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I Cannot Seem to Make a Decent Margarita

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Help! My barbeque yesterday was great except for my lousy margaritas! I've tried numerous recipes and they are never very good. Yesterday's was fresh lime juice, cointreau, and Cuervo Gold. Too strong and missing something...I don't know what. I poured it into a pitcher and added salt to the rim, a lime to the glass--but still not very good. Please point me in the drection of a foolproof margarita!

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  1. unless your ratios were way off the only thing you missed was using Cuervo Gold instead of a decent 100% agave silver tequila.

    start with equal parts of lime, Cointreau, and tequila, and adjust based on your taste.

    as far as the drink being too strong, it's a cocktail, and one which generally contains 80% spirits. what how would it be anything other than strong?

    7 Replies
    1. re: tommy

      I super agree with tommy. Ditch that Cuervo swill. You need 100% agave.

      If the drink is too strong for you, you can cut it with oj. This is not traditional at all, but not everyone can hang with really strong drinks.

      1. re: tommy

        I like the 3-2-1 ratio:

        3 parts silver tequila (100% agave, always!)
        2 parts Cointreau
        1 part lime juice

        Shake, strain, enjoy.

        1. re: davis_sq_pro

          I like the 2-1-1 ratio better. not as sweet and not as orangey

          1. re: JMF

            I concur with the 2-1-1 (or even the 1-1-1). Although many people do not want it that dry. Dale Degroff modifies it to 2-1-3/4 (less lime) with the option of a 1/4 of agave nectar.

            Measuring is key regardless of what recipe you use. Otherwise, it will not be reproducible.

            And for good but affordable 100% agave tequilas, I recommend Lunazul. Their reposado sells for $18-20.


            1. re: JMF

              I'll give it a try. I consider the 3-2-1 to be relatively tart as-is; comes down to personal taste I guess. And probably the brand of liqueur you're using, since some will obviously create a sweeter drink in the same proportions.

          2. re: tommy

            Tommy has the best advice start with 1:1:1 and go from there. BUT, I highly recommend you try it with lemon juice instead of lime juice. Everyone has their opinion, try it and see what you think. If you're trying to save a couple bucks, I've noticed that using triple sec in a margarita doesn't completely ruin it. I prefer it with Cointreau, but if I'm making them by the pitcher for a party, triple sec is just fine!

            1. re: Rick

              Yeah, I use standard triple sec for parties for several reasons:
              1) it's cheaper
              2) it's sweeter, which satisfies a larger portion of the population
              3) it's less alcohol, and I don't want people getting loaded on cocktails

              But if I'm making margaritas for just a few people, I can tell the difference between Cointreau and standard triple secs, and I go with Cointreau.

          3. I use Sauza silver, Patron orange liquer (instead of cointreau or grand marnier), fresh lime juice, and a little agave nector. I make a quart sized pitcher, and taste it as I make it, adding whatever is needed, as some limes are tarter than others. Without the agave nector, it's a bit too harsh for most folks who are used to the margs made with sour mix in commercial bars.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Niki in Dayton

              Strongly agree with this advice.As with many drinks, the ingredients might be the same but the proportions vary according to personal taste.I add agave nectar to offset some of the bite from the lime and tequila.If you don't have it you can make some simple syrup instead.I like tart drinks,but find adding some sweetener to the margarita makes it smoother and more sippable.

              1. re: Niki in Dayton

                If I want to make a larger drink for summer, I use a 2:1:1 ratio [2 parts 100% Agave Tequila, 1 part Cointreau, 1 part fresh lime juice] in a highball glass filled with ice and add a few ounces of Simply Limeade (made with cane sugar in your grocer's refrigerated juice section). I'm a purist about a lot of things, but I see nothing wrong with having a drinking session in the summer by adding a little liquid to a traditional margarita.

                1. re: Niki in Dayton

                  Wow this is exactly what I use.

