June 18, 2021

Healthy Margarita

Receta en ESPAÑOL abajo!!

In my opinion, there are few things better in life than relaxing in the sun with a cold, fresh margarita. The tartness that fresh lime juice brings, the bite of tequila, a little bubble action from a topper of club soda…I mean come on! Focusing on the flavors helps me live in the present moment and be grateful for this beautifully crafted cocktail and the fact that I get to enjoy it. 

This enjoyment partially comes from the fact that I know exactly what is in this margarita: tequila, fresh lime juice, Cointreau, a touch of agave, and club soda. If you love margaritas but don’t love the sugar bomb that comes with most margarita mixes, we highly recommend giving this recipe a try. 

Ingredients for this Healthy Margarita

healthy margarita ingredients

  • Tequila. Obviously.
  • Cointreau is an orange liqueur produced in France. Boujee, right? It’s a tad pricey as compared to triple sec or margarita mix, but a little goes a long way. The complexity of flavors that Cointreau brings is unparalleled. It brings notes of zest, fruit, spice, florals and more. The richness of it means you don’t need to add much to get amazing flavor. You can certainly sub regular triple sec or orange juice here; but if you want to go big, trust and get some Cointreau in your arsenal. 
  • Fresh lime juice. If you want the ultimate margarita experience, get real limes and squeeze those babies yourself. If you don’t have one, do yourself a favor and invest in a quality citrus squeezer or citrus juicer. It makes life so much easier!! You will never go back to the bottled stuff again.
  • Agave. This will be based on personal preference. If you like tart margaritas, I’d recommend starting with a small squeeze, like about a ¼ teaspoon. If you prefer a sweeter margarita, add more. 
  • Club soda. Although not a traditional margarita component, the bubbles bring even more life to this cocktail. If you are a fan of bubbles, highly recommend. If not, you can certainly leave this out. If you’re looking to reduce the alcohol content, you can add even more club soda and reduce the tequila.
  • Lots of ice. Not kidding. Full rocks glasses of ice to the top, don’t skimp. The ice to liquid ratio is key in cocktail making.

How to make a Margarita on the Rocks

Get your ingredients together. Tequila, Cointreau, 2 fresh limes per drink + a lime for garnish, agave, club soda. Rocks glasses. Cocktail shaker. Salt or tajín for the rim if you’re feeling fancy. 

If you desire a salt or tajín rim, take a small plate and pour a bit of kosher salt or tajín into the shape of a half or whole circle (depending on how much of the rim you want coated) about the size of the mouth of your glass. 

salt on plate for healthy margarita

Next, take a wedge of lime and cut it through the middle to but not through the peel.

preparing salt rim for healthy margarita

Now take your glass, insert the cut lime onto the rim of the glass and circle it around to wet the rim. 

sliding lime wedge around rim of glass to make salt rim for healthy margarita

Flip the glass upside down and press into the salt or tajín circle shape on the plate until sufficiently coated to your desire.

glass upside down on plate to make tajin rim for healthy margarita

Congrats! You just nailed your own salt or tajín rim! You fancy.

complete salt rim for healthy margarita

In your cocktail shaker, add tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and agave.

Fill rocks glass(es) entirely to rim with ice. 

Add handful of ice to cocktail shaker with ingredients. Shake until the outside of the cocktail shaker feels cold.

Strain into rocks glasses filled with ice. 

Top with club soda and garnish with lime wedge. Sip and enjoy!! 

Healthy Margarita with chips and salsa

Healthy Margarita with chips and salsa
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Healthy Margarita

Margarita made from scratch using real-deal, high-quality and delicious ingredients! We swap out sugar-laden mixes for fresh lime juice, Cointreau and a touch of agave
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Healthy Margarita
Servings: 1 drink
Calories: 200kcal
Author: Kelly Wagner, MS, RD, LDN

Equipment

  • cocktail shaker
  • rocks glass

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces tequila
  • 1.5 ounces fresh lime juice about 2 limes
  • 3/4 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/4 teaspoon agave
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • lots of ice

Instructions

  • In your cocktail shaker, add tequila, fresh lime juice, Cointreau and agave
  • Fill rocks glass entirely to rim with ice. Add a handful of ice to cocktail shaker with ingredients
  • Shake until cold
  • Strain into glasses
  • Top with club soda, garnish with lime, enjoy!!

Notes

  • 1.5 oz = 3 tablespoons and 3/4 oz = 1.5 tablespoons
  • If you like it spicy, take a 1.5-2 inch piece of jalapeño, dice and add to cocktail shaker. Garnish with jalapeño slice and tajín rim!
  • For instructions on how to make a salt or tajín rim, see blog post

Some Delicious Variations

  • If you like a spicy healthy margarita, take about a 1.5-2 inch chunk of jalapeño, dice it up, and add that into the cocktail shaker with the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and agave. Garnish with another slice of jalapeño. Try it with a tajín rim! 

birds eye view of spicy version of healthy margarita

  • If you’re looking to reduce the alcohol content, you could reduce tequila to 1 oz or less if desired and increase club soda. 

FAQ

What makes this margarita “healthy”?

We always encourage moving away from labeling food as good or bad. From our perspective, we can do this and still want to make healthy tweaks here and there to help us genuinely feel GOOD about what we put into our bodies. In this recipe, swapping margarita mix for fresh lime juice, cointreau and agave is a game changer. Not only does it taste exponentially better, but it also drastically cuts down on the added sugar and weird ingredients. All in, this recipe gives us about 200 calories, 13 grams of total carbohydrate (including 8 grams of sugar) in 5 oz of liquid. Compare this to 4 oz of margarita mix which clocks in at 24 grams of sugar (more on this next). Sooo to sum it up, this healthy margarita delivers with real ingredients, real taste, and a lot less sugar. 

