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Cooking Tips

3 Secrets to Better Fresh Margaritas

The best cocktail deserves the best treatment.
By Published Aug. 26, 2022

In my opinion, margaritas are one of the best cocktails out there. A little bit sour, a little bit sweet, some bite from the tequila, all rounded out by the salt on the rim. The flavors hit every tastebud in a matter of seconds.

But is there a way to make them even better?

There is. Sure, you can just go to the grocery store and pick up a bottle of margarita mix, but those are often sickly sweet and have an ingredient list a mile long. The best way to make them is to make them fresh.

However, the process isn’t just squeeze, shake, and serve. With a little extra care, you can make the best margarita you’ve ever tasted.

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1. Steep the Lemon and Lime Zest in Juice

In our recipe for The Best Fresh Margaritas, we start by making our own sour mix. But we don’t just juice our lemons and limes, we zest them as well. The zest has a lot of flavor, which is less acidic and more floral than its juices. 

After juicing the lemons and limes, add the zest, superfine sugar, and a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor. Then, cover and move to the fridge for at least 4 hours (or up to 48 hours). Once it’s done steeping, strain the mix through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the solids.

This long steeping time allows the zest to release its flavor into the sour mix. The longer it steeps, the more developed the citrus flavors in the finished margaritas will be.

2. Use Equal Portions of Everything

The perfect citrus flavor comes with using the same amounts of lemon and lime juice and zest. Though margaritas may usually be thought of as a more lime-forward cocktail, lemons are important. The lemons help brighten up the flavor, and they won’t overpower the limes.

Once you have your sour mix made, continue this equal parts trend with a 1:1:1 ratio of sour mix, Triple Sec, and tequila (we use 1 cup of each in our recipe, which makes 4-6 cocktails, depending on how many people you’re serving or how thirsty you are). This results in a perfectly balanced cocktail, with no one flavor taking center stage.

3. Choose the Right Tequila

This one is all about preference, but it is an important decision to make. When choosing between blanco or reposado tequila, here’s what you need to know.

  • Blanco tequila will give the margaritas a strong, more booze-forward flavor.
  • Reposado tequila, or tequila that has been aged for up to about 1 year, will bring a smoother, more mellow flavor to your margaritas.

For a step-by-step guide on making The Best Fresh Margaritas, check out this segment from a recent episode of America’s Test Kitchen. Cheers!