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 jump up and down. Truly, they are two entirely different animals.
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.” You’ll find my perfected recipe below!
Watch How to Make Margaritas
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.
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. Thank you, Joanna and Shoko! I wish you all a wonderful weekend with many margaritas.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 1x
- Category: Cocktail
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: Mexican
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 (¼ cup) silver tequila
- 1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons/about 1 ½ 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
- 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.
- 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. The nutrition information below does not include the salt on the rim because the amount consumed is highly variable (and the salt is optional).
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 margaritas? For 10 drinks (about 45 ounces, or 5 ½ cups), combine 2 ½ cups silver tequila, generous 1 ¾ cup fresh lime juice (around 15 limes), 1 ¼ 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
Fun Margarita Variations
Keep in mind that fruit contributes liquid and sweetness, so you might want to reduce the amount of agave nectar found 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 small splash of fruit juice or even jam/compote 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!
Yep just had a Sunday Fun Day outside with my husband (so no friends) and we agree best Rita’s ever!!! Thank you!
Tried a different margarita recipe and ended up tweaking it so much to make it tasty enough that the next time I craved margaritas, I looked for a better recipe. This one hit the spot!!!
My favorite margarita recipe of all time! Every time I make these for a party, they’re such a hit
this is our go-to margarita recipe – it’s delicious! and the best part is it’s fresh with minimal ingredients, & so easy to make. thank you kate!
You’re welcome, Amy! I’m glad you love it.
Seriously the best margarita I’ve ever had!!
These are very good. I served these at a party and everyone loved them. I would suggest squeezing the fruit ahead of time. I had to use one lime per drink. Also, some of my guests wanted it sweeter so I added more agave. Thank You!
Yes! Yes! & Yes!
As I was reading the article, I totally identified! Best margarita ever!
How many calories in one drink?
Hi Tina, the nutrition information is below the notes of the recipe. It’s per serving. I hope that helps!
When I lived in Vermont, I made my margaritas with maple syrup, lime and tequila. I’d never even heard of light agave nectar until I read your recipe and I can hardly wait to try it. I also rub a length of a jalapeno pepper on the rim of the glass and sometimes salt half, sugar the other half of the rim.
Thank you for sharing, Sarah!
So quick & easy and delicious! Made these for friends this weekend and we enjoyed them so much. This a great margarita recipe. Used a pinch of sugar instead of agave as we had none and they still turned out great. Would definitely recommend and will be making again.
Sounds amazing! Can’t wait to make it.
This isn’t a Skinny Margarita. You can’t put something like OJ in a Skinny drink. OJ has huge amounts of sugar. The purpose of a Skinny drink is to have as few amount of calories as possible.
It clearly says to use freshly squeezed orange juice, not sugar filled OJ. Read the recipe next time before commenting. It is a delicious SKINNY margarita! Thx Kate!
Freshly squeezed oranges (juice) contain A LOT of (naturally occurring) sugar (1Tbsp = 1gram sugar, 1 cup = 25 grams). However, it’s only made with one Tbsp. Skinny Margs usually don’t have any carb laced sweeteners (agave syrup). If you want to make it truly “skinny” get stevia flavored orange drops or orange extract (with 1.5oz of water), but the taste isn’t as good. For a 12gram carb margarita, this tastes great!
Simmer down Laura lol
I have a copy of Love Real Food and use your website frequently for recipes! Is there a way to “save” the recipes online to a “recipe box”?
If not, the addition of that feature would be much appreciated! (Sometimes I can’t remember the name of a recipe I loved and have to spend a bunch of time hunting it down)
Hi Lori! Thank you for your feedback. I would love to have that feature, I just haven’t found the perfect solution. In the meantime, you could save them in a Pinterest board and/or bookmark your favorites too.
Thank you for the skinny margarita recipe. I have one quick question which might also be an interesting challenge for you. I need your expertise. I am embarking on the keto diet / lifestyle. No agave allowed, however, stevia is allowed. What do you suggest in terms of a sweetner that does not include sugar, agave or maple syrup? Should I just flavor to taste with stevia?
I look forward to your response and thanks for always providing such great information!
Hi Tam! That is a real endeavor. :) I don’t have much experience with stevia, but to my knowledge, it is one of few sugar-free sweeteners. I imagine it would work well in this margarita recipe since it’s liquid-based (or you could add some more orange juice, which is naturally sweet). For other recipes, like baked goods specifically, I always hesitate to suggest stevia in place of maple syrup or honey since the maple syrup/honey also contribute moisture. Sweetness really is subjective, so you might find that you can get by with less and less sweetener as you adjust to the new diet. Hope that helps!
If you’re on keto, have you considered using monkfruit extract ? Monk fruit sweetener is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener. It is high in unique antioxidants called mogrosides, which make it 100–250 times sweeter than regular sugar. I have it in syrup form, and plan to use it instead of agave for this recipe!
To make it keto friendly replace the orange juice and agave syrup with either orange flavored stevia drops or orange extract, along with 1.5oz of water. The taste isn’t as good, but it brings the carbs down to next to nothing.
