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. Perfect. 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. 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!
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!
PIN ‘The BEST Fresh Margarita’
- 4 teaspoons grated lime zest
- 1/2 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 medium limes
- 4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 medium lemons
- 1 tsp grated orange zest
- 2-4 Tbsps orange juice (juice from 1 small orange)
- 1/4 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!