The BEST Fresh Margarita Cocktail
Making The BEST Fresh Margarita Cocktail is simple. It requires good tequila, fresh citrus juices and real orange liqueur. Simple and perfect!
There was a time when I would only drink (and serve) margaritas in the summer. That pretty much still holds true except for this blood orange margarita that I’ll start craving right after the holidays, when blood oranges come on the market. Beyond that fantastic cocktail, there is just something about them that screams summer to me.
And this cocktail is the one that started it all. The Margarita love. Which over time became The Cocktail love. This is THE cocktail that friends used to clamor for and certainly expected to see on the table during summer get to-gethers in my back yard. I say margaritas and the friends and neighbors in the know will flock to my home like birds heading South for the winter.
I always try to serve some food too but I know the draw and this cocktail is it. What better cocktail to celebrate today on National Tequila Day then right? I’ve actually got a lot to celebrate. New blog design, new business cards and especially meaningful on this day with my favorite cocktail…four years of Friday Cocktails. That’s right…over 200 cocktails and counting!
If the success of my idea to blog regularly about cocktails is measured at all by how many other bloggers have followed suit than I will say it’s been VERY successful; everyone is now drinking! Now that my main blog design is completed; I can finally move forward with my cocktail blog; here’s hoping I have it done before this time next year right?
What makes this drink so special? It’s the attention to detail; from the type of tequila to the quality of ingredients and ending with the preparation. It’s not something you can throw together at a moment’s notice (though I do have a quick version) but the wait is worthwhile, trust me.
Letting the different flavors meld together from the juices and zest infuses this cocktail with a bright citrus punch.
The longer the zest and juice mixture is allowed to steep, the more developed the citrus flavors are in the finished margarita. If I’m planning ahead for company, I will let the citrus mixture steep overnight.
The longer the better but trust me I’ve been lucky on occasion to get to 4 hours and because I know even that can be hard sometimes I’ve offered up a quick version too. Just try to give it as much time as you can.
Two of the most important elements that make this what I consider the best are the quality of the tequila and the orange liqueur. I’m not recommending the finest sipping tequila, that would be a waste when mixing a margarita, but I do recommend stepping it up a notch from the cheapest available and try something with more quality.
Equally important is the orange liqueur. So many folks reach for Triple Sec; it’s certainly the cheapest. However, with that price is this reality; it’s sugar water with artificial flavors. Spend a few more dollars on an orange liqueur which will have the actual essence of orange in it and this cocktail will benefit greatly.
I’ve used Cointreau, Patron’s Citronge and Grand Marnier but my current favorite is a lesser know (and less expensive brand) called Harlequin; supposed imported from France but it’s bottled in the US. It’s not as good a sipping liqueur as Grand Marnier but for a mixed cocktail; I’m fine with it. Just don’t get sugar water and you’ll be good to go!
Somewhere along the way I started to experiment with citrus elements and I’ve found I like a blend; some lime, some lemon and even some orange. Use these fresh ingredients instead of a margarita mix and you will NEVER go back…I’m willing to bet you a cocktail on that!
I first put this cocktail on my blog in 2008, so many years ago that I think my daughter might have been my only reader. If I recall I was first inspired by a recipe in an issue of Cooks Illustrated and I wanted to try their version; combining lemons and limes instead of just lime juice. It was perfect, so much attention to detail and it was evident.
Over the years I decided to punch up the orange just a tiny bit with some orange juice and zest and it’s been a good addition.
Other than that? It’s the rim. So many people would say ‘hold the salt’ when I was ready to serve them and it turns out it wasn’t a dietary restriction at all, they simply did not like that bite of salt. So I tried something new and now it’s all I use for margaritas.
It’s simple too. Just blend half salt with half sugar (I might also add some lime zest occasionally). All of those ‘no salt’ naysayers have been won over and now if I could just start a campaign to get restaurants to follow suit! I’ll use Kosher salt and love to mix it with Cake Decorating Sugars; the big grains are nice; a better match to the Kosher salt.
