This ultimate margarita requires just three easy-to-memorize ingredients—tequila, lime, and agave nectar. You read that correctly. It exchanges cloying Cointreau for a splash of sweet agave nectar. What results is exceptionally smooooooooth and dangerously sippable. Just ask anyone who’s tried it…and then inevitably gone back for more.

What About Cointreau? Note

Nothing against Cointreau, but some of us simply don’t care for it in our margarita. We don’t want that sweetly tart citrus zing cloying things up and obscuring the taste of a proper silver tequila. If you like Cointreau, that’s fine, we’re not knocking your taste and we’re not saying one way or the other is right or wrong. Just kindly don’t tell us how to make our margs.

Three glasses of ultimate margarita with lime wedges.

Ultimate Margarita

4.45 / 9 votes
This ultimate margarita is made with tequila, agave, and lime juice. Nothing else. It isn’t the classic margarita. It’s unspeakably better. So much so that we think it’s the best. So does everyone else who’s tasted it and gone back for seconds.
David Leite
Servings8 servings
Calories231 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 2 cups tequila blanco
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice, (from about 10 limes, plus 1 more lime, cut into 8 wedges, for garnish)
  • 1 cup agave nectar, (the paler one, not the dark amber one) or Simple Syrup
  • Kosher salt, (optional)
  • Ice


  • Combine the tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar or Simple Syrup in a pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled through, about 4 hours.
  • If using salt to coat the rims of the glasses, pour some into a small dish. Rub 1 lime slice or wedge over half the rim of a coupe glass (if you prefer your margarita straight up) or an old-fashioned glass (if you prefer it on the rocks) or a margarita glass or even a plain old pint glass. Dip the rim of the glass into the salt. Repeat with the remaining glasses.
  • Fill the pitcher with ice and stir well. Pour the margarita into the prepared glasses, straining out the ice if desired, and garnish each with a lime wedge. (Hosts and hostesses, be certain to toss that lime wedge that you used to rim the glasses in your own cocktail.)


Margarita Variations

Fruity Margaritas
Muddle 24 blackberries with the agave nectar in a pitcher until the berries are lightly crushed and the juices are released. Continue with the recipe.
Spicy Margaritas
Muddle 16 thin jalapeno slices with the agave nectar in a pitcher until the peppers begin to fall apart. (For a less spicy version, remove the seeds first.) Continue with the recipe.
Bright Margaritas
Steep 2 hibiscus tea bags or 1 teaspoon dried hibiscus flowers with 8 ounces (1 cup) hot water for 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags or strain the flowers and let the tea cool. Gently spoon some of the tea over the margarita, creating a brilliant red hue on top.
The Grilling Book

Adapted From

The Grilling Book

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Serving: 1 cocktailCalories: 231 kcalCarbohydrates: 24 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 2 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 19 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Adam Rapoport. Photo © 2013 Peden + Munk. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Not sure what to do when a sweltering heatwave hits early summer in the Northeast? Make this ultimate margarita, that’s what! I prefer a simple recipe for my marg, with 3 or 4 ingredients max, a blanco tequila, but no triple sec. The three simple ingredients in this recipe make for a well-balanced—and easily memorized—cocktail. This is not the crazy, sugary mess you might get at your neighborhood family dining establishment. This is a classic and delicious cocktail. I chose to omit the salt simply because it’s not to my taste, but I’m sure it would add a nice layer of flavor to the beverage. I think the agave is key to the balance of flavors here as well, considering both the spirit and sweetener come from the same plant. What I like about this recipe is that you have the proportions (2 tequila: 1 lime: 1 agave), so you can easily downsize the recipe or make an even larger batch. This will be my only recipe for a classic margarita in the future, and I recommend others to convert as well. Cheers!

This is truly the perfect margarita. It’s pretty much the way I’ve been making mine for years, I just never had an actual recipe. I don’t care for triple sec or Cointreau in my margaritas. This recipe makes a simple, clean-tasting drink with easily adjustable proportions. For two drinks, I used 1/2 cup Espolon Tequila Blanco (very smooth and sporting a nicely designed label to boot), 1/4 cup lime juice, and 1/4 cup agave nectar. You should plan on about 1 lime per drink, but keep in mind that limes vary pretty widely in size and juiciness. Can I just say, however, that I do not plan 4 HOURS in advance for my evening cocktail, so the idea of making the mixture then chilling it and waiting…and waiting…did not appeal to me so much. Luckily, the tequila was already in the freezer, and the limes and agave nectar in the fridge, so the ingredients were pre-chilled. Do chill the mixture on ice right before serving, even if you are serving the drinks on the rocks, as I did. It’s so much nicer in these hot and humid times. I’m glad I sprung for the 750-ml bottle of tequila, because now I can have my chilled Ultimate Margarita whenever I wish. No waiting!

