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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.

margarita on the rocks in a glass with a salt rim and a lime wheel
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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.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients for a margarita on the rocks
  • You’ll start with a top-shelf 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. If you’d like to learn more, you can check out this post.
  • Cointreau is a 40% ABV orange liqueur made from a secret formula containing sugar beet and dried orange peel. It has been produced in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou, France since 1875. It’s a component of many well-known cocktails and is also popular by itself as both aperitif and digestif.
  • There’s no substitute for freshly squeezed lime juice, which adds brightness and balance to this cocktail. You’ll also use a lime wheel to garnish.
  • To balance the acidity of the lime, you’ll use either simple syrup or agave — whichever you prefer. Learn all you need to know about simple syrup here.
  • Kosher salt has a good consistency for creating a salt rim. You don’t need anything fancy.

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.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a perfect margarita on the rocks. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. Rim the glass with salt per the instructions above.
  2. Juice those limes.
  3. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour in the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup or agave. Shake well until very cold.
  4. Strain into the prepared glass and garnish with a lime wheel. That’s it!

Expert tips and FAQs

What’s the best blanco tequila for a margarita?

I tend to stock Casa Dragones, and that’s what I 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.

What is 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. (Learn more here.)

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.

Can I batch this cocktail for a party?

Definitely. Up to three hours before serving, pour into a pitcher: 2 cups tequila, 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, 1/2 cup Cointreau, 1/2 cup simple syrup or agave, and 1/2 cup water. Give it a stir and pop it into the fridge until serving time. Shortly before serving, rim glasses with salt, add ice directly to glasses, and garnish with lime wheels. Makes eight drinks.

More favorite cocktails with these ingredients

margarita on the rocks in a glass with a salt rim and a lime wheel

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margarita on the rocks in a glass with a salt rim and a lime wheel
4.67 from 9 votes

Margarita on the Rocks

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This 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: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 1
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Ingredients 

  • Lime wedge
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) top-shelf blanco tequila
  • 1 ounce (30 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ ounce (15 ml) Cointreau
  • ½ ounce (15 ml) simple syrup or agave
  • Lime wheel to garnish

Instructions 

  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • Place some ice into the glass and set aside.
  • Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
  • Pour in tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup or agave.
  • Shake well until very cold and then strain into the glass.
  • Garnish with the lime wheel and serve.

Notes

  1. If you like, you can batch this cocktail for a party. To make eight drinks: Up to three hours before serving, pour into a pitcher: 2 cups tequila, 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, 1/2 cup Cointreau, 1/2 cup simple syrup or agave, and 1/2 cup water. Give it a stir and pop it into the fridge until serving time. Shortly before serving, rim glasses with salt, add ice directly to glasses, and garnish with lime wheels.

Nutrition

Calories: 200kcal

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Cocktails
Cuisine: Mexican
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.67 from 9 votes (9 ratings without comment)

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