Avoid These Mistakes When Making A Margarita

In 2019, Nielsen crowned the margarita as America's best-selling cocktail. Don't worry — we're not here to talk you out of ordering them. And neither would margarita-aficionados Jennifer Anniston, Matthew McConaughey, or George Clooney (via USFood).

It'll come as no surprise that Anniston likes a classic margarita, made of good tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau. To get on Clooney's level, you'll need to up your game a bit. His favorite margarita is apparently a spicy jalapeño cucumber margarita made with Casamigos Blanco. What about Matthew McConaughey? McConaughey is such a big fan of margaritas that he's got his own "Just Keep Livin' Margarita" recipe, which includes Anejo tequila, two tablespoons of cranberry juice and 1/4 cup of citrus soda. 

McConaughey, clearly, likes his margarita fruity. Far be it for us to judge. In fact, if you're itching to try your hands at your own version of everyone's favorite cocktail, have at it, with or without the cranberry juice and citrus soda. Just don't make these basic mistakes. 

Don't use pre-squeezed lime juice

Jennifer Anniston's on to something. The only three things you need to guarantee margarita success are tequila, lime juice, and good orange liquor, most traditionally Cointreau Triple Sec (via Food & Wine). While you might be tempted to focus on the liquors, it would be a mistake to underestimate the lime. 

Pre-packaged and pre-squeezed lime juices generally use lime oil as flavor. These you want to stay away from. Take the extra couple of seconds it takes to cut open an actual lime and squeeze it into your cocktail shaker. International Cocktail Group consultant, Estaban Ordonez, suggests you pick out soft limes with shiny skins that give out "rich citrus aromas" after rubbing them (via Mental Floss). 

Ordonez also cautions against adding too much lime to your margarita. If you're adding equal parts lime juice and tequila, you may be messing up. Instead, try following Ordonez's recipe for success by adding only 1 ounce of lime juice for every 2 ounces of tequila. Sound simple? It is. You're off to a great start.

Don't use anything but 100 percent agave tequila

If you believe USFood, George Clooney's preferred margarita-making tequila is Casamigos Blanco, bottles of which start at $45.00 (via Reserve Bar). Jennifer Anniston's is an Anejo: Don Julio 1942, which will cost you around $179.00 (via Reserve Bar). Both are excellent choices, but not because of their heftier price tags. Why? Because both are made out of 100 percent agave, which is the key to giving your margarita the pepperiness it needs to offset the flavors of the cocktail's other ingredients (via Thrillist). 

Needless to say, you'll end up ruing the day you went with the least expensive tequila on the liquor store shelf when shopping for margarita night. As Food & Wine points out, tequila only has to include 51 percent agave to be called tequila. That's a far cry from the 100 percent variety that a margarita really needs. And if you find yourself mixing extra sweeteners into your cocktail to mask the flavor of your tequila, that's a prime sign you've used a variety of the liquor made using a mix of natural flavors, cheaper grain, and agave spirits. 

What kind of tequila should you use? That's largely up to you. For a milder, mellower flavor profile, opt for a silver tequila, like Clooney. For a margarita that really celebrates the taste of tequila, aim for an Anejo tequila aged in an oak barrel, like Anniston (via Bon Appetit).

Don't use iodized salts

Don't roll your eyes. All salts are not created equal. There are actually good and bad salts for margarita glass rims. Thrillist recommends you avoid using large-grained salts or salts with added iodine in your margaritas. Your safest bet is a fine-grained sea salt, which has a lower sodium level than processed salts (via Food & Wine). Don't stop at the rim. Because salt works as a flavor enhancer, if you're using simple syrup to sweeten your tequila, add a bit of salt to it to make each of the ingredients in your cocktail more powerful. 

That said, be careful not to overdo it. Most people dip the entire ring of their tequila glass in salt. It may look nice, but doing so is a missed opportunity, at least according to liquor-titan Alfred Cointreau. For best results, Cointreau advises that dip only half of your margarita glass rim in salt. That way you can alternate between sipping your cocktail (and tasting your cocktail) with and without it (via Insider).