Hey, y’all. Today I’m telling you about our Beach Drink of Choice: a Top Shelf Margarita. That’s right. The best tequila and orange liqueur, the best from-scratch sour mix, and a pretty potent proportion of booze to sour.

So if you’re a fan of a scratch made craft cocktail, you’re going to want to get on board with these rocks margaritas!

And if you’re a super fan of a good margarita recipe, try my Blood Orange Margaritas! Make it a whole Mexican meal and serve with my smoky beef carnitas, too.

For ease of browsing, here are all of my beverage recipes in one place. Thanks for stopping by!

A full margarita glass on a floral napkin with a bottle of Grand Marnier and one of Camarena tequila in the background.

I used monk fruit and stevia with a couple of table spoons of sugar to cut the sugar down. The fresh lime and lemons are so easy. I am a patron girl. This is my new favorite margarita!

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Margarita Lover

What’s In a Top Shelf Margarita?

Top shelf implies the best of the best, but you also don’t want to break the bank. So keep in mind your budget.

If you’re going all-in on the best, you should use the best orange liqueur as well as making a nice homemade sour mix.

Alternatively, you can make a simple syrup and then add your own freshly squeezed lemon and/or lime juice separately.

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The main–only–ingredients in a great margarita are:

  • Good quality tequila, either blanco or reposado (more on that in a bit
  • Good quality orange liqueur
  • ice cubes
  • simple syrup
  • lemon and/or lime juice
  • salted rim for your glass

How to Make Top Shelf Margaritas

These guys are delicious, and the balance of the homemade sour mix makes it easy to pour a perfect drink.

A top shelf margarita with a salted rim on a floral napkin with 2 limes and 1 lemon in the background.

It is very easy to whip up your own top shelf margarita all from scratch. Here’s the rundown.

  1. Make Your Sour Mix Boil equal parts of water and sugar together so the sugar dissolves. Add a mixture of lime juice and lemon juice. Refrigerate. This is your fancy homemade sour mix.
  2. Rim Your Glasses with Salt Pour kosher salt or your favorite rimming salt into a shallow dish. Wipe a lime segment around the rim of your margarita glass, then dip the rim of your glass into the dish of salt. Let the rims dry while you make your drinks.
  3. Measure the Tequila and Grand Marnier I like a ratio of 4:1 tequila to orange liqueur, so for each ounce of tequila, I use 1/4 oz of orange liqueur. I prefer to use Grand Marnier because I think it has a more nuanced flavor than Cointreau. Cointreau has a nice, bright orange flavor, though, so you use whichever you like. You can use either. I encourage you to save your Triple Sec for blender margaritas and to use the “good stuff” for your top shelf margarita. It makes a difference!
  4. Pour Over Rocks and Enjoy Fill your margarita glasses to the rim with ice cubes or crushed ice. Mix the alcohols and sour mix together in a pitcher, then pour over ice.

What’s the Best Tequila for Margaritas?

Honestly, it’s whatever you like to drink. If you enjoy a specific tequila as a shot, use it in your margarita.

Since we’re talking top shelf, you want to get a good quality tequila.

You also need to decide whether you want a silver (blanco) or gold (reposado) tequila. I prefer silver, so that’s why I went with the Camarena, but feel free to use either.

Blanco tequila is unaged and has the mildest flavor profile, making it great for cocktails.

Reposado is aged for up to 3 months in barrels, so it takes on a gold-ish color and has a bit more flavor than silver.

For margarita purposes, I would stay away from añejo, which is aged from 1-3 years, because that is really meant to be sipped straight, and the nuances would be lost in a cocktail.

Margarita Sour Mix Recipe

It is so easy to make your own sour mix to make margaritas that you’ll never buy store-bought again. Plus homemade sour mix tastes so much better. your top shelf margarita will thank you for your efforts!

The sour mix I use to make margaritas, top shelf or otherwise, is the same one I developed for the bar at the restaurant.

I like a lime-forward sour mix as that flavor profile works especially well with margaritas. After making the simple syrup, I add a mixture of 3/4 lime juice and 1/4 lemon juice to the cooled syrup.

A sealable bottle of homemade sour mix on a floral napkin. Label on the bottle reads "Sour Mix".

The sour mix recipe makes about 2 cups or enough to make 6 regular sized margaritas. Of course, there is no rule that says you need to make margaritas at all.