We like to have a Mexican fiesta of our own each summer and beyond these being the star; I also serve my favorite corn salsa with chips, a simple guacamole I love and a dinner of fajitas for family and friends. One year I put together a compilation of some great Mexican foods for a Cinco de Mayo party and that list is still a good one today.
Someone the other day mentioned that there is no way anyone should label a recipe as ‘The Best’ because it’s so subjective. I get that but in this case? I’ve heard it over and over and over and OVER and feel there is truth to my claim.
Great fresh ingredients with a bit of aging thrown in? How could it not be? Try one; you’ll see and then let me know if you don’t agree that this is truly The BEST Fresh Margarita!
More of My Favorite Margaritas!
PIN IT! ‘The BEST Fresh Margarita’
The BEST Fresh Margarita Cocktail
- 4 teaspoons grated lime zest
- ½ cup lime juice from 2 to 3 medium limes
- 4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- ½ cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 medium lemons
- 1 tsp grated orange zest
- 2-4 Tbsps orange juice juice from 1 small orange
- ¼ cup sugar
- pinch table salt
- 3 cups ice
- 1 cup 100 percent agave tequila Blanco or Reposado
- 1 cup orange liqueur
- Lime sugar and kosher salt for rimming
- Lime wedges for garnish
- Combine the lime, lemon and orange juices with the zest from all three with the sugar, and salt in a large liquid measuring cup; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors meld, 4 to 24 hours.
- When ready to serve, rim the edges of margarita or double old-fashioned glasses with a lime slice and dip in a combination of equal parts sugar and kosher salt and fill the glasses with ice.
- Pour juice mixture into a pitcher with remaining ice. Add tequila and orange liqueur; stir until thoroughly chilled.
- Strain into ice-filled glasses, garnish with a lime wedge and serve immediately.
- In a hurry? Skip the zest, combine all the ingredients and serve immediately. I try to give it at least the four hours but in a pinch? This is still very good!
- In an even BIGGER hurry? Use limeade and lemonade; substituting approximately 1/2 cup of each (not diluted) for the lemon juice, lime juice and sugar. It will be sweeter but it's the price you pay for waiting.
- For a Girls Nite Out we’ll add some Pomegranate Liqueur instead of the orange liquor for a girly pink version!
Can you freeze the zest and juice mix?
I have not done that Beth but I see no reason why not; if I needed it done early or wanted it ready in the freeze I surely would. If you want it to not freeze solid, add some of the tequila; the alcohol will prohibit them from freezing hard as a rock!
I’d like your margarita recipes with a few less ads running all over your website. Really annoying.
I guess it’s the price readers have to pay George for me to do all of this work and pay for photo equipment, products, web hosting and software required to run this business. I keep my recipes free and you have to suffer with a couple of ads; seems a fair trade to me!
Have you ever tried this as an individual serving? If so do you know what the measurements would be? I just made the Lime, Lemon, and Orange mix I have it chilling I am excited to try it!
Patty I am so sorry I missed this comment at the time…but still the answer is no, I’ve always made it for a crowd. I imagine I could try to breakdown the ratios but instead how about if I suggest another great margarita that is measured for a single serving? The Casamigos Margarita on my site is also wonderful; I suggest you try it too!
Where did you get the glasses with the wicker on the stem
I have to have them
Can’t wait to try your recipes
Oh Gina I’ve had them for so long I don’t remember; even if I guessed Crate & Barrel or Pier One; the two most likely spots, it’s been at least ten years or more. I don’t blame you though…they have been a favorite all these years, even if I have to hand wash them! 🙂
I was excited about this recipe. Followed it exactly, even when I had my reservations about the amount of orange liqueur. It was too sweet and syrupy for my taste 🙁
I’ve never had someone else think that Victoria but also know we all have different tastes. What kind of orange liqueur did you use? I know that some bottles labeled simply as Triple Sec contain more sugar than those of real orange liqueur. If that’s not the case, then I would simply suggest if you try it again that you cut back a bit on the liqueur until you find the ratio that works best for you…Barb
Do you strain out the zest? This looks amazing. I can’t wait to make it for my husband.
