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The BEST Fresh Margarita

The BEST Fresh Margarita

by Barbara Kiebel on May 4, 2012

When I made this blood orange margarita in February I mentioned that I normally reserve margaritas for the summer. And this cocktail is the one I save until then. The first touch of warm weather and I start to think of margaritas; there is something about warm weather, a barbecue and having friends over that makes a pitcher of these a required element at my backyard get togethers. I say margaritas and my friends and neighbors know and I can count on them to flock to my backyard and I just know it’s not the food! I’ve been dying to do this cocktail for Happy Hour Friday but I had to wait until the time was right and FINALLY the time is now!

What makes this drink so special? It’s the attention to detail; from the type of tequila to the quality of ingredients and ending with the preparation. It’s not something you can throw together at a moment’s notice (though I do have a quick version) but the wait is worthwhile, trust me. Letting the different flavors meld together from the juices and zest infuses this cocktail with a bright citrus punch. The longer the zest and juice mixture is allowed to steep, the more developed the citrus flavors are in the finished margarita. If I’m planning ahead for company, I will let the citrus mixture steep for 24 hours, although the margaritas will still be great if the mixture is steeped only for the minimum 4 hours. If you’re in a rush and need to serve margaritas immediately go ahead and try the quick version; it’s good too but the more time the better.

Two of the most important elements that make this what I consider the best are the tequila and the orange liqueur. I’m not recommending the finest sipping tequila, that would be a waste when mixing a margarita, but I do recommend stepping it up a notch from the cheapest available. I always use Tequila Reserva 1800 Anejo. It’s 100% de Agave, double distilled, and aged in French oak and American Oak for 6 months. The aging serves to smooth out a tequila, reducing some of the harshness and for me, this brand has always been my go to for this cocktail. Equally important is the orange liqueur. So many folks reach for Triple Sec; it’s certainly the cheapest. However, with that price is this reality; it’s sugar water with artificial flavors. Spend a few more dollars on an orange liqueur which will have the actual essence of orange in it and this cocktail will benefit greatly. I use Patron’s Citronge but Grand Marnier and other orange liqueurs are fine too.

Somewhere along the way I started to experiment with citrus elements and I’ve found I like a blend; some lime, some lemon and even some orange; use these fresh ingredients instead of a margarita mix and you will NEVER go back…I’m willing to bet you a cocktail on that!

I first put this cocktail on my blog almost 4 years ago to the day when I think my daughter might have been my only reader. I’m certain it was for the same reason; tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and Denver has a large Hispanic population so it’s a big celebration here. I do my part to honor that day with this margarita, my favorite corn salsa with chips, a simple guacamole I love and a dinner of fajitas for family and friends. Last year I put together a compilation of some great Mexican foods for Cinco de Mayo and that list is still a good one today. Great foods for a celebration or in my case, a barbecue…sort of the same thing!

The BEST Fresh Margarita

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 4-6 Servings

The BEST Fresh Margarita

Using quality fresh ingredients makes all the difference with this margarita!


  • 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 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup orange juice from 1 small orange
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch table salt
  • 2 cups crushed ice
  • 1 cup 100 percent agave tequila, preferably Reposado
  • 1 cup Citronge or Grand Marnier
  • Lime, sugar and kosher salt for rimming


  1. Combine the lime, lemon and orange juices with the zest from all three with the sugar, and salt in a large liquid measuring cup; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors meld, 4 to 24 hours.
  2. Rim the edges of margarita or double old-fashioned glasses with a lime slice and dip in a combination of equal parts sugar and kosher salt and fill the glasses with ice.
  3. Pour juice mixture into a pitcher with remaining crushed ice. Add tequila and orange liqueur; stir until thoroughly chilled.
  4. Strain into ice-filled glasses and serve immediately.


In a hurry? Skip the zest, combine all the ingredients and serve immediately. I try to give it at least the four hours but in a pinch? This is still very good!

For a Girls Nite Out we’ll add some Pomegranate Liqueur instead of the orange liquor for a girly pink version!