                  And add agave nectar JUST until the saliva-producing sourness is gone.

                2. One thing to keep in mind is that if you're making it in pitchers, the dilution may be slightly different vs. shaking it. Assuming you're serving them on the rocks, that will be mitigated somewhat once the ice melts, but one technique I've seen suggested is to make the pitcher ahead of time, dilute the mixture with water as appropriate (but not adding ice), and then chill for a couple hours in the fridge. Then serve as you would normally (either up or over fresh ice).

                  1. The limes stink this year. Be sure your limes are at room temp before juicing; you get more/better juice that way. You might want to take a zester and make some long peels to drop into the juice to marinate and add flavor.

                    It's essential to use good silver tequila (I use 1800 for everyday). My big secret is to use Mandarine Napoleon liqueur, instead of Cointreau. 3 Tequila 2 lime 2 liqueur. Shake it like mad and serve it "up" in a salt-rimmed glass.

                    In the bartending business, some customers don't appreciate an authentic margarita. They want something made with cloyingly sweet "lemon juice" mix, like Rose's. Or even worse, they ask for some sour mix (Lemon-X) to be added.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: shaogo

                      The increase in juice volume is for the hand squeezer which are incomplete regardless of temperature. Reamers and other juicers that go to completion work the same regardless of temperature (save for frozen).

                      1. re: shaogo

                        I have noticed a HUGE variation in quality of limes. The ones from whole foods are large, thin skinned, fairly expensive (usually about $0.50 each), but yield about 1.5 oz each. The smaller, harder, dryer ones from Trader Joe's or my corner market are cheaper per unit, but yield about 3/4 (if that) per lime. This is with a good pliers-style hand squeezer.

                        For some reason, lemons don't seem to have as much variation.

                        Imagine trying to replicate a recipe that calls for "juice of 1/2 lime" ....

                        As for Margaritas, I heartily recommend that you serve them progressive more and more sour. I have even made them 3:2:1 with 2 parts lime and 1 Cointreau (although 2:1:1 is my norm). It slows down the rate of consumption and makes it more of a drink to be savored, rather than gulped. If made too sweet, you drink it like it's funny limeade and end up drunk before you know it.

                        To my mind, a Margarita is about the peppery tequila flavor, bracing acid, and subtle orange undertones. If it tastes orangy, I think that unbalanced (to my taste). I've been drinking up my Cointreau, anxiously awaiting the Luxardo Triplum that StriperGuy recommended so highly.

                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                          I'm glad others have noticed how bad the limes have been, because I thought it was just my inability to judge a lime (I am not discounting that as a contributing factor). Many of the ones I've been buying (mostly at the supermarket, I admit) have been dry and stringy. Very little juice. I've been using the concentrate lime in the little green botttles to make up for the lack of fresh juice. It's really not a terrible fall back option.

                          As for reciple, I'm a 3-2-1 man myself.

                          1. re: tomjb27

                            Yes, limes have been very bitter lately.

                            1. re: tomjb27

                              If you find that your batch of limes is particularly dry, you can try microwaving them. 20 seconds on full power for 3 limes seems to work on my microzapper. It dramatically increases the juice yield.

                              1. re: tzurriz

                                Is this for limes that you've kept in the fridge? Or do you do this with room temp ones as well? (I keep mine out on the counter.) If it does work for room temp limes, any idea why it seems to do the trick?

                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                  I've done it with both warm and cold limes. I'm no scientist, but I bet that it weakens or even breaks some of the membranes inside the lime which lets more juice out. All I know is that it works.

                                2. re: tzurriz

                                  Just tried your microwave trick with one lime and it seemed to produce more juice ...

