to find in France, but Cointreau (made in Angers) is the original triple sec! If I remember correctly from my visit to the museum in Angers, other companies wanted to copy Cointreau’s success, but had to come up with another name, so they used triple sec. Margaritas made with Cointreau are quite delicious :)

    • Kristen Williams

    I have to agree with JillyB–Cointreau makes a wonderful margarita.

    • Cyndy

    I’m not a big fan or margaritas because they taste salty to me. Maybe I should try one with nothing on the rim.

    I did, however, appreciate the link to “him.” Wow. Some people get all the good looks!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    JillyB: Yes, you’re right – Cointreau is technically considered triple sec, although they distance themselves from that label. (The folks at Serious Eats did a good Field Guide to Orange Liqueur, that explains it better.)

    Cyndy: I know some bartenders are careful not to get salt on the inside of the rim because that can fall in the drink and make it taste too-salty. Some people also just rum half of the glass, which I like to do sometimes as well.

    • Barbara | Creative Culinary

    I’ve been making the recipe that Fred cited for years though here in the states Triple Sec generally means cheap flavored sugar water so I use Citronge or Cointreau. It can be hard to wait and I can’t say I always do!

    I also love a rim with a combination of sugar and salt; both ‘salt’ and ‘no salt’ folks like it too.

    I think the single most important ingredient though is the tequila; using a reposado was eye opening; not cheap and not expensive…just right!

    • Sabine

    Love that your margarita recipe isn’t cluttered with sweetness, which really distracts from the key flavors. I don’t do salt on my margaritas, but I do like a little heat. You’ve probably had a jillion infused tequilas, but for anyone who hasn’t, this grilled pineapple & chili-infused tequila is ridiculously fantastic. And the gravy comes once you’ve steeped the tequila and removed it from the fruit and peppers; you’re then left with pineapple and peppers bloated with tequila. If you press all of the tequila from the pineapple and peppers, you have this amazing nectar that I call sipping mash. I have teetotalers who ask to indulge in a bit of fruity, spicy sipping mash.

    • Amy

    My limes grown in LA are big and turn yellow, but they’re long gone by now (peak at around Christmas)… where to find the big juicy limes in summer ?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      If you live in Los Angeles, I am certain that with all those Mexican markets that are around, you could likely find some nice limes. Good luck!

    • ChefCitron

    Oh, David… If you only knew how much I could use an icy, cold Margarita right now! First of the month means data analysis A margarita would make this a LOT more fun! Bottoms up!

    • Marios @ Better with Lemon

    I always remember my favorite recipe as 3-2-1: 3 parts tequila, 2 parts fresh lime juice, 1 part Cointreau. I can make a single drink or a pitcher that way and it always comes out perfect.

    • Carla west

    For Amy re: limes in summer….go to any Mexican market. The key limes are brought up from MX where they are ripe year-round. While there, check out the big ears of mexican corn, roasted to make the corn mush in tamales…but that’s for another post:-)

    • Meg

    David, I am not generally a fan of devices that only do one task (and I know you are too), but I have to tell you that the lime squeezer my uncle sent from Mexico has transformed my life where limes are concerned. All the juice in one quick press – no mess, no seeds, amazing! I am hoping to visit said uncle this summer, and if I do will get an extra one. They are a bit like this one on Amazon (except that my sister says they cost about 24 cents in a Mexican market):

    • Shelly

    I agree with Marios. The perfect proportions are 3-2-1. The key is fresh lime juice.

    • Joan

    I love a real margarita with salt on the rocks.At home mine is just about like yours, David – with maybe a little Rose’s depending on the flavor of the limes.

    On the subject of fruit-based, margarita-like cocktail, I have to make a pitch for pomegranate. When you can get real, pure pomegranate juice (never use grenadine), introduce that to your best tequila and good lime juice. It’s perfect for indian summers between margarita season and martini season.

    Also, a sprinkle of chili powder in with the rim salt is not a bad thing.

    • BelleD

    I make margaritas the same way. I also like Triple Sec because the floral aroma complements the lime and tequila. Cointreau can be too overpowering as is Gran Marnier.

