The Best Margarita You’ll Ever Have

New York has been HOT this week. Like humid, sticky, 99-degrees-but-feels-hotter hot. And when you need a break after a long day, the best thing to do is…have a margarita. Happily, the lovely Kate from the whole foods blog Cookie + Kate shares her favorite recipe below…

The Best Margarita You’ll Ever Have
By Kate of Cookie + Kate

In a past life, I bartended at a college bar and mixed countless margaritas for students during my shifts. Truth be told, we used a powdered sweet-and-sour mix that was no better than lemon-lime Kool-Aid. A few too many sips of those sugary margaritas practically guaranteed a stomachache and, thanks to the cheap tequila, a headache to match.

Real margaritas are a very different story.

Made with freshly squeezed lime juice and 100% agave tequila, margaritas are naturally sweet and sour, strong little drinks. I used agave nectar, which is a natural sweetener derived from the same plant as tequila, in place of the standard simple syrup for this recipe.

After playing with the proportions of basic margarita ingredients on my own, I invited my friend Emily over to help me finalize the recipe. We experimented with different amounts, and eventually we tried leaving the Cointreau out entirely and replaced it with fresh squeezed orange juice. After my first sip, I smiled and cheered that we’d found it. I passed the winning cocktail to her, and we agreed that we’d finally found the best margarita we’d ever had. We mixed up a couple more (for good measure!) and then rode our bicycles to the nearest available swimming pool.

Recipe: The Best Margarita You’ll Ever Have

You’ll need:
Kosher salt or ground sea salt
2 ounces (1/4 cup) tequila
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) fresh lime juice
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon light agave nectar
1 lime wedge or round, for garnish

Pour a layer of salt onto a small plate (preferably one just slightly larger than the top of your margarita glass). Slice off a small piece of lime and run the wet edge of the slice along half of the rim of your glass. Dip the top of the glass into the salt at a 45-degree angle and roll it from side to side to catch the salt. Add ice cubes to your glass and set it aside.

Fill a small cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the tequila, freshly squeezed lime and orange juice and agave nectar. Put on the lid and shake for 30 seconds. Strain the liquid into your glass and garnish with a slice of lime.

-Use 100% agave tequila labeled white, silver or blanco. I recommend Milagro, Hornitos or Patrón.
-Citrus at room temperature is easier to juice than cold citrus, so take your limes and oranges out of the fridge an hour in advance.
-Consider lining the rim of just half your glass with salt so you can control how much salt you taste with each sip (that’s a great tip I picked up from a recent issue of Bon Appetit). If you’d prefer a light sprinkling of salt all around the rim, just pour a very thin layer of salt onto your plate and run the lime slice around the entire rim of the margarita glass.

(Keep in mind that since the fruit contributes liquid and sweetness, you might want to reduce the amount of orange juice and/or agave nectar in the original recipe):
* Muddle a few pieces of juicy fruit like strawberries, peaches, watermelon or mango at the bottom of your shaker before adding ice and the other ingredients. You can muddle up fresh herbs, like a couple of basil or cilantro leaves, for garden-fresh flavor or add a skinny slice of serrano or jalapeño pepper for heat. Strawberry basil (not shown) and grapefruit serrano (shown in the photo below, on the left) are both great combinations.
* Add a splash of fruit juice to your shaker. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is one of my favorites because it cuts through the flavor of the tequila. Pomegranate or cranberry juice would be festive during the holidays.
* For a frozen, fruity margarita, blend the basic margarita ingredients in a blender along with 1/2 cup frozen fruit (blueberries are my favorite, shown in the photo below, on the right) and a few ice cubes. Serve over a couple of ice cubes to slow the melting.
Have fun with your rim salt. Mix in raw sugar or spices, like ground cinnamon or chili powder, to add an extra layer of complexity to your drink.

Thank you, Kate! These look truly amazing.

P.S. More best recipes, including mac n’ cheese and avocado toast.

(Photos by Kate from Cookie + Kate. Thanks to Shoko for help with this series.)

  1. Jo says...

    I am thrilled to find this recipe! A favorite restaurant of mine serves the” Skinny Margarita “ . I love them. We will make them at home, regularly.

  2. Claire says...

    Anyway to make a batch of these at one time ?

  3. John says...

    i wonder about your salt on the rim of the glass. Perhaps this is a leftover habit from your student bartending days when you used cheap tequila and a powder mix, and you needed the salt to hide the taste of that cheap junk. With your upscale ingredients, have you tried skipping the salt?

  4. Rebecca Pickrel says...

    I spent a lot of time googling “best” margaritas and your recipe has now become my absolute favorite. Just wanted to say it’s still going strong :).

  5. John says...

    Was absolutely great! Follow d recipe to the letter. Thought that the Orange juice would be skimpy it it was perfect.

  6. If I want to replace the agave nectar for simple syrup, how much should I use? Thanks

  7. Oliver Gilbert says...

    This is a great recipe, I added goji berry juice to mine, it made it a little sweeter.