                          2. I haven't made one this year, and I've thought of revisiting my last recipe, but when I wrote it down I said 1.5-1-1, which is the same as 3-2-2, as in 3 parts tequila, 2 parts Cointreau (for me thus far it has had to be Cointreau) and 2 parts juice. And I had taken to using part lemon juice as well as lime, roughly half and half lemon and lime juice, or maybe two limes to one lemon. That's not parts in that last case but in fact two physical limes and one lemon, then measure an equal amount of Cointreau, then 1.5x as much 100% agave tequila, either silver or reposado depending upon my mood and what is in the cabinet. I divide this resulting mixture (after shaking, etc) in half for two pretty good sized drinks. ;-)

                            Last summer got hooked on palomas instead, though, and cut way back on margaritas because I don't have to shake the palomas. ;-) I need a shaker that seems like less of a pain. I've been looking at those threads, perhaps that will help.

                            1. This is a "cheater's version", but it gets raves all the time.

                              1 can of frozen limeade. Pour into a large blender.
                              Fill the limeade can with Silver Souza Tequilla and pour into blender.
                              Fill the limeade can 1/3 full with Triple Sec.
                              Fill the blender with ice until it is 3/4 way full.
                              Pulse until chunky, then blend until smooth.
                              Salt four margarita glass rims, pour blended margarita mix into each glass 3/4 full.

                              It is great for a crowd and you can make a few batches quickly too.
                              And I hope my post doesn't get bashed b/c it's not an authentic margarita........
                              I got it from a friend who catered parties.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mcel215

                                This was a commonly used recipe with a lot of friends I have in Texas where a little more volume in a margarita on a hot day/evening is generally appreciated. Two differences: Most used about a half of can of a good triple sec [like Cointreau] and although I am not a fan of Sauza Silver due to being a mixto, I find that Sauza Hornitos is good in margaritas (and only about $5 more).

                              2. you are so close! aside from the cuervo, hard to say what's going wrong.

                                i like a 2:1:1 ratio, more or less.

                                i.e 2 pts alcohol (casadores is a good affordable 100% agave tequila, don julio excelent if you want to spend $) and 1 pt, cointreau or grand marnier, 1 pt fresh squeezed lime juice.

                                put in cocktail shaker with ice and shake for a long time - strain and serve.

                                a squeeze of agave syrup or spash of oj can soften things a bit if you like them softened.

                                other than that you should be good.

                                1. For a crowd, I go with the below concoction; It makes about 6-8 glasses depending on you your pour.

                                  2 Cups tequila - quality, 100% agave (I used 1 cup herradura blanco and 1 cup don alejo reposado. On a budget? Sauza hornitos is a good choice.

                                  1 cup fresh lime juice

                                  1 cup Cointreau

                                  1/4 cup simple syrup

                                  1/4 cup fresh OJ (no pulp)

                                  Fill halfway in a blender with ice and blend quickly- you want the ice broken down, but not blended completely. Or just serve on the rocks if that's your preference.

                                  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime and serve.

                                  1. I have to agree with the vast majority of the other posts....ditch the C.Gold. A 100% agave silver of almost any reputable brand will produce a margarita that is drinkable at almost any ratio in my experience. Although, i am partial to a 3:2:2 of tequila, cointreau, lime. My wife likes hers a little sweeter so we will add 1-2 parts simple syrup for her.

                                    Either way, the magic is in the quality of ingredients.

                                    1. I think I know what it's missing.

                                      Melted ice.

                                      The key to a great drink, be it a Martini, a Margarita, or a Mary Pickford, is that the drink has to have some dilution thanks to ice melting from either shaking or stirring. Also, the action of shaking helps lighten a margarita by introducing tiny air bubbles, giving a lighter mouthfeel (at least for a minute or two before the bubbles clear out). For margaritas, shake them well with ice cubes until you think your hands are stuck to the shaker and the metal part of the shaker has started to frost over. It should take a good 10 or 15 seconds of hard shaking before it happens.

