A traditional margarita is made with limes, usually, Persian limes which are the large green fruit you find in your produce section. For this margarita, I’ve used the smaller, less tart, and less acidic Key lime. A Key lime margarita is a great option for at home happy hour.
With more than 20 years of experience in the wine and spirit industry, I know a little something about adult beverages. My motto: The better the ingredients the better the cocktail!
That really applies to all aspects of cooking, whether it’s a wine for a main dish, vanilla for baking, or tequila for a margarita.
That said, you don’t have to run out and buy expensive tequila for this drink. But let’s talk about tequila a little bit. 100% Blue Agave tequila is going to be the best tasting and you can find some decent 100% Blue Agave tequilas on the market for a reasonable price.
Blanco or white or silver tequila is clear and unaged. Reposado or “rested”, is aged a minimum of two months but less than one year. Anejo or “aged” (old) is aged a minimum of one year but less than three years. Personally, I would use a reposado.
Blanco tequila, even one that is 100% blue agave, can be harsh. Anejo tequilas are nice sipping tequilas. It will make an authentic Key lime margarita but will be the priciest choice.
Now let’s discuss the juice. Fresh is best but I realize Key limes are not available everywhere or even year-round, for that matter. I am lucky to have a Key lime tree in my backyard so I freeze lots of juice for use throughout the year.
One of the most popular Key lime juices on the market is Nellie and Joe’s. You can find it in most grocery stores. If Key limes are not available, Persian limes will work just fine. Since the Persian lime is much larger than the Key lime, you will probably need fewer to yield the same amount of juice.
So this is a recipe inspired by the Classic Margarita recipe I found in a cookbook called Margaritas 101. I made it my own by tweaking some of the ingredients, namely using a non-alcoholic triple sec for the Cointreau. Just because a drink has more alcohol doesn’t mean it’s a better drink. It’s just more expensive and Cointreau is an expensive ingredient.
First, you need to make a simple syrup. It’s called simple syrup because it’s so easy to make. There are a few ways to make it but I make it using equal parts sugar and water.
Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate any leftover. I make this for my husband to sweeten his iced tea.
Do you want more Key lime recipes? Check these out:
- Key Lime Muffins with Key Lime Glaze
- Tupelo Honey Key Lime Vinaigrette
- Key Lime Mustard Dipping Sauce for Stone Crabs
- 2 ounces 100% Blue Agave Tequila (a reposado is recommended)
- 2 ounces simple syrup
- 1 ounce non-alcoholic triple sec
- 2 ounces Key lime juice
- Salt for rim of glass
- Lime wheel or wedge for garnish
- Combine tequila, simple syrup, triple sec, and Key lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ¼ cup ice. Don't use crushed ice, it will melt quickly and dilute your cocktail. Shake vigorously. Pour with the ice or strain into a margarita glass that has been rimmed with salt. Garnish with a lime wheel or wedge.
To salt the rim of your margarita glass:
Pour a fair amount of Kosher salt into a shallow plate. Take a Key lime wedge and run it around the rim of the margarita glass. Dip moistened rim into salt and Viola! A salted rim!
Originally published November 28, 2010, updated June 20, 2021.