Pitcher Cocktails: Margaritas, Two Ways!

Buffett would totally approve

While the rest of the APW staff may have spent their summers sipping Juleps and other regional cocktails, the only drink I get out of bed for in the summer is a well-made Margarita. To be clear, I will drink any kind of Margarita concoction you put in front of me (including that one time I ordered one on tap at a Monster Truck Rally. Do not recommend). But freshly squeezed Margaritas with actual lime juice are worth every bit of extra work put into them.

Here, we have two recipes. One is the go-to classic for Margarita making. The other is the favorite in Meg’s house. That recipe leaves out the Triple Sec, and sweetens with agave instead. It’s a method learned by living near Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, which is world famous for its tequila selection. This recipe is for those of you who want to name call (and taste, unblended) your top shelf tequila in your margarita—or just like them more tart and less sweet.

We’ve already written about how to prepare cocktails in big batches in advance, so review that if you need to. All cocktail recipes are essentially ratios, and just like with our previous drinks, we’ll give you the recipe for one cocktail (which one should always have, in case of I-need-this-tonight emergencies) and then the basic ratio for scaling up. (Please, however, read on for safety notes regarding the making of this particular cocktail in bulk. Because oddly, there are safety notes.)

MARGARITA RECIPE (Classic Version)

3 oz tequila
2 oz Triple Sec
1 oz fresh unsweetened lime juice


3 parts tequila, 2 parts Triple Sec, 1 part fresh unsweetened lime juice


300 oz tequila
200 oz Triple Sec
100 oz fresh unsweetened lime juice

Margarita Recipe (Meg’s Version)

2 oz tequila
1 oz fresh unsweetened lime juice (approximately one lime, depending on the size)
.5 to 1 oz agave syrup

Margarita Ratio

2 parts tequila, 1 part fresh unsweetened lime juice, 1/2 or 1 part agave syrup

For 100 Cocktails you need

200 oz tequila
100 oz lime juice
50 to 100 oz agave syrup

You may need to do some math at the store when you are buying your booze. Some spirits are sold in ounces, others in liters, others in quarts, pints, or gallons. We highly encourage using this smartphone app or this one, or this website for your conversions.

Prepping In Advance

If you’ll be prepping your own cocktails, the idea of juicing a hundred limes the week before your wedding probably sounds like a nightmare. Never fear, we’ve got a hack for that! You can freeze freshly squeezed lime juice in ice cube trays beforehand, squeeze a little at a time, and then store them in plastic bags in your freezer until you’re ready to get mixing.

A note about limes and lime burn

If you are juicing your own limes right before your wedding, beware of lime burn, ESPECIALLY if you’re going to be outside for your wedding or the days before/after. Lime burn, a.k.a. phytophotodermatitis, is caused by a material from a light-sensitizing plant (i.e., lime juice) getting on skin that is then exposed to sunlight. Exposure to the sun starts a chemical reaction between the UV rays, plant juice, and skin, which can result in varying degrees of burns. Other plants that can cause phytophotodermatitis include parsnips, celery, and lemons.

To avoid lime burn, make sure you wash your hands very well before going outside. Or, if you’re juicing your limes outside, like for a beach or backyard party, don’t do it with your bare hands—use a juicer, and/or rubber gloves. Washing your hands alone, won’t always save you. Meg and Lucy have both juiced limes outdoors with disastrous consequences (like, emergency doctor’s visits to try to figure out the swollen hands and spreading chemical burns), so please, learn from their mistakes. Lime burn is no fun, and it’s really no fun on your wedding day.

Salt or No Salt?

I take my margaritas with salt (and lots of it.) To rim your glasses like we did here, make sure to set aside extra limes so that you have something to moisten the rims of your glass with, in addition to coarse salt (regular salt won’t cut it.) For tips on how to rim a glass like a pro, you can check out this tutorial. If you want to boost your garnish game, cut your limes into wheels instead of wedges. As this tutorial points out, lime wheels are purely for show (rather than for adding flavor.) But I’m okay with that.

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  • pedant

    Delicious. But to be a pedant for a moment, it should be Buffett if you’re referring to Jimmy in the subtitle.

  • Emily

    LEMON BURN! Oh-my-gosh, this phenomena happened to me last weekend and I couldn’t figure it out (me, being me, I just took a benadryl and put some aloe on it…cuz, who needs a doctor?). Mine wasn’t so bad that my hands swelled per se, but i did get this gnarly red rash and insisted on taking all of my lemonade with vodka in it. Thanks for the knowledge!

    • ART

      I had heard of it from parsnips, but in my mind parsnips and sunlight don’t mix anyway (winter veggies…) so didn’t worry about it too much. But I’ve never heard of this from lemons and limes – crazy! Very good to know.

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  • Grace

    I’m totally that girl who also adds Gran Marnier (…in addition to the Triple Sec), and uses sweetened lime juice in my margaritas. Not even sorry.

  • Emily F

    Good call on the lime burn warning! I got a mysterious rash after visiting New Orleans and essentially had to go to a dermatologist for him to tell me that I’m a bit of a drunk and probably spilled my margarita on my hand while walking around in the extreme sunshine of Louisiana.

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  • Erin B.

    You could also do what we did at our wedding: bowls of limes as centerpieces that guests could then take to margarita-making stations.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Love that.

  • ShakerAndrea

    Ridiculous question: I don’t drink much, and many of my friends and family don’t drink at all. What kind of drink would be like a margarita, good with rimmed glasses, and non-alcoholic?

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      You know, I am actually really into fancy sodas, tonics, and craft mocktails right now, especially on nights when I want something tasty but don’t want to get sleepy (booze makes me wicked tired. I’m drinking a dry lavender soda as I type this.) Some of these recipes might be a good place to start:


  • ART

    Hard to go wrong with margaritas. Grapefruit is good, too! I went to a wedding this summer that was serving grapefruit margaritas and I saw the bartender just dump a bottle of ocean spray or whatever grapefruit juice into her mixing bottle…so easy. Yum.

  • BD

    I so so so wanted to do this for my wedding… a margarita with fresh lime juice, cointreau and some kind of awesome Reposado tequila is my signature drink. Alas, my wedding was in the fall and I bought into the idea that no one would want a margarita in October. Bummer, all the silly decisions I made.

  • Crusher

    I’ve been waiting for this post! Thank you!

  • Maggie

    The only problem we are having making this is that the drinks are super strong…. We don’t want to use a mix because they are so sugary and gross but the fresh recipes is a LOT of booze and we don’t want people to be that buzzed. Thoughts on diluting?