It doesn’t need to be Cinco de Mayo or Taco Tuesday to enjoy a tasty margarita. It’s always five o’clock somewhere, right? But there are a few do’s and don'ts when it comes down to how to drink a margarita – preferably on a beach in Mexico, but that can slide – that will elevate this classic cocktail to heights like never before. So much so, that you might not touch another cocktail ever again. And no, this margarita etiquette doesn’t mean drinking your cocktail with a pinky up. Instead, it covers the basics, starting with using the right type of glass – margarita glasses are almost as iconic as the drink itself, whether or not to use sugar and salt rims, the best foods to pair with margaritas and so much more. You’ll be schooled on the ins and outs of margaritas in no time.
3 Different Kinds of Margaritas
- Frozen margarita: Summer just isn't summer without a frozen cocktail of some kind, and a margarita is perfect for this. It adds an elevated refreshing take on an already refreshing drink. Making it is super easy, too.
Just mix together a regular margarita, pour it over a glass full of crushed ice or add ice to a blender with the margarita and blend until it gets to that perfect frozen cocktail texture. Serve with a tiny umbrella, and it’s truly a siesta.
- Margarita on the rocks: This essentially means over ice cubes. Although most classic margarita recipes already call for ice to be added to the cocktail shaker along with all the other ingredients, you will also be adding ice to the glass for a margarita on the rocks. When the margarita is ready, simply pour over the ice.
- Virgin margarita: A virgin cocktail is perfect for those who aren’t 21 just yet or for those nights when you simply decide that the next-day hangover just isn’t worth it. To make virgin margaritas, it comes down to simply avoiding the use of any alcohol and adding ingredients like fresh orange juice, lemon-lime soda and club soda.
Even without alcohol, virgin cocktails are still meant to be fun, so you can play around with different fruit juice and soda pairings. To make it more flavorful, add garnishes such as orange and strawberry slices.
Use the Right Type of Alcohol in Margaritas
When it comes to margaritas, it's completely up to you what kind of alcohol you want to use. If you use tequila, you are creating the classic margarita, which comes with: tequila, triple sec (or some other kind of orange liqueur) and fresh lime juice.
If you choose to go the tequila route, the type of tequila you use does matter; it’s undoubtedly the most important part of the cocktail, one that can change the overall taste and quality. Because of this, you'll want to avoid gold tequila and stick with silver since the flavors mesh better. And while there are tequilas that cost upwards of two grand, if you prefer to stay on the modest range of tequilas that still taste great but don't cost too much, José Cuervo is a popular choice.
In the end, this cocktail classic should hit all the right flavor notes since lime and orange liqueur balance very well with the strong taste of tequila.
How to Substitute Different Alcohols for Tequila
There are also twists on the classic margarita recipe, which come down to using different types of alcohol as substitutes for tequila. For example, you could use vodka, instead of tequila, or peach schnapps in order to create a peach margarita. Either way, the amount of alcohol that a margarita should have is 2 ounces of tequila or other alcohol and 1 ounce of orange liqueur. When dilution is involved, this ends up to be 1.2 ounces of alcohol in total. Just be sure that you are using the same amount of alcohol as if you were using tequila.
Why a Sugar or Salted Rim?
It might be time to say goodbye to the college days of taking a tequila shot with salt and lemon and consider a more sophisticated approach of drinking your margaritas with a sugar or salt rim. The reasons to rim a margarita glass with sugar or salt are presentation, as well as the fact that using salt actually cuts bitterness and helps offset the sweet and sour flavor going on in the glass. This ensures that you can better enjoy your drink.
What Kind of Salt to Rim Margarita Glasses?
There are a several different kinds of salt out there – everything from sea salt to table salt to Himalayan salt, among others – but the best kind of salt to use to rim a margarita glass is kosher salt. This is because kosher salt meets the proper criteria for both taste and presentation. For example, table salt was found to be too clumpy for rimming, and the salty taste was overpowering. Kosher salt has a nicer look to it since it doesn’t really clump, and the salty taste is more subtle.