I found this ultimate margarita to be less tart than other margaritas, and much more so than those cheap bar margaritas that use sweet and sour mix. The agave nectar had a pronounced agave flavor, and did an excellent job of smoothing the tequila out. Because the tequila comprises half the volume, it’s probably a good idea to go with a quality tequila. I chose Cuervo’s 1800 Silver. Also, because the tequila makes up half the volume, some caution is necessary, as it tastes fairly harmless, but really packs a punch.

I agree—this is the ultimate margarita! So, so, so delicious. I made half a recipe. My store only had the amber colored agave nectar; and, while the color of this cocktail wasn’t exactly the prettiest, the taste was divine! Everything came together quickly, and after 4 hours in the refrigerator, it was plenty cold. I served these on the rocks with salt. This margarita is better than what the Mexican restaurants nearby serve, primarily due to the agave. Most margaritas have a tartness from a triple sec or orange liqueur that this margarita doesn’t. This will definitely be served again, and very soon. Love this ultimate margarita!

I’m typically not a fan of alcoholic drinks, besides the occasional glass of wine or beer, so when I came across this recipe for margaritas, initially I didn’t give it much thought. Thankfully, our neighbors are big margarita fans and always on the search for the perfect margarita. Devoted neighbor that I am, I felt compelled to make these for them, and surprisingly, I absolutely loved them, too. Most margaritas that I’ve tried in the past are either way too sweet or so incredibly strong that I have a hard time trudging through them. This cocktail is so refreshing and simple to make. What I love most about it is it doesn’t evoke a powerful taste of tequila. The lime juice and agave syrup balance the flavor of the alcohol so well that I almost forgot there was alcohol even in it…almost. Don’t let the refreshing flavor of this beverage fool you. Just one glass had a pretty good effect on me! I opted for salt on my glass, which further aids in balancing the sweetness of the cocktail. I’m thrilled to have a new offering for our guests!

We made these ultimate margaritas for a weekend at the lake with friends and they were a hit. We only needed 7 limes to get the 1 cup of juice needed for the recipe. We couldn’t find variations in colors of agave nectar, so we used the only one available. I don’t think the taste was affected, but the margaritas did take on a brownish color.

We made this Ultimate Margarita this past weekend. Superb! We did a test run on Friday evening to make sure it was what we wanted to serve our guests. First half-batch we made exactly as written and used agave syrup. Perfect. Then, because we didn’t have any blackberries to muddle, the second half-batch we muddled fresh strawberries. Even better! I’ll just say that the Ultimate Margaritas with muddled strawberries flowed freely on Saturday and received high praise! This is now our go to recipe.

This margarita is the perfect framework for making a single serving or a batch, with an easy ratio of ingredients, which of course can be adjusted for personal preference as well as ingredients. We kept the same amount of tequila and lime (mixing regular and Key limes), but used a smaller amount of an intensely wonderful Meyer lemon syrup. Five minutes and a good stir later, we were ready to serve, skipping the chilling and serving the margarita over rocks, sans salt. Adjust for your taste of course – I would suggest starting with our ratio of 2:1:1/2 and transport your view to a high desert sunset!

While I am not a tequila expert or even aficionado, this stands up to any top shelf margarita I have been served.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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    1. You’re allowed, ATNell. That’s the beauty inherent in eating and drinking—to each his or her own.

  1. One thing to note for anyone trying this in the UK is that agave nectar sold in the UK is usually thicker and more viscous than in the US. Using the quantities here would result in something far too sweet. You’re aiming for the consistency of simple sugar syrup so make sure you dilute if it’s too thick!

  2. So we all know there’s as many margarita recipes as there are bartenders. However, for those of you with a dislike for Cointreau, Triple Sec, Grand Mariner etc. (hence the “coin style”), I encourage you to seek out a liqueur by Pierre Ferrand distillery in France, called “Dry Curaçao”. It’s a blend of brandy, Ferrand Cognac and bitter orange peels. It is truly a remarkable add-in for your margarita, without adding any cloying sweetness, and is wonderful on its own ( just taking a big ‘ol slug out the bottle). Oops.

    1. I’m definitely in the group that likes the hint of orange but I too find Cointreau a little too sweet. A great alternative that I was recommended recently at a speciality store is Combier Original, a triple sec that is much dryer and somehow more ‘orangey’ than Cointreau, if a little more expensive. Definitely worth a try if you want something a bit more sophisticated.