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3 ingredient classic margarita recipe

A simple, classic margarita recipe using only three ingredients: tequila, lime juice and Cointreau. This is a traditional margarita. It only takes 5 minutes to make and requires no special equipment. If you love a good margarita, this is for you.

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Classic margarita recipe on the rocks.

A traditional margarita is a strong cocktail. It bears little resemblance to the huge, overly sweet, slushy concoctions served at some restaurants. (not that those are bad, they just aren’t a traditional marg.)

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Classic margarita recipe

Below is everything you’ll need to make this cocktail. I love this rose gold bartender set and now I have a reason to actually use it.

Ingredients
  • Tequila – Silver or “blanco” tequila is best. It is not aged. Look for a clear bottle, instead of the añejo or aged varieties.
  • Cointreau – A brand of triple sec, it has a higher alcohol content than its less expensive counterparts.
  • Lime juice – Use fresh lime juice! Please avoid the bottled kind, it will not taste the same and you will be disappointed. A citrus juicer will make it easy, but you can also squeeze it with kitchen tongs (Pro Chef tip!).
Classic margarita recipe with lime slice.

What is the best tequila for margaritas?

I prefer a silver tequila for margaritas. That being said, use what you like. If you have an aged tequila and that is what you prefer, use it.

However, if you are fresh out and need to buy some specifically to make this classic margarita recipe, I’d go with an unaged tequila.

Simple margarita recipe with limes.

How to make it

First, we need to make that classic salted rim. You’ll want to use a lime wedge to wet the outside rim of the glass.

Wetting the rim of glass

If you cut the lime and run it around the entire edge of the glass, then dip it in salt, you’ll get salt in your drink. By only wetting the outside of the glass, the salt stays out of your cocktail.

Dipping rim in salt.

Then, dip the outside of the glass into a shallow dish filled with kosher salt. Set the glasses aside to let the salt rim dry as we make our classic margarita recipe.

Classic margarita with lime and orange slices.
  1. Add tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice to a cocktail shaker (or mason jar, or any clean empty jar) with ice.
  2. Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds until everything is chilled.
  3. Add ice to your prepared glasses. I like to use these large ice cubes as they don’t dilute the drink as quickly as regular ice cubes. Slide a lime wheel (and an orange if you like it) in the glass to make it pretty.
  4. Pour your chilled classic margarita evenly into two glasses.

This is our FAVORITE summer cocktail! So easy and so delicious!

– Charlie

Chef tips for success

Because this drink has only three ingredients, choose ingredients that you like, because you will taste each of them. Along those same lines, choose the best that your budget will allow for the same reason.

If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, don’t sweat it. Use a mason jar, or any clean, empty jar that you have – just make sure that it has a tight lid.

To sweeten your drink a bit, add a splash of fresh orange juice. It helps to make the drink a little less strong, which I often do. Then, place an orange wheel in the glass.

You can also add a splash of simple syrup to your drink to sweeten it. Check out my strawberry daiquiri recipe for directions on making it.

Simple margarita recipe with orange and lime.

Margarita Q & A

What is a classic margarita recipe made of?

Good quality tequila, triple sec / Cointreau & lime juice. That’s it.

Is triple sec necessary for margaritas?

Yes. You don’t have to buy Cointreau, which is a bit pricier than a regular bottle of triple sec, but you do need it.

Is Cointreau the same as triple sec?

Yes. Cointreau IS triple sec, just not the inexpensive kind. The alcohol content varies widely between the two, with Cointreau coming in at about 40%.

Make it a party

I love a good theme and if you are having a gathering, you’ll need some food!

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Yield: 2 drinks

Classic Margarita Recipe

margarita recipe

A simple, classic margarita recipe using only 3 ingredients: tequila, Cointreau and lime juice.

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. Blanco tequila (silver)
  • 2 oz. Cointreau / triple sec
  • 2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice (*save a lime to wet the rim of the glass after you've juiced it)
  • kosher salt
  • ice cubes

Instructions

    1. Fill a small saucer with kosher salt. 
    2. Run the lime around the outside edge of the glass, then dip in salt. Set aside.
    3. Combine tequila, Cointreau/triple sec, lime juice and ice in a cocktail shaker and shake (vigorously) for 10 seconds.
    4. Pour evenly into prepared glasses over ice.

    Notes

    Use the recipe as a guideline. For example, if you like more of one ingredient, and less of another, adjust to your tastes.

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    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    2

    Serving Size:

    1 drink

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 242Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 159mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 0g

    Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.

    Did you make this recipe?

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    Originally published 3/20/12, most recent update 4/25/22.

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