                                      If you're making pitchers full of a drink for a party, you can cheat by adding cold water to the other ingredients. Start with 1/4 of the other ingredients' volume (i.e. if you have made 24 ounces of margaritas, add 6 ounces of water) and add to taste from there. Once you have the dilution right, stick the pitcher in the fridge to chill and all you'll have to do when party time comes is pour it over ice.

                                      Other people are quite right with their recommendations. Start with 3 parts tequila, 2 parts Cointreau, and 1 part lime juice, and then tweak it to your own personal tastes from there. Too sweet, add more lime juice, too tart, add more triple sec. And definitely ditch the Cuervo in favor of something that's 100% agave. Speaking of agave nectar, I firmly believe that while you *can* use agave nectar to sweeten it, the lore that agave nectar *should* be in a margarita is entirely made up by agave nectar manufacturers to help sell a trendy product that I have found is not worth the significant price bump over good ol' simple syrup.

                                      My personal preference for tequila is Sauza Hornitos; it gets the job done nicely without breaking the bank. Any reasonably priced blanco or reposado tequila that is 100% agave will do just fine. You want the drink to have a light, fresh taste, and aƱejo tequila will deepen the flavors unfavorably. It's still delicious, it's just not as much of a Margarita to me.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                        Oh my god....JK, I couldn't have put it better myself. I focused all on ingredients and totally forgot to mention that the technique IS an ingredient sometimes. I have been enjoying all my margaritas shaken heavily with lots of ice. This dilutes, super chills, and "frothifies" the beverage.....its key.

                                        BTW, i agree on the Hornitos call. As i stated a while ago in another string, i recently found a shop selling 1.75 liter bottle of Hornitos for $13. I bought a case. This spring/summer has been delicious.

                                        1. re: wagoneer79

                                          1.75 for 13 bucks? where was this. this was almost definitely a mistake, and I have no problem seeing if they make the same one again.

                                          1. re: tommy

                                            It was not a mistake made by the business or the local distributer (my father in law IS the distributer). The price came down from higher in the company. It was at a place called UFS in Peoria, IL. I just regret not buying out their stock.

                                            1. re: wagoneer79

                                              so why wasn't every other store selling it at this deep discount? I'd be shocked if just one store decided to not pass the savings along, and every other store (or distributor) pocketed the extra cash.

                                              1. re: tommy

                                                Many were selling it VERY cheap. I think one place still has some in stock and they are selling it for $25. However, most of the places in town never carried the 1.75l size. Also, the place that had the $13 is easily the cheapest place to buy pretty much all booze that i have EVER found anywhere in the country.

                                                My only guess is that maybe they are clearing out stock for some reason...new bottle? discontinuing the 1.75l size? I would love to hear anyone's explanation.

                                            2. re: tommy

                                              I lived near the Mexican border and have never seen Hornitos in a 1.75l bottle for that little money ....

                                          2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                            I'm still working on my proportions for truly from-scratch margaritas. Lately, I've been doing roughly 1.5 oz tequila, 1 oz Cointreau, 1.5 oz lime juice, and ~3/4 oz agave syrup. Shake and pour over ice. Comes out well, but you do need to shake well and/or give the ice in the glass a chance to melt a little. They're a big step up from using limeade, but a bit more work.

                                            The Sauza Hornitos reposado is ~$33/1.75L here. I used to get the Cuervo Tradicional, but same bottle is $50, don't know why. I was getting Pueblo Viejo, but the distributor stopped bringing it in, despite that it was a great bargain.

                                          3. Well! You got quite a few replies here. Here's my $0.02.

                                            The key to a great margarita is to avoid the Cointreau all together! If you purchase a good tequila (El Jimador for example) and good agave nectar (only Volcanic, available online) and freshly squeeze your limes, that is all the flavor you need! The artificial orange flavoring from the triple sec is unnecessary and covers up the full taste of the tequila.

                                            When using agave nectar, I use a 6:4:3 ratio. 6 parts 100% agave silver tequila (2.0 oz), 4 parts lime juice (1.25 oz), 3 parts agave mix* (1.0 oz). * - agave mix is just 1 part filtered water to 1 part agave nectar, shaken lightly for a few seconds.