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Art Karatzou March 10, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I followed the directions exactly and the result was outstanding! It made the best margarita I ever tasted, and my travels have been far and wide for the last 30-odd years. Thank you for sharing the recipe!


2 Creative Culinary March 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm

YAY YAY YAY…love comments like this; makes this effort all the more worthwhile (and I agree with you; it is simply the best!).


3 Kasha the FarmGirl February 27, 2013 at 8:46 am

I think I may have died and gone to heaven… I’m saving this for my next girls night!
Kasha the FarmGirl Most Recent Post: Pulling Pigtails, plus Gluten-Free Lemon Cornmeal Cookies


4 Creative Culinary February 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm

It is simply the best margarita I’ve ever had…it’s sort of what started my journey into making cocktails but it’s never forgotten!


5 Cynthia December 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm

R these very strong?


6 Creative Culinary December 10, 2012 at 3:58 am

Like any mixed drink there is a fair amount of alcohol by volume if that’s what you are asking.


7 LP @dishclips May 8, 2012 at 8:53 pm

When I see this it makes me want to sit out on the porch and sip it while reading a nice book.


8 Creative Culinary May 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

First you read and then you nap. I typically make my cocktails over the weekend or at least on Thursday night so I can enjoy at least one of them. Crazy week and had to make this first thing Friday morning. First…I could have downed it as my breakfast beverage but knew better so waited til all of 3pm. Why did I not think I would be done for the day? Yes, without friends here, a nap was calling loudly! Enjoy and Cheers!


9 Julia May 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm

A GOOD marg isn’t tough, but you totally need to pay attention to detail and use good quality! And this Barb is a GOOD marg! I love the Pomegranate Liqueur suggestion to make it pink, how fun!


10 Creative Culinary May 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Isn’t that the truth. EVERY time I see a recipe that calls for Triple Sec I want to scream…NO!! But I would be hoarse with that effort so I just keep sort of quiet and make sure I take care of my own. :)


11 Diane {Created by Diane} May 8, 2012 at 11:41 am

If it weren’t so far of a trip I’d be heading over for one of these…..I know I invited myself. I couldn’t help it….I do dishes :)


12 Creative Culinary May 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Anytime…we’ll make do even if I don’t have advance notice!


13 love2dine May 7, 2012 at 7:13 am

This looks really good, I’m starting to get thirsty.


14 Jamie May 7, 2012 at 4:26 am

Ah, I just need a porch swing and that bowl of salsa and chips. Sounds and looks cool, refreshing and citrussy sweet. You’ll make me a drinking – or a sipping – woman yet. And I always learn something with every one of your cocktail posts (I never paid attention to anything drink related before). I love your Cocktail Fridays!


15 Creative Culinary May 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

If you were here I most certainly would. I’ve said it before; I’m not a big drinker; one cocktail, at MOST two and always with friends…but I do love them and I do love making them too and glad you stop by and at least enjoy the effort. That matters to me; having one with you would be even better!


16 Jagruti May 6, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I am such a novice to making cocktails..your in depth description sure helps! :)


17 kale May 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Can I pretend I don’t believe you just to get this cocktail out of it? ;)
Definitely quality ingredients going into this. Love reposado; so smooth!


18 Lora @cakeduchess May 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I’m not a julep kinda of a girl but I will take a margarita any day. Yours looks fabulous. Love the citrus element. A pitcher would have been just perfect on this hot Saturday (and it’s not even summer yet;)


19 Creative Culinary May 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

It was perfect last week; today? Not so much. 40 degrees and rainy. I’m all for the rainy we needed some moisture SO bad. The cold? Not so much.


20 Michelle May 5, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Okay….next time you make a drink I need to be over so I can enjoy it :) this looks so GOOD!!!!!


21 Creative Culinary May 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Here’s the deal. You give me the word and I’ll have them made. It’s that simple. :)


22 Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet May 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Sounds incredible Barb. Happy Cinco de Mayo!! :) p.s. – I’d rather drink a margi over a julep any old day.


23 Creative Culinary May 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Me too…but I do love to watch the Derby; always so relieved when it’s over too and no horses were injured; I worry about that too much probably but they are such gorgeous creatures and I just cry when one gets hurt.