No, the zest stays in the cocktail; at least when I make them. If you think you would prefer it without, go ahead and strain it. Either way is fine.
Margaritas are my favorite! Thank you for sharing this – can’t wait to try it now!
I promise you, they are so good. A bit of effort but worth every single moment…enjoy!
May I double ( or triple!) the recipe, or do you recommend making separate batches? Thanks in advance.
No problem doubling or tripling; just make sure you have a container large enough! Cheers!
Didn’t know today was National Tequila Day! By pure chance we’re having Mexican tonight, and were planning to do margaritas. So we’re stylin’ for a change. 😉 You’re so right that you gotta do fresh, particularly with the citrus, for cocktails. I really do need to try this recipe — you do good stuff, and if you say this is the best, well, it’s the best!
I saw a cocktail featured on a brand site and the photo of the products they used to make it were in one photo including a plastic squeeze bottle of lemon juice. NO…say it ain’t so. What is so hard about squeezing some lemon juice right?
Well if not for tonight then do make them and let me know what you think. I love, love, love them!
I followed the directions exactly and the result was outstanding! It made the best margarita I ever tasted, and my travels have been far and wide for the last 30-odd years. Thank you for sharing the recipe!
YAY YAY YAY…love comments like this; makes this effort all the more worthwhile (and I agree with you; it is simply the best!).
I think I may have died and gone to heaven… I’m saving this for my next girls night!
It is simply the best margarita I’ve ever had…it’s sort of what started my journey into making cocktails but it’s never forgotten!
R these very strong?
Like any mixed drink there is a fair amount of alcohol by volume if that’s what you are asking.
When I see this it makes me want to sit out on the porch and sip it while reading a nice book.
First you read and then you nap. I typically make my cocktails over the weekend or at least on Thursday night so I can enjoy at least one of them. Crazy week and had to make this first thing Friday morning. First…I could have downed it as my breakfast beverage but knew better so waited til all of 3pm. Why did I not think I would be done for the day? Yes, without friends here, a nap was calling loudly! Enjoy and Cheers!
A GOOD marg isn’t tough, but you totally need to pay attention to detail and use good quality! And this Barb is a GOOD marg! I love the Pomegranate Liqueur suggestion to make it pink, how fun!
Isn’t that the truth. EVERY time I see a recipe that calls for Triple Sec I want to scream…NO!! But I would be hoarse with that effort so I just keep sort of quiet and make sure I take care of my own. 🙂
If it weren’t so far of a trip I’d be heading over for one of these…..I know I invited myself. I couldn’t help it….I do dishes 🙂
Anytime…we’ll make do even if I don’t have advance notice!
This looks really good, I’m starting to get thirsty.
Ah, I just need a porch swing and that bowl of salsa and chips. Sounds and looks cool, refreshing and citrussy sweet. You’ll make me a drinking – or a sipping – woman yet. And I always learn something with every one of your cocktail posts (I never paid attention to anything drink related before). I love your Cocktail Fridays!
If you were here I most certainly would. I’ve said it before; I’m not a big drinker; one cocktail, at MOST two and always with friends…but I do love them and I do love making them too and glad you stop by and at least enjoy the effort. That matters to me; having one with you would be even better!
I am such a novice to making cocktails..your in depth description sure helps! 🙂
Can I pretend I don’t believe you just to get this cocktail out of it? 😉
Definitely quality ingredients going into this. Love reposado; so smooth!
I’m not a julep kinda of a girl but I will take a margarita any day. Yours looks fabulous. Love the citrus element. A pitcher would have been just perfect on this hot Saturday (and it’s not even summer yet;)
It was perfect last week; today? Not so much. 40 degrees and rainy. I’m all for the rainy we needed some moisture SO bad. The cold? Not so much.
