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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.

I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.

You may also be interested in my fresh strawberry daiquiri and my Bloody Mary recipes. For ease of browsing, you can find all of my drink recipes in one place.

Classic margarita in clear glasses with blue and white background.

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Why you should make this recipe

  • Quick & Easy – You need 5 minutes to make this classic margarita recipe.
  • 3 ingredients – All you need to make this tasty cocktail is tequila, lime juice and Cointreau.
  • Perfect for gatherings – You can easily double or triple the recipe to make a pitcher drink for a larger gathering.
Classic margarita recipe with Cointreau and tequila.

Classic margarita recipe

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.)

This recipe is the perfect cocktail to make at home because it requires very little effort, only 5 minutes and uses 3 ingredients. It can also be scaled up to serve more people as a pitcher drink, which makes it a great party cocktail.


Ingredients for classic margarita on table.
  • 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.

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 rim of glass with lime wedge.

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 of glass into a shallow bowl of 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.

  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
Classic margarita recipe with lime and orange wheels in salted glass.

Classic margarita recipe FAQ’s

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.

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.

Classic margarita in glass with salted rim and lime wheels.

Variations and substitutions

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. Combine 1 – 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup water and simmer until sugar has dissolved. The less sugar, the thinner and less sweet it will be.

Muddle your favorite summer berries in the cocktail shaker before adding alcohol. Shake, then strain for a berry variation on this classic margarita recipe.

Helpful tools and equipment

  • I love this rose gold bartender set and now I have a reason to actually use it.
  • A citrus juicer will make it easy, but you can also squeeze limes with sturdy kitchen tongs (Pro Chef tip!).
Margaritas with wheels of oranges and limes with whole limes in the background.

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.

Margaritas in glasses with lime wheels and ice.

Serving suggestions

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

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margarita recipe

Classic Margarita Recipe

Cheryl Bennett
A simple, classic margarita recipe using only 3 ingredients: tequila, Cointreau and lime juice.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 2 drinks
Calories 212 kcal


  • 3 oz. Blanco tequila silver // 85mL
  • 2 oz. Cointreau / triple sec // 57mL
  • 2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice *save a lime to wet the rim of the glass after you’ve juiced it // 57mL
  • Kosher salt
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime and orange wheels for garnish if desired


  • Fill a small saucer with kosher salt.  (I use Diamond Crystal – it is light and flaky salt)
  • Run the lime around the outside edge of the glass, then dip in salt. Set aside. (I don't dip the rim, I only salt the OUTSIDE of the salt to avoid salt falling into the drink).
  • Combine tequila, Cointreau/triple sec, lime juice and ice in a cocktail shaker and shake (vigorously) for 10 seconds.
  • Pour evenly into prepared glasses over ice. (1 large cube will melt slower, preventing your drink from getting watered down)
  • Garnish with wheels of lime and orange, if desired.


Use the recipe as a guideline. For example, if you like more of one ingredient, and less of another, adjust to your tastes.
You can easily muddle your favorite fruit into the cocktail shaker and strain to make variations of this classic margarita recipe. Berries like blackberries and blueberries work really well.
To make this a pitcher drink: You can make this cocktail ahead of time by combining 1 1/2 cups tequila, 1 cup Cointreau and 1 cup lime juice in a pitcher and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 8.


Serving: 1drinkCalories: 212kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 1gSodium: 160mgFiber: 3gSugar: 19g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a delicious day 🙂


Questions? Send me an email, I’m happy to help. I’d love to send you weekly tips and recipes, so you can get updates about what’s happening in the kitchen!

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Originally published 3/20/12.


5 from 5 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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