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!
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.
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.
It is very easy to whip up your own top shelf margarita all from scratch. Here’s the rundown.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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!
- Cherry Lemonade Margaritas
- Red Currant Margaritas with Ginger Sugar
- Pink Grapefruit Margaritas with Sriracha Salt
Top Shelf Margarita Q & A
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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.
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.
As I stated above, use what you like, but here is a list of likely suspects courtesy of Delish.com: Lobos Tequila Joven, Patron Silver, Casamigos Blanca, Tequila Casa Dragones Blanco, El Jimador Reposado, Herradura Silver Tequila, El Tesoro Añejo Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal (not tequila, but recommended for the smokiness), Espolòn Blanco, Avión Reposado, Don Julio Blanco, Villa One Silver Tequila
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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.
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Exotic Cocktail Salt Collection - 5 All-Natural Glass Rimmer Salts - Margarita, Margarita Lime, Pink Lady, Habanero Heat, Smoked Bacon - For the Perfect Cocktail, Every Time - 25 Total Oz.
Crystal Cocktail Mixing Glass Set - Includes Mixing Spoon, Strainer, Jigger and 18oz 550ml Cocktail Glass - Sturdy, Thick Base - Perfect for Amateurs & Pros - Great Gift
Libbey Colors Margarita Glass Set, 4-Piece
Nutrition InformationYield 2
Amount Per Serving Calories 173Carbohydrates 25.3gSugar 21.9g
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