Let’s get a few things straight. We are not pedalling a “skinny” margarita here. The fact that the term “skinny margarita” is so prevalent is alarming honestly. Think about the subtext of that term. What does that say about our society? We have all sorts of problems with this as it is a big nod to diet culture. That aside, lots of people are looking for healthier margarita options as compared to the prevalent sugar-laden margarita.

In creating this recipe, MANY margaritas were tested. If you look up “skinny margarita” online, you’ll notice many of the recipes use orange juice in place of cointreau. If that sounds good to you, give it a whirl! For us, these variations left us wanting. The taste was watery, a bit too one-dimensional, and didn’t have that real margarita flavor. This is why we crafted our own version of a “healthy margarita” using real, high-quality ingredients.

What is in margarita mix?

If you still need convincing for trying your hand at making a scratch healthy margarita, let’s take a look at some typical margarita mixes. Jose Cuervo is a well-known brand. The Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix  has 24 grams of added sugar per half cup or 4 oz. Say whaaaat?! To give some context, organizations like the American Heart Association recommend no more than 25 grams of added sugar for women in a day. A DAY. The ingredient list on this (and most) margarita mix has fun things like high fructose corn syrup (aka sugar), preservatives, gums and food dyes. Look, mixes can be super convenient, we get that. There is no shame in keeping a mix around. However, many people are looking for healthier alternatives these days. If that’s you, we hope you give this recipe a try. Better yet, invite some friends over and then give it a try. They will be impressed with your scratch margarita-making skills! 

Because we as humans love options, there are also “light” margarita mixes on the market. “Light” margarita mixes have no real sugar, so it’s made up of water, citric acid, preservatives, gums, sucralose (artificial sweetener, most commonly found in Splenda), acesulfame potassium (artificial sweetener, most commonly found in Sweet One) and food dyes.

We will save our commentary on artificial sweeteners for another day. For now, know that both of these artificial sweeteners are approved for use in foods by the FDA, meaning they are safe for consumption. Still, there is some controversy around artificial sweeteners. More research is needed in humans, but animal studies have shown some not so great effects of artificial sweeteners on gut microbiota. Some people find the taste of artificial sweeteners unpleasant and may experience gastrointestinal discomfort after consumption. As with many things, choosing whether or not to avoid or incorporate artificial sweeteners is up to you.

How many calories in a margarita?

This varies wildly depending on how the margarita is made and what the portion size is. If you think about ordering a margarita in a restaurant, it’s typically going to be larger than something you might make in a rocks glass at home. If it’s served in a pint glass, it could be anywhere from 6-8 oz of liquid depending on how packed the cup is with ice. For this reason, calorie counts can range from 200-500 depending on said factors. 

Let’s say you’re at home and used Jose Cuervo’s regular margarita mix, added tequila, and poured that in a rocks glass. To do a true comparison to this current recipe, this would be about 3.5 oz of the mix and 1.5 oz of tequila. The calories would be equivalent to this current recipe at 200. However, the marg mix packs a lot more in terms of total carbohydrates and sugar as we’ll discuss below.

How much alcohol is in a margarita?

In this recipe, both tequila and cointreau are 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume. A standard pour of liquor is 1.5 oz, which contains 14 grams of alcohol. Three-quarters of an ounce of Cointreau provides about 7g of alcohol. In total, this means we have 21g of alcohol in 1 serving of this recipe. Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, so in total 147 of the 200 calories in this drink come from alcohol. The rest come from carbohydrates from the Cointreau, lime juice and agave.

How many carbs in a margarita?

Again, this varies depending on how it’s made and what the portion size is. To illustrate the variety, a quick scan through Chili’s margarita offerings shows that their margaritas range from 25 to 62 grams of total carbohydrate and from 17 to 56 grams of sugar. 

Our Healthy Margarita has about 13 grams of total carbohydrate and 8 grams of sugar. Again for comparison sake, if you take that same homemade margarita with Jose Cuervo’s regular mix and tequila in a rocks glass, you’ll get about 25 grams of total carb and 21 grams of sugar. 

Are you convinced yet?! We hope you enjoy learning to make your very own scratch healthy margarita, that you impress all house guests from here on out with said scratch healthy margarita, and that when this happens, you leave us a comment on this post and tell us how much you liked (or disliked) this recipe! :) 

Receta en ESPAÑOL

Esta margarita está muy muy rica! Se hace con ingredientes reales y de calidad alta. El sabor es perfección.

recipe in spanish for healthy margarita

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About the Author: Kelly Wagner, MS, RD, LDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian (RD) based in Chicago, IL. I have worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including dialysis, ICU, as well as one-on-one nutrition counseling and groups.
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6 Comments

  1. Caitlin June 22, 2021 at 12:19 am - Reply

    5 stars
    This margarita has the perfect ratio of ingredients and tastes way better than your typical too sweet margaritas from restaurants. Will definitely be my go to marg recipe!

    • Catalina Ruz Gatica, MS, RDN, LDN June 22, 2021 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      Yaaas we are so happy to hear that! Thanks for the love!

  2. Barb G June 23, 2021 at 12:28 am - Reply

    5 stars
    Outstanding! So much better than the too-sweeeet margaritas served in bars and restaurants!!!

    • Catalina Ruz Gatica, MS, RDN, LDN June 23, 2021 at 11:30 pm - Reply

      Thank you!! So happy to hear you enjoyed it :)

  3. Jeff June 24, 2021 at 12:16 am - Reply

    5 stars
    Delicious! I love the spicy aspect!

    • Catalina Ruz Gatica, MS, RDN, LDN June 25, 2021 at 12:48 am - Reply

      Love to hear it!! Thank you :)

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