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How To Make the Perfect Margarita

The summer cruising season is here. Is your margarita game shipshape?

The basic margarita recipe is pretty simple, but unfortunately over the years the recipe has been corrupted. Order a margarita at your local watering hole, and you’ll usually receive one of two tragic variations of the popular libation from the border—one involves a heaping dose of some sugary artificial mixer that makes your tongue shrivel up and die; the other demands a dozen ingredients requiring a basket of fruit, a fully stocked bar and sometimes even a live cactus. Both, in my opinion, are borderline cocktail abuse.

My wife and I love a good summertime margarita, especially after a long, hot day on the water, so a few years ago we started mixing our own. The result was something in between—not too sugary, not too complicated. It served a need but never quite whisked us off to Mexico, until the day my wife proudly strolled into the kitchen with a bag of limes from our local Costco and said, “Honey, we’ve been doing it all wrong.”

She had picked up a few tips from a local tequila expert, and since then, we’ve never had to endure a bottle of heartburn-inducing artificial sour mix again.

The key is to keep it simple. When you’re working with high-quality tequila and fresh limes, you really don’t need much else to make a legit margarita. Sure, extra garnishes and syrups add a punch of flavor, but they detract from the inherent freshness of this particular drink. For the ultimate classic margarita, all you need are five simple ingredients: tequila, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, orange juice and an orange-flavored liqueur. Make sure to use fresh limes. And swap the simple syrup with the more authentic agave nectar. I recommend Tres Agaves for the galley, because it is “cocktail-ready,” which means it has already been diluted with water. (If you go with pure agave, use only half the amount noted below.) Either way, the end result is a brilliant, fresh cocktail that beats any dockside bar offering.


3 oz. Patrón Silver tequila

1 oz. Patrón Citrónge orange liqueur

2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

1 ½ oz. Tres Agaves organic agave nectar

½ oz. orange juice

Shake with ice, then serve over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge. And that’s it! Just be warned: Once you’ve savored a genuine fresh margarita, that artificially flavored swill might never taste the same again.  

5 Ways to Ruin a Margarita 

1. Cheap Tequila. The drink requires a good quality, 100 percent agave tequila.

2. Poor Technique. Always shake to chill, dilute and aerate properly. You want that beautiful froth.

3. Artificial Mixers. Chemically laden mixers be damned!

4. ‘Plastic’ Limes. We all see them in the produce section. Don’t be lazy. There’s no substitute for freshly squeezed limes. Period.

5. Not Enough Ice. Don’t skimp on the ice. It’s supposed to be refreshing, after all.