Tasting Margarita Mixes for National Margarita Day, So You Won't Have To

Categories: Drink This

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If you're a margarita purist you'll undoubtedly mark today's holiday with freshly squeezed citrus and a bottle of your finest pure agave. While I'm firm devote of the au naturel camp, my editor has informed me that not everyone wants to spend their time sifting seeds out of their fruit juice and dealing with pulp. (Pulp!)

Yes, I get it. Some people just want to make a drink as quickly as possible. So I went out and bought six different margarita mixes to see how they stacked up against simple lemon juice. I tasted each of them alone without tequila so I could taste the flavors each brings to our most cherished cocktail.

I was surprised to find a few of them were actually tolerable.

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First three ingredients: water, sugar, citric acid.

Most questionable ingredient: blue 1.

Suaza's mix is tinged a light green color that may or may not glow under a black light. It smells a little like bathroom cleaner mixed with Country Time lemonade and tastes simultaneously sweet and tart. It's not at all good.

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Master of Mixes

First three ingredients: water, high fructose corn syrup, lime juice from concentrate.

Most questionable ingredient: ester gum.

The front of the label says it's made with premium lemon and lime juice and agave nectar but it has the same synthetic sweet and tart flavors that dominates ... well, Sweet Tarts. This one pretty much taste like crushed up Smarties. It's also the color of a highlighter I used in my econ books.

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Williams Sonoma

First three ingredients: filtered water, organic agave syrup, sugar

Most questionable ingredient: ascorbic acid

I love truth in labeling and this one really does smell like Key lime pie. Actually it tastes a little like Key lime pie too. This mix is very sweet, but the citrus flavors are at the forefront. This is by far the best mix I tried. At $14.95 it's the most expensive, too.

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Jose Cuervo

First three ingredients: water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid

Most questionable ingredient: SAIB (sucrose acetoisobutyrate)

Jose Cuervo's mix has very little odor and is the color of watered down fresh lime juice, which is weird because there's none in it. Still it has a less aggressive flavor that is pretty agreeable. If you're looking for short cuts on the cheap, this is the way to go. Still, I'm a little intimidated by the idea of eating an acronym.

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Mr & Mrs T

First three ingredients: water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid

Most questionable: metabisulfite

We're back to the neon green color that looks more appropriate for a children's toy than a cocktail. The bathroom cleaner smell I'm not too fond of is present here as well. While the label claims a "made from scratch" taste I'm not able to find it. Instead it tastes like mindless calories. Which brings me to ...

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Skinny Mixes

First three ingredients: filtered water, citric acid, sodium citrate

Most questionable ingredient: sucralose

I thought because the first three ingredients were sugar-free this one might have some attractive tartness to it, but apparently sucralose packs a saccharine punch. This stuff is cloying. And it tastes like Diet Coke smells.

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Lemon juice

First three ingredients: sunshine, good soil and rain clouds

Most questionable ingredient: it's lemon juice.

After tasting so much sweetness, a sip of Myer lemon juice made the back of my mouth lock up in a horrific cramp. Yet even in this state of pain, tasting fresh citrus after multiple shots of sucralose was literally like swallowing sunbeams. The best part is an ounce of lemon juice has seven calories. That's just two more than the skinny stuff.

I like lemons over limes for their reliability. They always yield a ton of juice and the tartness is consistent. Every now and then you can end up with a lime that only offers a modest teaspoon of juice, and then you're stuck doing tequila shots (not that that's a bad thing.)

I know it's more work. I know that sometimes you just want a simple drink. But it doesn't get much more simple that squeezing a lemon. And it's more than worth the effort.

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Don Eduardo, Tres Generations, or Don julio.    Maybe Milagro.

3 parts tequila.

2 limes

2 Splenda

1 Jalepeno sliver





Motherfucking Period.


Am I reading this right? Lemons...in a margarita? wtf?


So what is your recipe for making a pitcher of margaritas, as opposed to one drink at a time?

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

When I drink margs made with premix I get massive headaches, but if I use a recipe like the one above, I can go a lot longer drinking them.  And they seem more refreshing on a hot day that way too

primi_timpano topcommenter

I have found that it is not a good idea to eat things that do not occur naturally in nature.

A decent margarita does not have sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners other than the sugars in the triple sec or courvosier.

The great majority of modern citrus is marred with overly thick skin, which reduces the ratio of interior fruit to skin.  Try selecting limes with smooth, thin skin and are not as hard as a golf ball.  Smaller limes--NOT key limes--are good.  Key limes work and are cheap but I tend to find a few unusable limes in a bag and they do not seem to last long in the fridge.  If you are making a lot of drinks and can presqueeze, they are an excellent value.

The margarita is an excellent drink and well worth squeezing a few limes.  If lime squeezing is not a viable concession, Central Market carries store squeezed juice.  I am sure others do but I haven't noticed.

scott.reitz moderator

@beda50 I use 1.25 ounces of tequila to 1 ounce of orange liqueur (bols, Cointreau, etc) to 1.5 ounces of lemon juice. Depending on the size of your pitcher, scale that ratio up appropriately.  

Don't add ice to the pitcher. Use a cocktail shaker and shake each drink to order.

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