Use the sour mix as a base for fizzy lemon-limeade. Just add club soda. Or use it to sweeten ice tea. This is good stuff, so keep some on hand. It will stay fresh for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

How to Make a Great Salt Rim

If you really want to up your margarita game, zest several limes and an orange.

Combine the zests with your kosher salt and mix in your stand mixer for a minute to break down the zest a bit so it releases its oil.

Allow to dry (if it’s clumpy) and then spread out in a saucer to rim your glasses.

You can also use a mixture of salt and sugar if you prefer, with or without the zest.

NOTE: If you want to play up the lime in your sour mix, just use lime zest. If you’d rather play up your orange liqueur, just use the orange zest. Using some of each gives a nice balance.

If you want 1 cup of rimmer, I’d go with 1/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup salt, but I like things on the salty side.

You can also go half and half, or if you really have a sweet tooth, just use straight sugar.

More Margarita Recipes to Try

Here are some other top shelf margaritas you might want to give a try. So delicious, friends!

Top Shelf Margarita Q & A

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What is a top-shelf margarita?

Top shelf is a bar term that assumes that the best alcohol in the bar is literally on the top shelf. So, in a top-shelf margarita, you’d be choosing tequila and orange liqueur that is on display on a higher–or top–shelf of the bar.

What is a well margarita?

Most people don’t refer to a “regular” margarita as a well margarita, but it really is. It’s a margarita made with all the alcohol that is kept in the “well” behind the bar so you can’t see the labels. Since these low-priced alcohols allow for a decent markup without a break-the-bank price, well drinks are the mass-produced, bread and butter drinks of any bar.

What is the best tequila to use for margaritas?

As I stated above, use what you like, but here is a list of likely suspects courtesy of Delish.com: , , , , , , (not tequila, but recommended for the smokiness), , , ,

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how to make a top shelf margarita with homemade sour mix | pastrychefonline.com

Top Shelf Margaritas

Jennifer Field
These top shelf margaritas use smooth Camarena silver tequila, a hint of Grand Marnier and a lime-forward sour mix for a top shelf margarita that is hard to beat. Note that the measurements for the syrup are by weight.
4.42 from 17 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Beverages
Cuisine American
Servings 1 -2
Calories 173 kcal


For the Sour Mix (makes 2 cups)

  • 5.25 oz granulated sugar about 2/3 cup
  • 5.25 oz filtered water about 2/3 cup
  • 6 oz freshly squeezed lime juice 3/4 cup
  • 2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/4 cup

For the Margaritas (Makes 1 huge margarita in a 16 oz glass or 2 regular margaritas in 8 oz glasses filled with ice)

  • Crushed ice
  • 2 oz your favorite silver tequila (such as Camarena Silver or similar), (1/4 cup)
  • .5 oz your favorite orange liqueur (Grand Marnier preferred) (1 Tablespoon)
  • 5-6 oz sour mix about 3/4 cup

To Rim the Glasses

  • Segment of lime
  • kosher salt or your favorite rimming salt


For the Sour Mix

  • Bring water and sugar to a boil. Cool to room temperature.
  • Add freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice.
  • Strain and chill until cold

For the Margaritas

  • Rim your glasses with lime juice and then kosher salt or your favorite rimmer (optional but recommended)
  • Fill your glass/es with crushed ice. All the way to the top.
  • Stir together the tequila, orange liqueur and sour mix. Start with the lesser amount and add more to taste as needed.
  • Pour over the crushed ice in the glass/es and enjoy slowly.

Did You Make Any Changes?


Calories: 173kcalCarbohydrates: 25.3gSugar: 21.9g
Keyword margarita, top shelf margarita
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

Thank you so much for spending some time with me today.

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  1. Well, that sour mix isn’t hard at all! I’ll definitely be making a jar of this for the fridge.

    Any loss of a family member is hard but the best consolation is time with good friends. I’m sure your company (and margaritas) were a comfort to Heath’s parents.

    1. Yes, so great to have on hand for all sorts of drinks, Stacy! We were glad we could be with Ken and Candace to cheer them up a bit during a sad time. Heath was a good, good boy. <3

  2. A touching story, Jenni. You and your friends hold Heath’s memory in the loving light of the full, good life he lived. Cheers to that! For the record, you had me at ‘lime-forward’. Pinning.

    1. Thank you, Brooks. You are the best. Heath and Shadow were both such good babies. They traveled a heck of a lot more than I have, too. And yes, 3:1 lime to lemon. The only way to go! =)

4.42 from 17 votes (17 ratings without comment)

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