    • Angela

    I love a good margarita, I am presently in L.A. and you’ve reminded me that I haven’t had enough whilst I’ve been here….must rectify toute suite ….. a tout a l’heure….

    • Sabrina@loulousucre

    I love an original lime margarita. I always use Herradura anejo. The flavor is smoky and so tasty. My favorite margarita by far is an orange lime with lots of tequila. Every time I make these, everyone wants just one more.

    • june2

    @ Jane Glaubman, maybe try making mexican limeade with coconut sugar? Or does Mexico use regular processed white sugar?

    • Nikki

    Word on the street is that Paloma, Margarita’s cuter younger sister is the new Margarita and is on a trending list. I’ll take some tequila and some lime juice any day though.

    • Lee Blaylock

    as we say in Texas….
    1 tequila
    2 tequila
    3 tequila

    anywhere else, it is just an exotic drink, but in Texas a ‘rita is a state of mind and a way of life.

    • herkkusuun lautasella

    according to the international bartenders guild you can not make a margherita without the orange liqueur, being it either triple sec or grand marnier, but having lived in paris i know frenchmen or women for that matter are not to argue with about anything you digest, food or drink! and o would say you need something else and better than then couilles you mentioned, and i still don’t know what that would be.

    • naomi

    My husband and I search out margaritas, even (especially?) when we were on our evacu-vacation several years back from the Federal Flood here in New Orleans. The Ore House in Santa Fe had excellent ones but it looks like they may be gone. Here, one of our favorite chefs has opened another upscale Mexican restaurant, with his signature tequila cart. The tomato juice shooters are amazing, and of course, there are great margaritas. It’s rather funny to think of drinking margaritas in Paris, but in the summer heat, they are perfect. Now I just need to find a bottle of that Lebanese Triple Sec.

    • Bernadette

    There’s no joke in your comment David about tequila tasting and not remembering what you drank (though I did get a good laugh out of that). I swore the stuff off years ago but still enjoy your posts!

    • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats

    Went to a tequila tasting a while ago and had to keep chasing with water. I guess I love it in cocktails but by itself with no lime and salt? I just cannot :/

    • Bebe

    That is a real margarita. And they are served over ice, not blended to froth.

    The bar drinks with bottled “sweet and sour” mix and all that are just terrible imitations of the real deal.

    Thank you for making this clear in your recipe.

    • Bebe

    PS. It is absurd to use pricey premium tequila in a mixed drink, even a margarita.

    They started with the rougher, more ordinary stuff in Mexico. That is how they should remain.

    • Bebe

    The options are triple sec or cointreau. I cannot imagine grand marnier….

    • Bebe

    (Southern Californian here!)

    Mexican limes are small and turn yellow and juicy when ripe. Similar to Key limes.

    The larger dark green limes in the markets are Persian limes. They are not as juicy, but they are considered to be ripe when they are still green.

    I hope this helps.

    We have a good Mexican restaurant here. Curiously they use Persian limes in their margaritas. But out by their parking lot, they have a number of Mexican lime trees. I pick up all that I can (they drop when ripe) and have a nice supply in my crisper drawer.

    • Peggy

    I think I could survive on margaritas and guacamole and chips – easy to do here in San Diego. I love a margarita with the usual tequila, triple sec or other orange liqueur, and a 2:1 ratio of lime juice to lemon juice with a little simple syrup. Sometimes I add a splash of cara cara orange juice.

    • Bebe

    (Hello, Peggy, from a long time Point Loman who used to go to Tijuana for lunch with girlfriends! I had a huge Fuerte avocado tree in my walled backyard. Guacamole by the gallon!)

    • latafiolesucree

    interesting article from seriouseats on flavor profile of citrus juices and the science behind it.

    “Lime and Lemon juice: aged for 4 to 10 hours is best. Juice aged four hours did seem to taste more mellow while the top notes seemed to pop a little more. After 10 hours of storage, the juices seemed to lose some of their aroma, and after a day of storage bitterness became noticeable and unpleasant.”