How to Rim a Margarita Glass With Salt or Sugar
To create a bar-worthy cocktail right at home, the secret is in the presentation and using a sugar or salt rim for this. Start by filling a plate with either sugar or salt – you could also use rainbow sprinkles or sugared orange zest. Using a wedge of lime, run it across the rim of the glass to moisten it so that the salt or sugar sticks to the glass better. Next, evenly dip your glass onto the plate. That's it! All that's left to do is pour in your margarita and get sipping.
3 Different Kinds of Margarita Glasses
Another huge part of cocktail presentation is the very glass you use to serve the cocktail in. While margaritas can be served in a variety of different glassware, if you're keeping things as traditional as possible, these three are a great addition to your bar cart:
- Welled margarita glass: This glass is the most commonly used and well-known glass for margaritas. It has a wide bowl and a rim that is perfect for rimming salt or sugar. It is accompanied by a long stem that is sure to draw attention. Frozen margaritas work great in this glass as well, since it has a thick body.
- Saucer margarita glass: This is another popular margarita stemware. It's smaller than the welled margarita glass since it's missing the well, but it does feature a saucer shape that provides enough room for the drink and any garnishes.
- Martini glass: While it might sound strange to serve margaritas in a martini glass that's made for, well, martinis, it does work well for twisted variations on the classic version, such as the peach margarita.
Can a Margarita Get You Drunk?
It takes around three margaritas to get drunk, according to Zoe Weaver, a bartender at Midway on High, as she explained to Babe.Net: Basically if someone has less than three drinks they aren’t here to get drunk. They’re going home because they have stuff to do the next day. But when it comes to margs, there’s often a higher liquor ratio, and they can become dangerous if you’re drinking without eating.
So how drunk you get depends on several factors, such as how diluted the drink is, how much time between each drink, how much you've eaten and whether you're consuming glasses of water between cocktails.
Delicious Foods to Pair With Margaritas
Margaritas can be enjoyed alone or with food. When eaten with food, though, there are certain food pairings that complement the sweet and sour taste and citrus flavors. Just keep in mind that you don’t need too much salt in these foods because you will get salt from the rim of your glass.
This goes beyond chips and guac, although that combo with margaritas does sound like heaven. Nachos are a good choice for an appetizer since they come with lots of different levels of flavoring, starting with the choice of blue, white or yellow corn chips and then the veggies, beans and other toppings. Tomatoes on nachos add freshness to a dish that complements the refreshing aspect of margaritas. You could also add some heat with jalepeño peppers or spicy salsa, since sipping on a sweet and sour margarita helps counteract this heat.
Next up is the main course. If you're opting for something light, like a salad, this is a great choice since you could add some mango-infused chicken or shrimp to the salad for extra protein. This is also a great way to bring out the citrus notes in your margarita. The acidity in the citrus also goes well with fattier foods, so it’s no wonder why tacos pair so well with margs.
Lemon-lime flavoring is a good choice for dressings, since you don't want any flavors that will take away from the flavors of the drink. But if you’d like to pair margaritas with food that have a bit more substance than salads, fajitas are a great idea. You could marinate the main protein in citrus juice, like lime or lemon. Shredded lettuce and other veggies are a great accompaniment to this, as is guac or sour cream on the side.
When it comes to desserts, there are many options to choose from, each more delicious than the next. For starters, pair margs with spicy chocolate, a Mexican restaurant fave; any kind of cheese cake – again, acidity in citrus goes great with fattier foods, such as cheese; or a tart dessert of some kind, since the acidity also helps cut any bitterness.
Also, who could skip out on margarita-infused desserts? Sounds like a match made in heaven. A siesta, indeed.
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- Liquor: About the Margarita Cocktail
- Cocktail Democracy: Cocktail Calculus: How Boozy Is Your Poison of Choice?
- The Cookful: Taste Test! Best Salt for Rimming Margarita Glasses
- Babe: Bartenders Explain Exactly How Many Drinks it Takes to Get a Perfect Buzz
- Betty Crocker: How to Rim a Margarita Glass
- Easy Good Ideas: Mocktail Virgin Margaritas
- Our Everyday Life: Different Kinds of Margaritas
- Thrillist: Why the Margarita Is the Perfect Cocktail
Sarah is a multi-platform writer and editor. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Vital Proteins, Healthline, Diply, and more. When she's not writing, she's trying to keep up with her border collie, Emmy.