Best Rita I’ve had for a long time, enjoying it at home on a rainy night in Oslo, Norway. Will definitely be one of my favorites
Thank you for your review, Disa!
This sounds so refreshing! Is there a way to put a holiday twist on it so it’s more of a Mistletoe Margarita? Would a splash of cranberry juice ruin the flavor?
Hi Leah! You could try my Fresh Cranberry Margaritas instead!
I loved your recipe but it was a little too tart for me. I added a tablespoon of olive juice and it was so much less tart. Thanks for sharing this!
I’m glad you were able to make it fit your tastes!
Orange juice was an amazing call for this recipe. I loved it!
Thanks!! My only comment is the ratio doesn’t change on the limes/ oranges in the brackets when you change the batch size!
Hi Amy! I’m sorry it isn’t working 100%. I find it can be that way sometimes, but is the best solution right now. I do apologize!
Wow! Quite a bit of work but a fantastic recipe for special occasions! I made just about 6 servings for my daughter’s birthday celebration and with 4 oranges and 9 limes. Next time I’ll know to purchase more fruit to get a better yield. All of that said, they were quite delicious and I will totally make them again!
That’s great to hear! Thank you for your review, Anne.
Can I make the mix part ahead of time to take to a get-together? Also, can I freeze the mix part to make frozen margaritas?
Hi! I haven’t tried it, sorry. I would be interested to hear if you do! I would recommend letting the mixture thaw some before you try it as it could be very hard and not get the consistency you are after.
This was a great recipe! I was short on time and had company coming, so made a pitcher- sized batch with lemon and orange juice on hand and out cut up fruit in for a decorative touch it was awesome. Not too sweet and just the right amount of alcohol. Will be sure to make with fresh juice next time and do the frozen alternative suggested. This made taco nite extra special and yummy.
I’m glad it was a hit! Thank you for your review, Angela.
This recipe has become my go to at home cocktail. Loved by everyone I’ve served it to. Maximum taste for little effort and all ingredients I usually have on hand. I’ve even substituted maple syrup for agave in a pinch. Delightful!
I love it! Thank you for sharing, Stacey.
Lauri A Payne
Absolutely delicious and refreshing. Much better than mixer.
Thank you, Lauri!
How does this turn out with gold tequila? I’d love to try this recipe for cinco de mayo tomorrow but don’t have silver tequila. Thanks!
Steve and Lynn O
It is the most refreshing and well balanced margarita ever. It will be our go to forever more!
The best margaritas!!
I’m happy you liked them, Danielle!
Kate, do you use the same juicer, the yellow one, for both the limes and the oranges? I see there are 3 size variations on the affiliate link website.
Hi! Yes, I do. I just cut it down to fit as needed.
Wouldn’t call it skinny as it was quite sweet
I’m sorry you didn’t love this version, GY.
Just found this recipe in your cook book! Love your vegetarian recipes. This margarita recipe is exactly like the one my favorite restaurant used to serve. I’d see him squeezing oranges and limes. Thank you for this bit of pre 2020 memory!
And for my husbands favorite Roadted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it, Debra.
This is a legit recipe. I used blood oranges because I had them handy. Well done. Went well with a chili salt rim.
Thank you for sharing!
My go-to margarita recipe. It’s perfect!
I absolutely love this recipe. Please, note that there is an error when multiplying the recipe X3: 4 1/2 limes are needed instead of 1 1/2. Thank you for the fabulous recipes!
You’re welcome, RB! Thank you for your review.
DELICIOUS! I used a blood orange instead of a regular orange and it was perfect. I also added 2 sprigs of basil for my personal taste. I make skinny margs at home all the time. However, it was perfect because the portions made it just right! Thank you!!
You’re welcome, Kayla! Thank you for sharing how you made it.
So, I’ve tried many recipes. When I go to any restaurant and order a margarita, I get a full glass. 4-4.5 ounces of liquid is not a beverage that can be enjoyed with a meal. It’s gone in a few sips. It’s not just this recipe — it’s all of them I find online. And yes, I get the ice adds more, but still, this beverage is gone quickly, and yet more tequila would bring on intoxication too quickly. I guess maybe I just need to talk to a bartender.
Wow wow wow. Perfect recipe, this is just right!
What kind of light agave nectar do you use? Can’t wait to try! Thanks!
Hi Anne, I try to buy organic when I can. I don’t have a go-to brand. Sorry!
I can’t imagine a tastier margarita! The fresh oj is far better than Cointreau.
Mary Teresa Perkins
I really liked this. Not sure it was the best marg I’ve ever had but it being fresh fruit and only needing tequila it will be the one I like to make the most. Thanks for creating this!
Great to hear, Mary! I appreciate your review.
I would love to turn this recipe into a frozen version. How would you change the recipe when adding ice?
I don’t have a frozen option, sorry!
Ok just did this. Perfect using what we had in the house. So grateful for the research you did to make this right. Balanced, and effective. Lol
Happy cinco de mayo!
Thanks, Tom and Kelly
Thank you, Tom! I’m glad you enjoyed it.