How to Make the Perfect Margarita on the Rocks

This post is long overdue, what with all of my talk about relaxing in Mexico. Margaritas by the pool with guacamole and chips, frozen bananas in chocolate, fish tacos - where are my manners!? I can't believe it has taken me this long to write about lime margaritas on the rocks. And I do emphasize 'the rocks', because there's a clear distinction between these and your typical blended margarita. Blended margaritas are the drinks we associate with cruise ships, all-inclusives, and 'La Fiesta' in the mall food court. They are usually prepared with a cheap tequila, some questionable margarita mix found on the bottom shelf of the pop aisle, some crushed ice blended into a slush, and a tiny umbrella to seal the deal. I mean, who can argue with a tiny umbrella?

Those blended margaritas are fine, if that's what you are looking for. They're usually overpowered with sugar, so you can't even taste the tequila anyways. But if you're going to get serious about margaritas, you need to invest in some good tequila. The key qualification being 100% agave, which means that no additional sugars were added during fermentation, only blue agave sugar was used. Tequila is sold as either white, silver, gold, reposado, or anejo. These terms relate to its taste and length of aging. White and silver tequila are either un-aged, or aged for 60 days and then bottled. They are the most common tequilas on the market. Personally, I find this type of tequila bitter, and associate it with 'the taste of being 19 again'. Gold tequila is a mixture of silver and an aged tequila. Reposado and anejo are tequilas that have been aged in oak barrels, with anejo being aged longer. They are darker in color, smooth and have very complex flavors, often (to me) tasting of caramel. Depending on how eager I am to break the bank, I will usually opt for a reposado, and splurge on anejo if I'm in a really good mood. I know I just made it sound like I buy a bottle of tequila every time I make a trip to the store to buy eggs, but lets be real: it's usually wine that I'm getting.

Now that you've got yourself a nice bottle of tequila, you're going to need to invest in some Cointreau, a brand of Triple Sec. It's an orange flavored liquor, sweet and light tasting. Some people choose to use Grand Marnier, but whenever I make a margarita with Grand Marnier (better known as the cadillac margarita), it always seems to knock me off of my chair.

Apart from the tequila and cointreau, you'll need some fresh squeezed limes and some simple syrup. You'll also want some coarse salt to rim the glass, and a lot of crushed ice. I recommend using a small, 8 - 10 oz glass. If you're at a fancy bar and order a margarita that costs over 10 dollars, and it's served in a tall glass, it's likely a double, and you're probably calling a cab. I'll explain why. After you've mixed all of the tequila ingredients, you will soon realize that you are now working with a little over 2 shots worth of liquid. If you pour that into a glass, it will look pitiful, and probably taste powerful, sour, acidic, and strong. This is where the ice comes in handy. If you fill the glass 2/3 full of crushed ice, and then pour the margarita over top, it will appear as if the drink is full. The ice will slowly melt, diluting the margarita. This is the key. It doesn't take that long to drink 2 shots worth of liquid, so there isn't a whole lot of time for all of the ice to melt. It stays at a perfect drink to ice ratio. A side of guacamole and chips will also enhance the flavor of the margarita. It is a match meant to be. 





makes 1 - 8 ounce drink

notes: this recipe makes one 8 ounce drink using a standard 1.5 ounce shot glass. If you want to make a larger batch, adjust the measurements to 1/3 cup simple syrup, 2/3 cup lime juice, 1/3 cup Cointreau, and 1 cup Tequila. 


1/2 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of water  to a boil. Once boiling, add the sugar and stir. Continue to boil until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate for up to a week.


1/3 measure (shot glass) simple syrup

2/3 measure (shot glass) lime juice

1/3 measure (shot glass) Cointreau

1 measure (shot glass) Tequila

crushed ice

1 lime, cut into wedges

coarse salt to rim the glass

Using a short 8 - 10 fl. ounce glass, run a lime around the rim of the glass. Dip the glass rim into a plate of coarse salt.

Fill the glass 2/3 full with crushed ice.

In a martini mixer or jar with a tight fitting lid, add 1/3 shot of simple syrup, 2/3 shot of lime juice, 1/3 shot of Cointreau, and 1 shot of Tequila, and shake. Pour the mix over the crushed ice. Serve with a lime wedge for garnish.