  8. This looks so refreshing and healthy drink. I really like the idea of adding blueberries to the margarita! I am really fond of fresh juices. Thanks for the nice recipe.
    Goji berry juice

  9. Thank you for the information. Now i know how to choose the right desired ingredients in making this.

  10. I want to try this at home with my friends .I’m sure they like to drink .. hahahaha:)christian women

  11. I love doing new things. And I think having this kind of cocktail is my latest things done.

  12. Oh yum! I’m going to make these tonight along with the Sweet Corn Salad Wraps she posted this week.

    And thank you so much for introducing us to her blog. It’s fabulous, even for us meat eaters!

  13. Thank you again, Joanna, for the opportunity to be featured on your blog! Couldn’t be more delighted. Last night, to celebrate, I made these margaritas for a couple of girlfriends. I’m happy to report that they declared them “the best margaritas ever!” :)

  14. Anonymous says...

    Mmmm… love margaritas. Happy summer!

  15. Oh my. This is exactly what I needed to read on this 90+ degree (and humid as can be) day in Providence! Trying my first really high quality margarita was an eye-opening experience, and I’d love to be able to recreate it at home. Definitely giving Kate’s recipe a whirl this weekend!

  16. Yum! Totally making these. It’s hot and humid here in Minnesota!!!

  17. Just discovered your blog and I love it!
    I’m your newest follower – would love for you to check my blog out as well : ) xo

  18. This looks like my kind of margarita! Definitely going to try substituting the cointreau for orange juice.

  19. Mmm, Kathryn knows her margs and love her ideas on adding some heat to the drink to beat the heat. Thanks for featuring one of my favorite food bloggers!

  20. I make my margaritas the same exact way minus the orange juice… but I will definitely be trying this next time!

  21. Meg says...

    Try watermelon margaritas! I blended a few chunks of watermelon, a few ice cubs, tequila, a few squeezes of lime juice, and a teaspoon of sugar – SO refreshing! As we finished off the watermelon, we decided to make some with the leftover watermelon salsa I had made – which added cilantro, jalapeno, and cucumber flavors, SO tasty~!

  22. oh wow. my mouth is watering just from reading this! i’m a huge margarita lover, so i will favorites this for a festive weekend, thanks!

    and i dont think the weather here in israel could get any hotter, you step outside and you melt!

    fly far blog

  23. i’m from sc so it takes a lot for me to complain and heat and mugginess, but ohhhh my. nyc is killing me this week. i’ve been living on watermelon :) these look good, too!

  24. Aria Cole Asher says...

    This sounds delicious and refreshing! I can typically only drink a few margaritas because of the sweetness, but this recipe might give me the ability to have a few more. Thanks!

  25. This looks DELICIOUS! Thank you for sharing!

  26. Oooh! These will be a great variation from the sangria I can’t stop drinking! ;) Yum!

  27. Always love photos and recipes from the lovely Cookie + Kate. And these drinks look divine! I’ll be trying the strawberry-basil very soon!

  28. I’ve used a similar margarita recipe for years, and I can attest to the fabulousness of the final product.

  29. I so needed this recipe last night. I look forward to trying it tonight though. I’m happy it’s summer and I have the ingredients on hand.

  30. YUM! Totally agreed, noting is more refreshing, or better far adding a little spice to you afternoon/ evening, than the perfect margarita.

  31. Margaritas are my absolute favorite! My finance and I make a similar concoction to this one, but without the orange–we’ll definitely be adding it into our next drink! CHEERS! ;D

  32. love milagro tequila! will need to try out the blueberry and the grapefruit serano versions this weekend! thank you!

  33. Intrigue, I can’t wait to try these! I was raised on my Mom’s margaritas, which are 2 parts tequila, 1 part triple sec, 1 part lime juice with a splash of Rose’s lime juice. Rimmed in salt and with a lime, of course. I’ve never been able to stomach restaurant margs … I’ll have to give these a try, though.

  34. A-mazing! Doing this for a bbq supper tomorrow :D

  35. Man, pregnancy is a real drag when a post like this sparks a MEGA-craving for a margarita! Maybe I’ll try a virgin version tonight… and tuck the recipe away to enjoy a real one in a few months :)

  36. Man, pregnancy is a real drag when a post like this sparks a MEGA-craving for a margarita! Maybe I’ll try a virgin version tonight… and tuck the recipe away to enjoy a real one in a few months :)

  37. This is pretty much exactly how my dad makes a margarita (his go-to drink these days): just good tequila + fresh squeezed lime + agave syrup (+ ice and salt). Simplicity at its best.

  38. KJ says...

    The blueberry one sounds delicious… I’ve never thought of a blueberry margarita. I better try this soon :)

  39. KJ says...

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. Can’t wait to try the blueberry one!! Just thinking about it makes me a bit cooler.

  41. I think today’s weather says “feels like 109.” Looks like my kind of way to keep cool. I love the idea of adding blueberries to the margarita!

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. I love Kate! She has the best recipes and photos. I wish I could have one of these right now…

  44. So funny you posted this, as I was just getting ready to make a jalapeno simple syrup for spicy margaritas (for a Food Swap I’m going to tonight). I’m also making a rosemary simple syrup for this gin cocktail that I LOVE.

    Like all of Kate’s recipes, this one looks especially delicious!