Come down to Margaritaville: How to make a margarita

Cocktails with Chris

Chris Markham, Director of Print

Any college student who drinks has probably had a margarita. This tequila-based cocktail is one of the tastiest and most famous alcoholic drinks out there. While there are many recipes, at its core, the margarita is a mix of tequila, lime juice and some sort of sweetener. Whether that sweetener comes in the form of sugar, orange liqueur, agave nectar or anything else is up to the enjoyer. 

I, personally, like using equal amounts of agave nectar and orange liqueur as my sweeteners. You can find agave nectar at any decent grocery store. Since tequila is made from the agave plant, the nectar amplifies the herbaceous flavors that are already present in the alcohol, making it super sweet. On the off-chance that I don’t have agave nectar, I’ll use simple syrup instead. As for the orange liqueur, I usually use triple sec, since it’s cheap and has a nice and neutral orange flavor. 

Of course, one of the biggest decisions when making a margarita is whether to blend it or shake it. The most traditional way to make the drink is to shake it with ice in a cocktail shaker and then pour the drink into a glass, straining out the ice. This is how I usually make my margaritas at home, but a frozen, blended margarita does hit the spot from time to time. 

The most noticeable difference between the two is that a shaken drink will have a stronger, boozier flavor than a blended drink, since it won’t be diluted by ice as a frozen one. When you shake a drink, only some of the ice gets melted into liquid and is mixed into the drink, but when you blend it, all of the ice in the blender will become part of the drink, making it weaker. Granted, this can be an advantage if you’re using a cheap tequila that doesn’t taste all that great. Another advantage of making a blended margarita is that you can add fruit into it if you want some additional flavor. 

Though its status as one of the most popular drinks in North America is cemented in stone, cocktail historians are a bit less certain about its origin story. There are several different tales ranging across the 1930s and ‘40s, all with varying levels of credibility. One of the earliest accounts of its creation, and my personal favorite, is that bartender Carlos “Danny” Herrera created the drink for Marjorie King, a dancer and showgirl who came into his bar in Mexico. Herrera named the drink after King, declaring it the margarita. 

Whatever the truth about its past may be, the margarita is a delicious cocktail that anyone can enjoy (if you’re 21 or older, of course). With the weather continuing to heat up, margaritas just sound better and better. So go make yourself one of these and have a good time. Just be sure that you’re being safe and responsible, too. The recipe below is my preferred recipe, but feel free to experiment and adjust it to your liking.



2 ounces tequila (I prefer a blanco tequila)

1 ounce fresh lime juice (3/4 ounce if using bottled*)

1/2 ounce orange liqueur 

1/2 ounce agave nectar or simple syrup**



  1. Add ingredients to your cocktail shaker filled with ice***
  2. Shake until sufficiently chilled  
  3. Pour the drink into your preferred glass with or without ice
  4. Enjoy responsibly 


*While there’s nothing wrong with using bottled lime juice, in my experience, it tends to have a harsher flavor than fresh-squeezed juice, so I like to dial back the amount of juice I use if I’m using bottled.

**To make simple syrup, combine sugar and water into a pot and heat up until the sugar is dissolved. Standard ratios in most recipes is one part sugar to one part water, which will last about four weeks in the refrigerator. You can also make what’s called a rich simple syrup by using two parts sugar to one part water, which will last for about six months in the refrigerator.

***If you don’t have a cocktail shaker available, you can use a protein shaker bottle, a Mason jar or a thermos that gets a really tight seal.