Skinny Margaritas

Skinny Margarita

Margaritas. I have conflicting feelings about them. On one hand, the mere thought of sipping on a margarita made with the standard supbar restaurant’s powdered sweet-and-sour mix gives me a stomachache. On the other, the idea of a naturally sweetened, fresh margarita made with real lime juice makes me want to clap my hands and jump up and down. Truly, they are two entirely different animals.

salt the rim

When Shoko asked me to contribute to A Cup of Jo’s “The Best ____ You’ll Ever Have” series, I decided to try my hand at perfecting the real deal margaritas that I so enjoy. I took this task very seriously, of course. Copious amounts of tequila were consumed in my quest to create a margarita recipe that stands up to the audacious title of “The Best Margarita You’ll Ever Have.”

margarita ingredients

After narrowing down the proportions of lime to tequila to sweetener, I invited my friend Emily over to help me finalize the margarita recipe. She happily obliged. We played around with the ingredients, made a big mess, sampled a lot of margaritas, got tipsy and, finally, landed on the perfect margarita.

The secret to the perfect margarita, we discovered, is to skip Cointreau/orange liqueur altogether and replace it with freshly squeezed orange juice. The difference is remarkable.

Fresh lime margaritas recipe -

On Wednesday, to celebrate, I made these margaritas for my friends Alissa and Jordan. I poured the margaritas into their glasses and awaited their reactions. Their eyes lit up on first sip, and each proclaimed, “No really, this is the best margarita I’ve ever had!” It was just what I wanted to hear.

I really couldn’t be more delighted to be featured on A Cup of Jo, one of my all-time favorite lifestyle/design blogs. Joanna and Shoko, thank you ten times over! I wish you all a wonderful weekend with many margaritas.

Super fresh, skinny agave margaritas!

Skinny Margaritas
5.0 from 12 reviews
Recipe type: Cocktail
Serves: 1
Super fresh, skinny margaritas made with fresh lime juice, orange juice and agave nectar. The best margarita you’ll ever have!
  • Kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) silver tequila
  • 1½ ounces (3 tablespoons/about 1½ small limes) fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons/about ½ of a medium orange) fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon light agave nectar
  • 1 lime wedge or round, for garnish
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Recommended tequila: Use 100% agave tequila labeled white, silver or blanco. I recommend Milagro, Hornitos or Espolón.
Salted rim considerations: 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.
Juicing tips: I've found that the easiest way to juice limes is with this hand-held juicer (the yellow one). 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. Here's another tip, from Brenda, a reader: Before you slice the citrus, roll it back and forth on cutting board, pressing slightly. Then cut it in half lengthwise, not across! You will get up to ⅓ more juice that way.
Want to make a pitcher of margarita? For 10 drinks (about 45 ounces, or 5½ cups), combine 2½ cups silver tequila, generous 1¾ cup fresh lime juice (around 15 limes), 1¼ cup fresh orange juice (about 5 medium oranges) and 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light agave nectar. Mix well, and add ice. Don't forget to garnish your rims with lime rounds and coarse salt.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 184 Carbohydrates: 12 grams Sugar: 9 grams

grapefruit margarita and blueberry margaritaFruity margarita variations:
(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 above, 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 fruity frozen margarita, blend the basic margarita ingredients in a blender along with 1/2 cup frozen fruit (blueberry margaritas are my favorite, shown in the photo above, 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.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a good meal (enchiladas! fajitas!) or snacks (nachos, quesadillas) to complement your margaritas, check out my Mexican recipes. I have more margarita variations here, too!

Want more recipes? Receive new posts by email or by RSS, and keep up with Cookie and Kate on facebook, twitter, pinterest and instagram.


  1. FL says

    No wonder I have a girl crush on you! Margaritas always seem intimidating and the mixes are so fake-tasting. I could use one right now (as I try to finish edits on something and my living room is torn up by construction)

  2. says

    I always get the strangest looks in bars/restaurants when I ask if a margarita is made with sweet & sour or lime juice, but they ARE completely different animals. It’s like asking for a glass of just-squeezed orange juice from the tree in my yard and getting powdered Tang instead.

    • says

      That is exactly what I was trying to say! Perfect simile, I’m glad you agree on the fresh lime juice vs. sweet and sour issue. If those bartenders are giving you funny looks for asking for fresh lime, they don’t know what they’re doing! ;)

  3. says

    I have always been a (Fresh) Margarita lover but gained a new appreciation for the real taste when I went to Central America. I do like the addition of an Orange Liquor but find the Cointreau is too heavy. Have you ever had Gran Gala?

    • says

      Strangely enough, my friend and I kind of liked the taste of orange liqueur on its own, but definitely did not like the way it tasted in margaritas. I’ve never heard of Gran Gala, though. I do like Citronge (made by Patron) all right.

  4. says

    I have recently acquired a taste for cocktails, but only homemade ones where I know for sure that there’s no added fakeness in it. this looks super fresh and delicious.

