How to Make a Margarita on the Rocks

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Knowing how to make an amazing margarita on the rocks is a borderline essential life skill, don’t you think? Here’s exactly what you’ll need and what to do. Catch all our cocktail recipes here.

How to Make a Margarita on the Rocks | Umami Girl 780

Why we love this recipe

A solidly constructed margarita on the rocks, well-balanced and made with top-shelf ingredients, is an institution. It’s a thing every cocktail lover should know how to make.

Just like we’ve done with the daiquiri, Americans have ruined the margarita in SO many ways over the years that it’s not even worth enumerating. But to adopt a rocks-glass-half-full mentality, that makes it all the more satisfying to get back to the basics.

How to make a salt rim for a margarita

First things first: make a good salt rim. You’ll need:

  • A rocks glass (a.k.a. an old fashioned glass or a lowball glass)
  • A wedge of lime with a notch cut into the middle
  • A small plate
  • Kosher salt

Once you’ve gathered your materials, here’s all you need to do. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.

  • Fit the notched lime wedge onto the rim of the glass and generously rub it all around the perimeter to wet the top of the glass.
  • Pour some salt onto the plate.
  • Roll the outside face of the glass into the salt so that the salt sticks to the lime juice. You don’t want to put the glass down with its top perpendicular to the plate, because if salt sticks to the inside of the rim it will fall into the drink and make the drink itself salty. Salting only the outside of the glass lets you choose when you want a little burst of salinity.
rimming a rocks glass with a lime wedge and salt

Ingredients for a really good margarita on the rocks

  • Top-shelf blanco tequila. We’re using Casa Dragones here.
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Cointreau
  • Simple syrup or agave
  • A nice thick lime wheel to garnish
making a margarita by adding ice, tequila lime juice cointreau and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker

How to make a margarita on the rocks

Here’s all you need to do. You can watch all the steps in the video if you like.

  • Rim the glass with salt per the instructions above.
  • Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
  • Pour in the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup or agave.
  • Shake well until very cold and strain into the prepared glass.
  • Garnish with a lime wheel and serve!

Blanco tequila

Maybe more than any other spirit, tequila means many things to many people. There are three basic styles, one very different from the next. All real tequila is made from 100% blue agave. Blanco tequila, a clear spirit, is bottled right after distillation or held in stainless steel tanks for up to four weeks. It retains the flavors and intensity of agave. Learn more about tequila and nab another great blanco tequila cocktail in our post about The Dreamcatcher.

What’s the best blanco tequila for a margarita on the rocks?

We tend to stock Casa Dragones, and that’s what we used to make this cocktail. This top-shelf tequila is about as smooth, sweet and herbaceous as a mid-priced blanco could be. For a mid-shelf, somewhat more affordable option, Don Julio would also be a good choice.

Cointreau

Cointreau is a beautifully balanced, versatile, and very likable orange liqueur with 40% ABV. Since 1875, it’s been made from a secret formula containing sugar beet and dried orange peel in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou, France. It’s popular by itself as both aperitif and digestif and is a component of many well-known cocktails. Learn more about Cointreau and get another great classic cocktail recipe in our post about the Corpse Reviver No. 2.

The history of the margarita

Like most classic cocktails, the margarita has a slightly murky history. The predominant story is that Carlos “Danny” Herrera, the proprietor of a Tijuana-area restaurant called Rancho la Gloria, invented it around 1938 for an aspiring actress named Marjorie King who was allergic to all hard alcohol except tequila. She was a picky drinker, too, so he added the lime and salt to make it taste better. (source)

I gotta say, the more experience I have as a woman sliding into middle age, the more I believe a story about a lady who’s allergic to everything but tequila and just plain likes what she likes.

a margarita on the rocks glass garnished with a slice of lime on a blue wood background, with a plate and a lime wedge blurred in the background

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Margarita on the Rocks

Our just-right version of a margarita on the rocks uses top-shelf ingredients and strikes the perfect balance of sour, sweet, salty, citrusy, and boozy.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Serves 1

Ingredients

  • Lime wedge
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 ounces top-shelf blanco tequila
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup or agave
  • Lime wheel to garnish

Directions

  1. First, make a salt rim for your glass. Cut a notch in the middle of the lime wedge (see video for visual cues) and run it generously around the rim of a rocks glass to wet it.
  2. Pour kosher salt onto a small plate and roll the outside of the glass in it so that it sticks to the lime juice. (Don't place the top of the glass perpendicular to the plate, because salt on the inside of the rim will inevitably fall into the glass and make the drink itself salty.)
  3. Place some ice into the glass and set aside.
  4. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
  5. Pour in tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup or agave.
  6. Shake well until very cold and then strain into the glass.
  7. Garnish with the lime wheel and serve.

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Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 200

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