                                            For a truly fresh margarita, I combine: 1.5oz tequila, juice from 1 lime, .75oz agave mix. No need to nit pick over the amount of lime juice as the amount of lime juice will not vary considerably.

                                            If using triple sec (i.e. Cointreau), I like to go with the International Bartender Association's ratio of 7:4:3. I switch the proportions of Cointreau and sweetened lime juice though. (This takes away some of the burn so that your margaritas will not be overly strong.)

                                            So... 7 parts 100% agave silver tequila (2.25 oz), 4 parts sweetened lime juice (1.25 oz), 3 parts triple sec (1.0 oz). (If using fresh squeezed lime juice in place of sweetened lime juice, add 3 parts or 1oz agave mix.)

                                            29 Replies
                                            1. re: tsmosher

                                              Cointreau shouldn't have any artificial orange flavor as far as I can tell. It's an infusion of a mixture of regular and bitter orange peels in grain alcohol, then sweetened. You could make your own if you really want to be sure of the ingredients. Agave nectar + lime juice is not at all the same thing as sugar + an infusion of regular and bitter orange peels. You could make a good tequila based sour without triple sec or curacao, and you might prefer the results to a traditional Margarita, but I'm not sure you can still call it a Margarita.

                                              Also, despite all the hype, agave nectar isn't really as great or "natural" as people make it out to be. See, for example, http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nec...

                                              1. re: will47

                                                Thank you for the response... I was trying to figure out how to word it and you hit the nail on the head. I find agave nectar to be about as good a sweetener as good old simple syrup, and costs significantly more than simple syrup. You can guess which I prefer.

                                                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                  Yes, thanks for clarifying.

                                                  There's nothing artificial in Cointreau; not to mention it's absolutely necessary if you're making a real margarita.

                                              2. re: tsmosher

                                                Absolutely! Dropping the Cointreau completely has made the biggest difference in taste and inconsistencies. (And I like Cointreau -- I'm happy to drink it straight so I can taste it.) I cannot remember the proportions at the moment. I am pretty sure I used a recipe I found years back from Esquire.

                                                1. re: Up With Olives

                                                  Proper proportions of a margarita are 3 parts tequila, 2 parts orange liqueur, 1 part lime juice. If you're going to substitute agave nectar, for the love of all that is holy don't call it a Margarita; without the orange liqueur you're just making a Tequila Lime Sour.

                                                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                    I am a cocktail purist and that's what I would have thought until I tried it. It was just shocking how little difference the absence of orange liqueur made, and you could really taste tequila and lime. I don't like sweet drinks, so I found this a terrific improvement.

                                                    1. re: Up With Olives

                                                      Even though you enjoyed it, it's not a margarita. I think that was the point.

                                                      1. re: tommy

                                                        OK, point taken. And I do usually object when drinks are foofied up and messed with and then called the same thing. (Please do try it, however, and report back.)

                                                        1. re: Up With Olives

                                                          I've had tequila with lime juice. It's a perfectly wonderful way to enjoy tequila.

                                                        2. re: tommy

                                                          Exactly! (to Tommy's 1st post).

                                                          1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                            Nope, not a gimlet because it has Agave sweetener and fresh lime juice. A proper (gin) gimlet is gin and Rose's.

                                                            1. re: Up With Olives

                                                              Normally I'm a little bit of a historical cocktail geek, but the Gimlet is one of the few recipes where I hate the original. I much prefer a fresh gimlet made with gin, fresh lime, and simple; or house made lime cordial.

                                                              1. re: Up With Olives

                                                                My comment was tongue in cheek BTW (although I prefer fresh lime juice in my gimlet).

                                                                1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                  This is an interesting article on a home-made lime cordial for a gimlet.

                                                                  1. re: Up With Olives

                                                                    UpWithOlives: Interesting read ... Many thanks!

                                                                    1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                      At the last Drink.Think reading the author concocted a batch with gin but the surprise was the excellence of the lime cordial with rum. Really delicious.

                                                                    2. re: Up With Olives

                                                                      I've made this one a few times. It tastes great with gin. I've been meaning to experiment and see how it tastes with tequila

                                                                        1. re: Up With Olives

                                                                          Do you still need to crush the zest to release the oils if you are using a zester instead of a peeler?

                                                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                            I'm sure if you zest there is no need to crush.

                                                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                              Whew that's a relief I spent a lot of time last week making that Cook's margarita recipe and would hate to think it wasn't as good as it could have been. (It was very good.)

                                                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                Do you mind giving a general overview of the recipe? You can't post verbatim for copywright reasons.


                                                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                  I have seen this posted a couple times so have copied-and-pasted, since the link to the original article seems to be dead:

                                                                                  (from Cook's Illustrated)

                                                                                  4 teaspoons grated lime zest
                                                                                  1/2 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 medium limes
                                                                                  4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
                                                                                  1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 medium lemons
                                                                                  1/4 cup superfine sugar
                                                                                  pinch table salt
                                                                                  crushed ice
                                                                                  1 cup 100 percent agave tequila preferably Reposado
                                                                                  1 cup Triple Sec or Cointreau or Grand Marnier

                                                                                  Combine zests, juices, sugar, and salt in large glass bowl or measuring cup; cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, 24 is best.

                                                                                  Strain the juice mixture. Combine juice with equal parts tequila and triple sec (so 1 part juice to 1 part tequila to 1 part triple sec), shake with crushed ice and pour over more crushed ice to serve.

                                                                                  1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                    Veddy interesting. Might have to try that.


                                                                                    I also like a little fresh orange juice in my marg

                                                                          2. re: Up With Olives

                                                                            Okay made a tiny batch of that Lime Cordial last night, and a gimlet with it tonight.


                                                                            Bigger batch soon.

                                                                            Deserves a thread of it's own.

                                                                            Wonder long how it keeps in the fridge?

                                                                            Seriously that lime cordial is now part of my permanent cocktail rotation.

                                                                            1. re: Up With Olives

                                                                              If you make one change in that recipe you can increase the flavor dramatically. Put the peel in a bowl with the sugar and then take a pestle or spoon and press the peels into the sugar, roughing them up and grating themm against the rough sugar. this extracts more oils. After doing this for a few minutes you will be amazed at the amount of oils mixing with the sugar. The aroma will be very strong. than add the lime juice and proceed with the recipe. This technique goes back hundreds of years to punch making and the original lime cordial as made for sailors.

                                                                  2. re: Up With Olives

                                                                    Having only half as much lime as Triple Sec leads, IMO, to a drink slanted pretty strongly toward the sweet side. Cocktaildb recommends more lime than Triple Sec, for example, although I prefer equal parts lime and Triple Sec.

                                                                    The Margarita has to be one of the most abused cocktail recipes around. From gawd awful bottled Margarita mix to sicky-sweet "sour mix" to slushie cocktail to added fruit flavors there must seem to be a zillion ways to make a lousy Margarita. And it is so easy to make a good one.

                                                                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                      I like my margaritas a tad sweeter, so here is my recipe for what it's worth:

                                                                      Cointreau (preferred over Grand Marnier) 1oz
                                                                      Herradura Blanco 2oz
                                                                      Juice of 1-2 Key Limes (according to taste)
                                                                      Simple syrup 1/2 oz

                                                                      Shake vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour into chilled glass with salted rim.

                                                                      I like Herradura Blanco the best. Have found that the darker tequilas do not work so well, especially reposados. I don't like the Patron bottle - weird lip makes poouring difficult IMO.

                                                                      Give it a shot and see if you like it. Lots of good advice in this thread already.