  5. Rachel says

    Yum!! Those look absolutely deeeelicious! I live in Santa Fe, where people take their margaritas pretty seriously. I’ve never even thought to make one at home– will definitely be trying your recipe!

    I am absolutely in love with your blog, by the way! I’m planning on making your vegan chocolate cherry cake this weekend with some fresh New Mexican cherries I got from the farmer’s market this morning. Yum! Thanks for all of the inspiration– thinking about starting a food blog of my own, and you are definitely a blogger I look up to!

    • says

      Thank you for your sweet comment, Rachel. I’d love to hear your feedback on the cherry chocolate cake and margaritas, if you get around to making them! And let me know when you start your food blog!

    • says

      Just think of all the margaritas we can make in my new apartment in a week! I will certainly need three after the moving process…

  6. says

    YES! This is how I have been drinking my margaritas for many years but sometimes I add a splash of soda water or sparkling water for a little fizz. I’ll also occasionally add a small bit of Grand Marnier instead of the orange juice. The only bad thing is this has ruined me a bit when I go out for Mexican food, very margaritas are ever as good as the ones I make at home.
    Ooh another tip, you can make a smoky version with mescal instead of tequila and add a little smoked chipotle powder to the salt. YUM!

  7. donna stubbs says

    I just discovered you a few months ago and have been adoring your recipes and your outlook ever since. This natural and simple margarita recipe is one I’ve been wanting for a long time and it was divine! Thank you so much for sharing your fantastic recipes with us. I’m always so excited when there is an email from Cookie and Kate!

  8. Steph says

    Hi kate- LOVE this idea- we had fresh on our honeymoon in mexico and i’ve been meaning to try and recreate them! Quick question- If we wanted frozen fresh margaritas, do you have any tips? or just to blend the mix with ice in a blender? Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hey Steph, you should be able to blend it with ice. They won’t have the consistency of a restaurant’s frozen margarita, though. I’d suggest pouring it into cold glasses so they stay frozen a little longer, and maybe even adding an ice cube or two to keep it cold.

  9. says

    I wholeheartedly agree, powdered sweet and sour mixes make me cringe. I was over the top disappointed during a recent trip to Cabo where a hotel served me one instead of natural one! I was in Mexico, the margarita heaven!! Glad to know I am not the only one who is picky! Great post, looks delicious :)

  10. pws says

    i saw this on a cup of jo and was absolutely taken by how delicious this looks — and i don’t drink! any suggestions on how to easily mass produce this recipe for a big party?

    • says

      Sorry for the delayed response, PWS—I think you could multiply the quantities given to fill your pitcher (leave room for some ice and stir). Pour into glasses over ice!

  11. says

    I’ve always preferred fresh juice/barely sweet margaritas — but never thought to use orange juice or agave nectar. These were delicious! For the person who asked about mass producing, it works great to just multiply and mix ahead. I made 16 servings for a party. Squeezed all the fruit the day before (took forever), mixed everything in a glass pitcher the day of, and then set up a station with lime & orange slices, salt, ice, and more agave nectar so guests could assemble their own to taste. Compliments from everyone for your lovely recipe.

  12. sigrid says

    So how many lemons yields one serving? And oranges? Making a pitcher for a party and making a grocery list!

    • says

      Hi Sigrid, you’ll want to use limes (not lemons), about one big lime per drink (you might be some extra to be safe). And about 1/2 of an orange per drink.

  13. Fred says

    Kate, we made some margaritas tonight and they were really good. We liked them with a little more orange juice, but other than that we kept your proportions. Thank you. Looking forward to making some of your Mexican food recipes. We’re not vegetarians but we love to find good vegetarian dishes, and our daughter is grateful when we do.

    • says

      Thank you, Fred! I’m glad you enjoyed the margaritas. I made several for friends last night! Hope you enjoy the Mexican recipes.

  14. says

    I am always looking for good margarita recipes and I really liked the fresh ingredients you use. I will try this recipe today.


  15. Jax says

    the wife told me about this recipe and printed it out so I made a run to the liquor store and grocery store this afternoon and then fixed a few tonight. Very Good !!

    I have also been perusing some of your other ideas so will be trying other recipes

    • says

      Hey Jax, thanks for your comment! I’m glad to hear that you two enjoyed the margaritas. I hope you enjoy the other recipes as well!

  16. mel says

    I try this recipe is refreshing and delicious :-) Will be my favorite drink for the summer thanks for sharing salud!!!

  17. Vickie says

    I thought I’d try my first ‘skinny’ margarita. All I can say is Wow! I generally don’t like the fake taste of margaritas but this hits the spot! Thank you!!

    • says

      Vickie, glad you enjoyed the margarita! The difference between fresh and artificially flavored margaritas is really night and day!

