Let’s make things clear: I have tried and experimented with making just about every classic margarita recipe imaginable. From jalapeño to skinny to frozen mango… we’ve shaken, stirred, and blended them all over the years. At last, I feel confident in saying that I’ve found the ultimate margarita on the rocks recipe. Because it’s true what they say: you just can’t go wrong with a classic.
These days, I find myself craving that simple, unmistakable combination of good tequila and fresh lime juice. Don’t get me wrong, flavor variations can be fun, but there’s something about a classic salted rim and a fresh lime garnish that defines the best margarita on the rocks recipe.
The Margarita on the Rocks Recipe Your Summer Needs
There’s nothing fancy about it—it’s just a simple ratio of tequila, fresh-squeezed lime juice, Cointreau, and agave syrup that we’ve always got on hand. While we prefer the stronger, smoother taste of the high-quality orange liqueur in this recipe, traditional triple sec will do in a pinch. No matter how many times we make this recipe, the first sip never fails to leave us saying, “Wow, that is really damn good.”
- Tequila. Silver tequila, also referred to as blanco, platinum, or white, is the purest form of tequila. It’s a great liquor to have on hand for a variety of mixed drinks.
- Lime Juice. If you stick to any ingredient recommendation in this recipe, it’s that fresh lime juice is essential. For other margarita variations, feel free to mix it up with other juices like grapefruit or lemon.
- Agave. To keep my margarita from becoming too sugary, agave is my preferred choice of sweetener. Agave nectar comes straight from the blue agave plant (which is actually used to make tequila!). Any agave nectar will do, but we prefer raw agave for the most natural taste.
- Cointreau. Cointreau is within the family of triple sec liqueur, produced in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou, France. This orange-flavored liqueur is of higher quality than traditional triple sec, making it smooth and strong to uplevel your classic drink.
Tips for Making the Best Margarita
- Chill your glasses in the freezer for 30 minutes before making them.
- You must, I repeat must, use fresh-squeezed lime juice.
- Shake it up for longer than you think you need to. I’d say a very enthusiastic shake for 30 seconds is sufficient to get that icy, frothy consistency.
- Strain your ingredients into your glasses after you’ve created your salt rims.
- Pro tip: You can totally add a couple of jalapeño slices to the shaker for a spicy kick—I won’t tell the purists.
- Agave vs. simple syrup. Simple syrup can become super sweet when added to cocktails. If you don’t have agave, we recommend making your own simple syrup or only using a small amount when curating your cocktail.
- Garnish with a lime wedge. Make your margarita picture-perfect by simply adding a lime wedge to the side of your glass.
- Make it a batch recipe. You can easily increase the servings by shaking up a few batches and pouring your contents into a pitcher for easy serving.
- Dip in coarse salt for the rim of the glass. Coarse salt is much more presentable on a margarita glass, in my opinion. Wet the rim of your glass with a bit of lime juice so the salt sticks to your drink.
- Serve with chips and a dip of your choice. Salsa, queso, and/or guac all work beautifully. I’ll never turn down chips and dip, especially when paired with a delicious margarita.
Other Cocktail Recipes We Love
This grapefruit vodka cocktail is a delicious variation of a Paloma that uses vodka instead of tequila.
This Paloma packs a bit of heat with sliced jalapeño and a chili salt rim.
Looking for a European getaway in a glass? This Lillet rosé spritz will make you yearn for a vacation in the French countryside.
Limoncello and prosecco combine to create the best bubbly and refreshing summer bev.
Don’t be intimidated by making a batch of frozen drinks—this frosé is incredibly easy and will cool you down in the heat.
Nutrient packed AND delicious? This carrot-ginger cocktail is the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
This post was originally published on May 3, 2020, and has since been updated.