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What is Margarita Mix?

By KD Morgan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Margarita mix is a juice-like concoction, typically flavored lime or lemon, that is used as a base for margarita cocktails. A good mix allows a bartender or home entertainer to make margaritas with ease — in most cases, all that needs to be added is liquor and sometimes ice. Mixes are available commercially in most places, and come in a wide spectrum from the gourmet to the generic. It is also usually possible to make a margarita mix at home, and bartenders are often famous for the innovations and twists they add to behind-the-bar versions.

Basic Components

The main goal of any mix is to allow people to make a margarita in as few steps as possible. Traditionally, a margarita is made from a combination of orange-flavored liqueur, lemon or lime juice, and some form of sour syrup or bitters. Once these elements are balanced, a bartender will add tequila and either blend the mixture with ice or strain it into a chilled glass. Mixes do the balancing on their own, which makes margarita creation as simple as adding alcohol and serving.

The two essential tastes that any margarita mix must balance are the sweet and the tart. The sweetness usually comes from sugarcane or, in some commercial varieties, corn syrup. Lime and often a splash of lemon usually makes up the “tart” element.

How a mix achieves these complementary tastes says a lot about its quality and depth. The mix must encapsulate all the flavors that the ultimate cocktail will carry, save of course the alcohol. This makes for a lot of variety and discrepancy when it comes to actual ingredient lists.

Commercial Mixes

Pre-made margarita mixes are available in many supermarkets and liquor stores. Choices often range from the gourmet to the generic; mixes can be made from all-natural ingredients, or can be artificially flavored. There is usually no shortage of options.

Margarita mix often resembles a green-colored juice, but it is not usually suitable for drinking on its own. Most commercial blends are highly concentrated, which means that they need either liquor or water to thin them out. They are usually either too sweet or too tart to be palatable on their own.

How to Choose the Best Mix

Choosing between the wide range of available options can be daunting. First, it is important to consider the sort of drink being made. Fancy, expensive mixes tend to make more gourmet-style margaritas. These might do well at a dinner party, while a backyard barbecue or more casual get-together may call for something a little bit more low-key and inexpensive.

Added sugar and artificial flavors are also concerns for many people. Reading a mix’s ingredient label will reveal how many sweeteners have been included, for instance, as well as whether the mix actually contains lime juice or just artificial lime flavor. Overall calorie and sodium count may also sway a decision.

Homemade Alternatives

Making a margarita mix at home is another option. This method gives more control over the ingredients, but sacrifices some of the convenience. Making a mix ahead of time still simplifies things when it comes time to blend the margaritas, however, which can be very beneficial when serving a crowd.

In most cases, making a margarita mix is basically like making a margarita from scratch, but in bulk. People usually start by counting out how many drinks they want to make, then adding that many portions of lime juice, sweet syrup or sugar, and often a sweet liqueur to a pitcher or other large jar. Once combined, this sort of mix can be refrigerated for several days.

Some people get very innovative with their margarita mixes, adding other flavors like orange, mango, and strawberry — or incorporating other tastes entirely, like mint or hibiscus. One of the benefits of homemade mixes is that they can be structured to taste.

Mixing with Tequila

Knowing which sort of tequila to use with a margarita mix is usually the final step in cocktail creation. Depending on the quality of the mix, it is usually best to choose a somewhat mid-range liquor. Very inexpensive tequilas may make the drink bitter, while top-shelf brands may not be able to be fully appreciated when balanced against the flavors of the mix.

Substituting water or a light juice for tequila is a great way to enjoy margarita mix without the alcohol. This sort of drink is known as a “virgin margarita,” and is popular for children as well as adults who would rather not imbibe.

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Discussion Comments

By Mcangel05 — On May 01, 2011

People certainly have their preferences when it comes to the style of the best margarita mix -- I know people who get picky about the fruit, the kinds of alcohol added, the blend style, and even the bartending techniques used to make their drink! For me, as long as it's got tequila in it, I'm good to go -- though I admit, a nicely chilled glass with salt makes a difference, especially for the non-blended margaritas.

By Farah — On Apr 28, 2011

I am a huge margarita fan! In my opinion, a Margarita is an essential when it comes to being a part of the cocktail world and a margarita recipe is something every bartender should know. Thankfully they have those really easy to use margarita mixes now though -- that way I can make my favorite drink at home!

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