  18. Carla says

    I hope everyone realizes there must be a typo here. I highly doubt this drink has 184 carbs and if it does, since carbs are 4 calories per gram then it has over 700 calories. Based on the ingredients thus is clearly a typo.

    • says

      Hey Carla, I’m sorry for the confusion. The formatting of the nutrition facts is a little difficult to read, but it says 184 calories, not carbs.

  19. says

    Hi Kate!

    I JUST made your natural margaritas for my 4th of July Party last night and they were amazing. Thank you so much for posting a pitcher recipe – my guests were clamouring for more and it was the first drink we ran out of. I’m now sharing your recipe with everyone I know :)


  20. Alex says

    Yum. Perfect. And I didn’t even have to go to the store for anything. And, I love your recipes! I have made so many… We are raising my son veg and he loves them too. Although he’s gonna have to wait to try this one for about 18 more years. ;)

  21. Cesar Casanova says

    Best Margs I’ve ever had. I crush some jalapeños at the bottom of my mixer to give it an extra kick. Clean and refreshing drink. I normally shy away from tequila (she and I had a falling out in college) but I can drink these margs all day.

    • says

      Yes! Glad to hear it. Your jalapeño version sounds right up my alley. Tequila and I get along great. Bacardi rum, on the other hand… never again.

  22. Melissa says

    The margarita recipe is great! The only addition I made was to add two drops of liquid stevia to sweeten it just a bit more.

  23. Marb says

    I didn’t have any orange juice but I had some apple juice and decided to use this instead. My craving for a margarita was huge so I improvised. It turned out to be one of the best margaritas I’ve ever tasted.

    I used the following ingredients: 2oz reposado tequila, 2oz apple juice, 1oz lime, 1 tbspn agave&honey, a pinch cinammon&salt, a little cilantro, ice and shaked it all until it was nice and frothy.

    What an amazing drink! Next time I’ll add a slize of jalapeño too!

  24. Kent says

    I have a love affair with everything tequila, so I’ll have to give this a try. Then I’ll use tangerines which I love in a Margarita and compare.

  25. Candy says

    Wow! This looks amazingly simple! I have a bag of Cuties I need to use up…guess what I’m going to do with them?? Thank you for sharing…

  26. Antonia says

    Great recipe! I dislike most margaritas–too sweet, too many fake flavors, and seriously, triple sec? More fake flavor. Eww. I loved the fresh, lightly sweetened flavors of this. Plus, I love the fact that I always have these ingredients on hand. Hello, margaritas anytime I want :) Thank you, Kate!

  27. Laura says

    Following my second sip I exclaimed, “This is the best margarita I have ever had!” It’s so true. Thank you for this recipe. It has been the highlight of my Cinco de Mayo!

  28. Sharon says

    I’ve made these twice now by the pitcher and they’re delicious!! Plus I save so many calories with this recipe :) I do also juice a grapefruit or two to add to the pitcher. Love it, thanks!!

  29. Lisa says

    I had me at “fresh lime,” “no liqueur” and “silver tequila” (Hornitos is my brand). After drinking 75¢ margi’s in Mex made with fresh lime juice, nothing fake will do!

  30. Ginger says

    This is truly a perfect margarita. I make it quite often and add either jalapeño or serrano chili slices for a little kick.

  31. Sarah Gallegos Bielecka says

    This is hands down the best margarita I’ve ever had. Period. I made this on a hot and sweaty NYC summer evening and am beyond satisfied with the fresh and clean flavors. We didn’t have any agave in the house and it was still incredible! Thank you! You’ve earned my full trust in deliciousness! Can’t wait to try more!

  32. Zachariah S. says

    After being completely unimpressed with restaurant style margaritas, I wanted to find a recipe that actually tasted like a margarita, not sweet&sour mix on the rocks. I can’t believe how incredible this margarita is…truly the best. Unfortunately, you’ve ruined all other margaritas for me, but in the long run, totally worth it. So, thank you for the research…it read as though it was a pretty rough process; all that drinking and testing. Ha!

    Question: I want to make this recipe for a large party as a pre-made mixer via a pitcher–pour over ice, enjoy. Glad you included a recipe for this exact request, but I’m wondering how the light agave will mix not being shaken? Plan is to combine all liquids in a pitcher, stir, keep in the fridge, then others can pour straight from the pitcher over ice. Any issues stirring ingredients vice using the shaker as used for smaller batches?

    • says

      Thank you, Zachariah! Glad you’re with me on the margarita front. Great question re: pitcher. I’m not exactly sure, but to be safe, I’d suggest using a whisk to mix the agave in with some of the other liquid. That should do it.

  33. frank macarelli says

    Great recipe. But, the recommendation of Patron tequila is suspect, at best. It is the budweiser of mid level premium tequilas. No character at all. Even El Jimador would be a better choice. But, Casa Noble, Don Julio, Cuervo Platino, Corralejos, and so many others are far better choices.

Leave a comment below:

Your comments make my day. Thank you!

Note: Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: