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Four Need-to-Know Margaritas - Consumatorium

Four Need-to-Know Margaritas

MargaritaThere are about 42,000 margarita recipes out there and that doesn’t even count the frozen varieties or the ones you can buy pre-made in a jug at the grocery store. While many of these are tasty, like our own Pomegranate Margarita and Ginger Margarita, most are no better than drinking a glass of spiked Kool-Aid with a little salt on the rim.

Most often, Margaritas are trashed with the use of sweet and sour mix or “Margarita Mix” which are used to replace freshly squeezed lime juice and a little of the orange liqueur that are standard in a margarita. The mixes are, basically, just corn syrup, salt and artificial flavors. They’re great if you want the synthetic taste of your drink to linger long after you finish it, but otherwise, they’re just high in calories and overpower the great taste of the rest of the ingredients.

Yeah, I know, the price of limes is skyrocketing and if you drink a lot, Cinco de Mayo is going to be an expensive holiday this year. You may be tempted to use a drink mix so that you can afford sending your kids to college, or for some other stupid reason. A true mixologist does not make such sacrifices to their craft. Buy a few limes, squeeze ‘em and your life will be better for it. I guarantee it. Your kids will find their own way.

While the permutations are almost endless, there are four must-know versions of the margarita. They are, the Margarita (standard version), of course; the Top Shelf Margarita; the Presidential Margarita and the Cadillac Margarita. Each can be served either straight up or on the rocks.

We’ve covered the Standard Margarita before. It’s a fabulous drink and is a mainstay for any home bartender. You can see the post for the specifics, but basically it’s:

  • 1 1/2 oz 100% Agave Tequila (usually Blanco, but feel to upgrade to Reposado)
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec (our version uses Cointreau, which is just a very good Triple Sec)
  • 1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • Salt for rim (Optional)
  • Lime slice for garnish

Shake it over ice and serve. A fabulous drink that’s super easy to make. No need for any stinkin’ mixes.

The Top Shelf Margarita replaces the normal Triple Sec with Grand Marnier and, generally, uses better tequila. Thus, the Top Shelf moniker. This gives the margarita a bigger orange flavor and even a little richer consistency, in my opinion.

  • 2 oz 100% Agave Tequila (usually Blanco, but I use Reposado)
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • Salt for rim (Optional)
  • Lime slice for garnish

Again, shake all ingredients over ice and serve.

The Cadillac Margarita takes the Top Shelf Margarita one step further by adding Reposado Tequila. Generally, I use Reposado in all my margaritas so, I suppose that this recipe doesn’t add much to the repertoire. For reference though and just in case someone asks you to make them one . . .

  • 2 oz 100% Agave Reposado Tequila
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • Salt for rim (Optional)
  • Lime slice for garnish

The Presidential Margarita adds brandy to the usual tequila, Cointreau and lime juice mix. The result is a sweeter, boozier margarita. This is a sit-back and drink kinda Margarita, you won’t be slamming these down all afternoon, if you get what I mean.

  • 1 oz 100% Agave Reposado Tequila
  • 1 oz Brandy (VS is fine. VSOP is pricier, of course, but it won’t kill you. Remember, you’re kids are on their own now)
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • Salt for rim (Optional)
  • Lime slice for garnish

That’s it folks. The only margaritas you need to know. Almost all other recipes are based on these, usually with added juice or using Mezcal as a replacement for the tequila. I generally like a little less lime in my margaritas and tend to use about 3/4 oz instead of the 1 oz that is called for in these recipes. I also randomly replace the Grand Marnier with Cointreau just to shake things up because I’m just that kinda guy (while both orange liqueurs, Grand Marnier is curacao with brandy and Cointreau is triple sec, so they’re a bit different). As always, you should never be constrained by the recipe. Experiment, try different combinations and additives and don’t forget to share your results and comments here on the Consumatorium.

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About Will Herman (103 Posts)

I don't know what it takes to become a professional mixologist, but I'm going to night school at my own home bar to achieve that status. For now, I'm an amateur cocktail creator who enjoys learning about new drinks and rediscovering the classics.


  1. Will Herman says

    So, I’ve been drinking many Margaritas this summer and have found that I’m really not a huge fan of the standard recipe. in fact, the 3:1:2 ratio mentioned above seems downright sour to me. Many use a 3:2:1 ratio, which is a lot better, although I have to admit that 3:3:1, as my friend Dan makes ’em, is pretty damned tasty. Don’t be afraid of going big on the Triple Sec. You may like more of it in your Marg.

  2. Joanne fink says

    Love your recipes and info,

  3. Kyle Storey says

    I have added an oz of OJ (no idea why) to the presidential. It seems to go down a little too easy.

    • Kyle, so sorry for the delay! That’s interesting. OJ wouldn’t be my first juice of choice for a citrusy drink, but who knows how these combos work? 🙂 I’ll give it a try. Have you tried any other juices? Say, pineapple? I make pineapple margarita’s with pineapple infused tequila, which is fantastic – if I do say so myself. 🙂

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