    • Ben Warner

    Faithfully follow your blog. It’s amazing! I’m from Austin, TX. Tequila is our obsessive liquor and seems to be misunderstood in so many places. So many bad margaritas out there with terrible corn syrup mixers and poorly made with hangover inducing catastrophes. Totally unnecessary. Good tequila in moderation never bothers me as long as iIt’s delicious and the good stuff should be 100% blue agave and taste like the terroir it’s from: earthy, green, and complicated. I prefer blanco tequila for a margarita. Reposado ones should be sipped liked Scotch whiskey. My favorite reposado is Chinaco which is not from Jalisco, but just amazing. Beautiful, beautiful, sipped neat or with a little chill or ice. Espolon Blanco is a perfect tequila for margaritas. Cheap, puro, nice agave taste, and delicious. Not bad for sipping, either. I like big margaritas in a pint glass so here is my recipe:

    1. Chill a pint glass with ice and water.
    2. In a cocktail shaker mix 3 oz of fresh lime juice (preferably from key or Mexican limes) with 1 1/2 oz of Cointreau, 3 oz of Espolon tequila, and 1 1/2 tsp of agave nectar.
    3. Pour out the chilled glass. Rub lime on rim and salt with Maldon salt or kosher salt.
    3. Add ice to the top of shaker and shake for 30 seconds.
    4. Strain into salted glass, add lime wedge or wheel.

    This is a big drink, but just delicious. Some times I shake a little raw jalapeno with it for fun. Get some Chinaco Reposado to sip with a sangrita shot. It’s amazing! La Condesa in Austin replaces the Cointreau with Damiana liquor which is amazing stuff. Sort of a Mexican pineapple flavor with a very subtle anise flavor. Amazing! Damiana is believed to be an aphrodisiac and comes in a buxomy bottle. Salut!

    • Ben Warner

    Forgot to say I pour some of the ice from the shaker into the glass. Margaritas should always icy and very cold.

    • Germaine

    Well I do have to comment on this one being from southern Arizona very close to the Mexican border. The best margarita I have ever had was in Nogales,Mexico at La Roca restaurant. It was refreshing, no hint of sweetness (that can cause you that headache the next day if you have too many) and perfect for a hot summer day. No need for any triple sec. The secret is Controy.


    Use your favorite tequila, fresh lime juice & controy (no triple sec). Controy is a mexican orange liquor similar to cointreau but not as sweet.

    • Explody Full

    I recently learned that in Mexico only women drink margaritas, generally tequila is sipped instead of taken as a shot and margaritas were invented as a milder way for woman to to enjoy tequila.

    All I know is margaritas are delicious!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    The tequila is made in Mexico.

    The Mexican limes I was referring to are shown here.

    • Stacey in New Mexico

    A Margarita in Paris? quelle bueno! You must TRY a “Grand Gold Margarita” at least once! Substitute triple sec for Grand Marnier! It really is very good. It is very popular in New Mexico and when made with a good quality Tequila…… Luxurious!

    • Cassandra

    I was wondering wether the Mexican Cultural Institute tequila tasting is an reoccurring event.

    P.S. I just happened to fall on your blog via “Paris by Mouth” and let me say, I am already salivating and taking note!

    • Seren

    Thanks David! Just made these and they were just right, definitely my new go-to margarita recipe :)

    • Seren

    Great recipe with simple, clean, refreshing flavors :) Thanks David!

    • Laura Lee

    I quit drinking tequila drinks for many years after too many headaches. BUT recently I found my love for this drink again, with the addtion of really good tequila, agave and orange liquor. I use: 1/2 fresh lime-juiced, 1 oz of 1800 silver, 1/2 oz of orange liquor, 1/2 oz of agave, 1/2 packet of stevia, 1 oz of fresh orange juice–put in shaker and shake until your hand is frosty… dress the rim of a glass with a mixture of pink sea salt and spanish paprika — oh heavens…. smokey, salty, sweet and sour… extremely tasty and VERY addictive.
    I am in love with tequila again. Laura


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