A Margarita That Doesn’t Suck


As household bartender, I’ve experimented a bit with the margarita, which is my parent’s drink of choice. Scold them all you want, my parents most definitely have me hooked (not in a particularly bad way) on margaritas. They always rave about how good the ones I make are and how the ones they get when we go out to dinner don’t even compare. I thought I’d share my “secret recipe” with all of you.

Traditionally the margarita has three ingredients: lime, triple sec, and Tequila. I’m going to go over my thoughts on each one. Before I do that, let’s talk ratios. The official recipe from the International Bartender’s Association calls for a ratio of 7 parts tequila, 4 parts triple sec, 3 parts lime juice. You may want to start with that, as I did, but you might want to experiment using more or less triple sec and lime juice to adjust drink to suit your taste. I use a 3 parts tequila, 2 parts triple sec, 1 part lime juice ratio, which is also quite popular.

The Sour Part

The biggest thing you can do to improve a margarita is to use fresh lime juice. This “sour mix” used in many mixed drinks is the biggest thing holding you back. Don’t put corn syrup, citric acid or “natural and artificial flavors” in your drinks. Spend the time, effort, and money to get fresh limes and squeeze them yourself, its worth it. We normally use Persian Limes and normally can get them at Costco. Try to find big ripe ones, which will make squeezing them much easier.

The Sweet Part

There are a number of different ways to go with the triple sec part. The IBA calls for Cointreau, which is a premium option. It is more authentic, made from the peels of bitter oranges, but is also more expensive. The more “mass market” option is a standard orange liqueur/triple sec/Curaçao. These come in a variety of brands and types, some of which they adulterate with artificial colors, for cosmetic effect. Definitely skip the blue stuff. I use DeKuyper. We have also used Bols, though it had a slightly unappealing caramel flavor (though we don’t know if that was because we didn’t store it properly).

The Tequila

I’ve found that the “quality” (i.e. the price) of the tequila doesn’t matter much: the store brand stuff is just as drinkable as the more expensive bottles. The only tequila I have used thus far that I have found objectionable was the Hornitos Reposado. I think “lawnmower effluent” would be the best term to describe it. Our go-to tequila is Milagro Silver Tequila, though when Costco doesn’t have that in stock, the Kirkland brand is more than serviceable. Over the years I’ve tried Don Juilo, Patron, Hornitos, Sauza, the Trader Joe’s brand, and a few others.


David’s Signature Margarita

Warning: this recipe makes a “grande” margarita which is about 2.5 “drinks” per the US standard of 17 ml of alcohol per “drink”.

  • 75 ml tequila (plata, 100% puro de agave)
  • 50 ml triple sec (DeKuyper or similar)
  • 25 ml fresh Persian lime juice
  1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake, for longer than you’d think. I normally give it about thirty shakes.
  3. Serve over ice in a rocks glass.

Originally published at blog.davidciani.com on July 11, 2015.

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