Okay….next time you make a drink I need to be over so I can enjoy it 🙂 this looks so GOOD!!!!!
Here’s the deal. You give me the word and I’ll have them made. It’s that simple. 🙂
Sounds incredible Barb. Happy Cinco de Mayo!! 🙂 p.s. – I’d rather drink a margi over a julep any old day.
Me too…but I do love to watch the Derby; always so relieved when it’s over too and no horses were injured; I worry about that too much probably but they are such gorgeous creatures and I just cry when one gets hurt.
Um, would you consider moving to Wyoming and be my neighbor? I need one or two of these in my life!
Better if you take a road trip and scoot down here; I’ll have a pitcher waiting. 🙂
Love the addition of the Citronge, that does sound like a perfect margarita! Hugs, Terra
So good it was all I could do to not down it after a morning shoot…my friend was thinking I could call it a Margarita Mimosa and get away with it but I decided better. I know how potent these are!
You know so much about the art of mixing a cocktail, I learned a lot from this post and plan on making the margarita after I get proper tequila and dump my triple sec. I do have Grand Marnier though. This drink sounds perfectly balanced, fresh and delicious.
Gosh Suzanne, thank you. If sharing what I love is what I do here…the very most I can ever expect is having someone enjoy that effort. Dumping the triple sec is a good idea…the difference in the quality of taste is pretty remarkable and makes a big difference!
Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have one of these right now!!! I love the citrus blend as well Barb but I’ve never steeped it with the simple syrup before so I have got to try it!!! Would love to share a pitcher of these with you!!
I would love to share a half a pitcher with you…I know how potent these pups are! I only started adding some OJ last summer…what took me so long? I keep it minimal to not overpower the lime and lemon juices but it makes them even better than they were before and I thought that impossible. Time to catch up soon? XO
I must say, this looks just lovely and very tempting. When the weather warms up, my first thoughts turn to gin as I had a nasty brush with tequila in my late teens. But this looks divine – we’ll share one some day, Barb!
I’m betting it was probably rot gut tequila because well, you mention being in your teens! Would love to share a cocktail one day; I’ll even make you a drink with gin, promise!
I vaguely remember you telling me about this margarita. I think Brian would do just about anything if I whipped him up one of these…maybe even empty the dishwasher. Another great cocktail, Barb!
OK, then you must do it…but you must also hold out for something more than emptying of the dishwasher! And thanks Jamie…this is truly my all time favorite. I came ‘this’ close to having it for breakfast…you know, it does have some OJ in it, right? 🙂
Beautiful photos of a delicious drink. I’m going to have to try these. Maybe we can convince you to make these for our next meet up. I mean even though it is in the morning they do have OJ in them. We could just call them Mexican mimosas.
I went out for dinner last night…guess when I did this drink? This morning! Once done I took a sip and believe me, it was ALL I could do to not just finish it off. I held off til 3pm under the auspices of ‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ and them wanted a nap. Good thing I’ve never done the three martini lunch; I would be good for nothing afterwards!
You really have the best cocktails 🙂 I’ll be dropping by the state store to pick up this tequila – your recipes have never steered me wrong and I’m sure this tequila will run circles around what’s already in my liquor cabinet 🙂
Thank you Aly; I love making them and sharing them so REALLY love someone enjoying them! It’s not super pricey but I think head and shoulders above something like Cuervo Gold. Let me know if you make it and Cheers!
GULP!!!! I want I want I want!! I will drive all the way down for this! 🙂
We have to plan a Girls Nite Out in June on my patio…there WILL be margaritas, promise.
This looks so refreshing and I’m sure it goes down really smooth! Perhaps this summer will be the summer that I have my first margarita!
You MUST try it. Too often restaurants make them too strong, homemade are often made with a bottled mix and they just don’t compare. A smooth tequila and some great components and it’s refreshing with just a bite. I think perfect.