The trick to the perfect margarita – and the best supermarket shortcuts

A ready-to-drink margarita mixer feels more like being in a bar and having someone else make it for you
A ready-to-drink margarita mixer feels more like being in a bar and having someone else make it for you - Chiara Brazzale

At the first glimmer of sunshine on a long spring evening I used to reach for Pimm’s, or something like it. Now? A citrus squeezer and a tequila bottle. It’s time to make a margarita.

‘Margs’, and variations such as spicy margs (with chilli heat) and palomas (with pink grapefruit soda), are everywhere, replacing prosecco as the convivial drink of choice. Not everyone is on board with the nickname. ‘Couldn’t they shorten them to ’ritas? It sounds better,’ says my neighbour. But they’re drinking them: the margarita is the most ordered cocktail in the US and, over here, there is an ever-increasing choice of tequilas, canned cocktails, mixers and even zero-alcohol margaritas to pick from.

The first question must be: are you going to mix your own or take a shortcut? Some years ago, I was horrified when Sir Cliff Richard confided to me his love of rustling up ‘margaritas from a packet mix’. Surely a margarita needs the bright tang of fresh lime? And how much effort is it, really, to squeeze a lime or two and give the juice a bit of a shake with some triple sec, tequila and ice?

Now I am older and more tired, I only need to think of the tiny miaow of longing I feel when I read the words ‘barista-made coffee’ on a chalkboard – ‘someone else will make something for you’ – to understand it better. Cocktails are for pleasure. Sure, to some the ritual of the shaker is part of the moment. But, for others, a ready-to-drink or a ‘just-add-tequila’ mixer feels like a little present that comes closer to being in a bar and having someone else put a drink down in front of you.

I tried a few. The Moth Margarita (14.9%, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, £3.75-£3.99 for a 125ml can) is apparently very popular, but to me lacked freshness. M&S Margarita (8%, M&S, £2.50 for a 250ml can) is bizarrely carbonated and tastes processed. The one I’d buy is the Mirror Margarita (see below). Named because it is almost magically crystal clear, Mirror Margarita is the creation of Deano Moncrieffe, founder of the Hacha bars, the capital’s agaverias in Dalston and Brixton.

The M&S Margarita tastes too processed, says Moore
The M&S Margarita tastes too processed, says Moore - James Lee Photography Ltd

Of the just-add-tequila options, I found Fever-Tree Classic Margarita Mixer (widely available, £4.50 for 500ml) not bad but too grapefruity. I really liked the Starburst-fresh sweet-sourness of Funkin Margarita Mixer (Ocado, £5.30 for one litre). This one is made just from water, lime juice, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar, a combo that cleverly pulls in some of the orange flavours from the triple sec you’re not using. Also my daughter loved it in a slushy (ice smashed up with a rolling pin in a plastic bag), so winning all round.

If you’re making a margarita from scratch, the classic recipe is one part lime juice, one part triple sec, two parts tequila (which should be 100 per cent agave), shaken with ice and strained into a salt-rimmed martini glass. This gives a drink that is much stronger than the one you get following the instructions on the Funkin Margarita Mixer (one part tequila to two parts mixer).

A more contemporary way to serve a margarita is to pour it into an ice-filled tumbler for a bit more dilution. Instead of salting the rim, add a pinch of salt and stir in a dash of agave syrup to boost the flavours of the very cold iced drink. Even better, if you’re out of triple sec, make a Tommy’s margarita: two parts tequila, one part lime juice, half part agave syrup. It’s cheaper, too.

Try these...


Mirror Margarita

14%, Sainsbury’s, £25 for 50cl

Smooth and almost peachily sweet, this grapefruit- and lime-scented ready-to-pour margarita is no stronger than a glass of wine.

Neurita Picante with Tequila

35%,, Amazon, £31.99 for 70cl

Infused with Scotch bonnet chilli and created for spicy margs. You just need to add lime juice and agave syrup; there’s a recipe on the label.

El Jimador Tequila Blanco

38%, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, £25-£25.50 for 70cl

Made from 100 per cent blue agave, this is an excellent tequila that  will make your margaritas really sing.