Punch Up Your Boring Regular Margarita With These Upgrades

Love a margarita? You're in good company. According to research for World Cocktail Day (via Decanter), margaritas are the most beloved cocktail on the planet — and it's not hard to see why. Sweet, tart, and sometimes a little salty, margaritas keep your mouth watering. Whether you're getting ready for Taco Tuesday or a night in with friends, homemade margaritas are a sure crowd pleaser, and you don't have to be a pro mixologist to put them together.


A classic margarita only requires a few ingredients. A single drink just needs 2 ounces of blanco tequila, .5 ounces of orange liqueur, 1 ounce of lime juice, .5 ounces of syrup, such as agave or homemade simple syrup, and usually a salt or sugar rim (via Liquor.com). But this foundational recipe is just the beginning. Though margaritas don't take much to make, they have almost endless potential for exciting customization and experimentation. Want to make your margarita into something extra special? Here are a few ways to punch up the flavor of your margs with easy upgrades.

Unexpected liqueurs

As we can tell from our base recipe, classic margaritas are usually made with an orange liqueur like Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, or Cointreau. In fact, this ingredient is so central to many variations of margarita that Cointreau's website alone boasts over 70 different margarita-inspired drink recipes, all with orange liqueur in the mix. But if you're a margarita rule-breaker, you can take a walk on the wild side by switching out this liqueur for something unexpected.


For an Italian twist, consider replacing the orange liqueur with citrusy limoncello or nutty amaretto. To add a delicately sweet and floral note to your margarita, use an elderflower liqueur like St-Germain. Or, if you like your drinks fruity, try a berry-forward liqueur such as black raspberry Chambord. Depending on the sugar level of the liqueur you choose — and how sweet you like your drinks — you may even be able to skip adding syrup to your new creation.

Infused tequila

Orange liqueur isn't the only alcohol you can swap out to tailor your unique drink. While tequila may seem like an untouchable necessity for your margarita needs, even this can be tweaked. For one thing, some marg enthusiasts swear by switching out tequila for mezcal, which delivers a smokier and robust finish (via MasterClass). Or you can zhuzh up that tequila base by infusing your alcohol with other flavors. If you've never infused your own liquor before, rest assured: it is surprisingly straightforward.


To infuse any kind of liquor, tequila included, add your desired flavor source to the bottom of a 16-ounce mason jar. Tequila pairs especially well with tropical flavors, so consider infusing yours at home with pineapple, mango, citrus fruit, or even dried chiles. A third to half a cup of fruit should do the trick, though you can get by with less if you're using a spicy additive like jalapeño.

Next, fill the rest of the jar with your preferred booze — in this case, tequila. Seal the jar with a lid and pop it into your refrigerator for three days to infuse. After three days, strain out any fruit, herbs, or chiles, and your tequila should be good to go! As long as you've strained it thoroughly, it should have the normal long shelf-life of any decent liquor (via Southern Living). Hoping for a shortcut? Flavored tequilas are growing in popularity, so you may also be able to find some at your local liquor store.


A creative salt or sugar rim

When it comes to margaritas, one of the classic debates is salt versus sugar. A survey conducted by Shane Co. reveals that about 87% of margarita drinkers take their margs with a rim, so you probably pick one of these rims to finish your beverage, too. While salt may be the more classic choice, both have their place. But whichever camp you fall into, why stop at plain sugar or salt? Why not get more creative? Spiking your rim with other spices and flavors adds complexity.


There are a number of fun and tongue-tingling salt and sugar mixes you can try at home. If you're a salt lover, try taking your salt rim to the next level by adding zingy spices like chili powder, black pepper, or fan-favorite Mexican spice blend Tajín. You can also create a contrast to your margarita's natural tartness by adding an element of smoke to your rim, like smoked sea salt.

If you prefer a more candy-like margarita, consider a sugar blend for your drink's rim. To balance the sweetness and double down on your drink's fruity appeal, add fresh citrus zest to your rimming sugar. Or for a wacky and creative take, trade out the sugar for a flavored sweetener like powdered pink lemonade or fruit punch. When it comes to tricking out your custom margarita, the sky's the limit!


Flavored syrups

If you're an old-school margarita purist, you may not use any extra sweetener beyond the orange liqueur. But nowadays, typical margaritas usually use a little extra sugar, such as agave or simple syrup. Simple syrup is the easy answer for home drink-makers, as it can quickly be made by boiling equal parts sugar and water (via Food & Wine). However, this sweetener also provides an opportunity to personalize your drink with some daring flavors.


To develop depth in your simple syrup, consider adding some mix-ins when boiling the sugar and water together. Tossing in fresh jalapeno will give your syrup and your drink a spicy kick, while mint leaves will elevate your margarita with mojito-like freshness. To evoke a summer vibe, you can even use ingredients like rhubarb or lavender to reinvent your cocktail syrup. And if you've ever had basil lemonade, you can probably guess that this savory herb would make a great addition to your margarita's sweetener.

Exotic citrus

Last but not least, get imaginative with your use of citrus. Margaritas usually get their punchy tang from lime, lemon, or a combination of the two. But why not give your drink a twist by adding a different kind of tartness? Picking a more unusual citrus fruit like grapefruit can add new flavor profiles to your drink with minimum effort. Simply swap out the usual measure of lime juice and then adjust to taste.


Of course, grapefruit is just the tip of the iceberg. Other citrus juices to consider include blood orange, tangelo, or kumquat. For an exotic citrus fruit that ticks all the boxes, you can also try yuzu. Often associated with Japanese cuisine, yuzu juice — which tastes like the love child of orange, lemon, and grapefruit — is available bottled and ready for all your fancy margarita needs (via Eating Well).