24 Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen May 4, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Um, would you consider moving to Wyoming and be my neighbor? I need one or two of these in my life!


25 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Better if you take a road trip and scoot down here; I’ll have a pitcher waiting. :)


26 Terra May 4, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Love the addition of the Citronge, that does sound like a perfect margarita! Hugs, Terra


27 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

So good it was all I could do to not down it after a morning shoot…my friend was thinking I could call it a Margarita Mimosa and get away with it but I decided better. I know how potent these are!


28 Suzanne May 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm

You know so much about the art of mixing a cocktail, I learned a lot from this post and plan on making the margarita after I get proper tequila and dump my triple sec. I do have Grand Marnier though. This drink sounds perfectly balanced, fresh and delicious.


29 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Gosh Suzanne, thank you. If sharing what I love is what I do here…the very most I can ever expect is having someone enjoy that effort. Dumping the triple sec is a good idea…the difference in the quality of taste is pretty remarkable and makes a big difference!


30 Nancy@acommunaltable May 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have one of these right now!!! I love the citrus blend as well Barb but I’ve never steeped it with the simple syrup before so I have got to try it!!! Would love to share a pitcher of these with you!!


31 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I would love to share a half a pitcher with you…I know how potent these pups are! I only started adding some OJ last summer…what took me so long? I keep it minimal to not overpower the lime and lemon juices but it makes them even better than they were before and I thought that impossible. Time to catch up soon? XO


32 Amanda May 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I must say, this looks just lovely and very tempting. When the weather warms up, my first thoughts turn to gin as I had a nasty brush with tequila in my late teens. But this looks divine – we’ll share one some day, Barb!


33 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I’m betting it was probably rot gut tequila because well, you mention being in your teens! Would love to share a cocktail one day; I’ll even make you a drink with gin, promise!


34 Jamie | My Baking Addiction May 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I vaguely remember you telling me about this margarita. I think Brian would do just about anything if I whipped him up one of these…maybe even empty the dishwasher. Another great cocktail, Barb!


35 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm

OK, then you must do it…but you must also hold out for something more than emptying of the dishwasher! And thanks Jamie…this is truly my all time favorite. I came ‘this’ close to having it for breakfast…you know, it does have some OJ in it, right? :)


36 Karen Harris May 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Beautiful photos of a delicious drink. I’m going to have to try these. Maybe we can convince you to make these for our next meet up. I mean even though it is in the morning they do have OJ in them. We could just call them Mexican mimosas.


37 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I went out for dinner last night…guess when I did this drink? This morning! Once done I took a sip and believe me, it was ALL I could do to not just finish it off. I held off til 3pm under the auspices of ‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ and them wanted a nap. Good thing I’ve never done the three martini lunch; I would be good for nothing afterwards!


38 Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos May 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm

You really have the best cocktails :) I’ll be dropping by the state store to pick up this tequila – your recipes have never steered me wrong and I’m sure this tequila will run circles around what’s already in my liquor cabinet :)
Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos Most Recent Post: Leftover Rotisserie Chicken – Make Roasted Chicken Orzo


39 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Thank you Aly; I love making them and sharing them so REALLY love someone enjoying them! It’s not super pricey but I think head and shoulders above something like Cuervo Gold. Let me know if you make it and Cheers!


40 Ansh May 4, 2012 at 11:43 am

GULP!!!! I want I want I want!! I will drive all the way down for this! :)
Ansh Most Recent Post: Basil Seeds and Coconut Water Drink – Bonda Sharbat – Inspirational Thursday


41 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

We have to plan a Girls Nite Out in June on my patio…there WILL be margaritas, promise.


42 Paula May 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

This looks so refreshing and I’m sure it goes down really smooth! Perhaps this summer will be the summer that I have my first margarita!
Paula Most Recent Post: DIY Cookie Decorating Caddy


43 Creative Culinary May 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm

You MUST try it. Too often restaurants make them too strong, homemade are often made with a bottled mix and they just don’t compare. A smooth tequila and some great components and it’s refreshing with just a bite. I think perfect.


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