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Self-Directed Study Fresh Margaritas on the Rocks

Article and recipe by Andrew Mullins and Marty Spellerberg

Posted October 10, 2012

Margaritas on the rocks are our game day drink of choice.

My fascination with the drink started in college.

Margaritas are the go-to drink here in Austin, often enjoyed with Tex-Mex fare such as chips and queso, chimichangas and the Longhorns. Some folks up north suggest that the perfect margarita has no salt and no ice, but that’s not how we do it in Texas.

My fascination with the drink started in college. A popular hangout spot for students at UT was — and still is — Trudys, home of the “Mexican Martini.” A uniquely Austin style of margarita, the Mex-mart’s exact recipe is a secret, though it’s said to include tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, olive juice, and dash of Sprite. The drink is served in a big shaker and martini glass with olives, and guests are limited to two per visit, “no exceptions.”. I fell in love with it immediately.

The Mexican Martini was only the first step in discovering the wonders of tequila cocktails. In the subsequent years I’ve tried other types of margaritas at bars and restaurants all over town. Every bartender in Austin seems to have their own recipe and ingredient list and this is one of the reasons the margarita is such a popular drink. The combinations really lead to wild experimentation and you see drinks with avocado, sangria, mangos, etc, mixed in. Our regular spot, El Mercado, offers a top-shelf recipe called “the Don,” made from Don Julio tequila and served on the rocks.

More recently my cousins and I started getting serious about making them at home to accompany game nights, dinner parties and Longhorn broadcasts. After some experimentation, we think the recipe we’ve arrived at is the best in town.

— Andrew

Fresh Margaritas on the Rocks


There are various levels of quality in real tequila, not to mention the junk they sell called “mixto tequila” thats not 100% Agave (don’t ask me what the remainder is. Stay away from it) The primary levels of quality tequilas are blanco, ojo, reposado, anejo, and extra-anejo. The last of these are “sipping tequila” and would be overkill for mixing in a drink, so at home you can stick to the blanco (unaged) or the reposado (slightly aged). We enjoy the darker hue that comes from reposado.

Orange Liqueur

The second ingredient in a quality margarita is orange liqueur. Some recipes call for agave nectar but we’re not fans. You definitely want to stay away from low-end, non-alcoholic triple sec. The primary top shelf orange liqueurs you see are Grand Marnier and Cointreau. There are many other brands you can find in your local friendly liquor store — feel free to experiment! We’ve tried Dry Curacao with excellent results: It’s not as saccharine sweet as Cointreau and has an enjoyable spice that offsets the tartness of the lime.

Lime Juice

Primo margaritas use fresh squeezed lime juice. And by “fresh” we mean squeezed on demand for each drink. We prefer to squeeze them by hand with a wooden juicer. Some stores sell fresh-squeezed in a bottle, but we find that juice too tart. Three good limes will generally make enough for 2 drinks.


Last but not least, most people will want a salted glass. Use half of one of the limes to wet the rims of the glasses, and dip. Do this first and chill the glasses in the freezer while you’re juicing. Coarse sea or kosher salt is good; regular table salt is not.


While there is raging debate concerning the perfect ratio, we recommend:

  • 1 ½ parts tequila
  • ¾ to 1 parts orange liqueur
  • ¾ to 1 parts lime juice

You can try to eyeball it if you want, but we always use a shot glass. Pour the ingredients over ice, give a quick stir and enjoy. Happy mixing!

Quality ingredients make a quality margarita. Assemble your Tequila, Orange Liqueur, Fresh Limes and sea salt.
Salt your glasses, then place them in the freezer.
Juice the limes.
Combine the ingredients. Cheers!
Andrew Mullins

Andrew Mullins is an Austin native, graduate of the University of Texas and a die-hard Longhorn. Hook ’em! He loves cooking, especially to delight his wife Krystal. He's always up for a board game, a margarita, or both!

Photo by Seth Anderson
Marty Spellerberg

Marty Spellerberg is an artist and interactive developer. Originally from Toronto, he now lives in Austin where he enjoys cycling, mexican food and creative projects.

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