How to Make a Margarita with Triple Sec

The margarita used to be one of the most straightforward drinks to make, but with the rise of signature cocktails, it can be hard to remember how to make a margarita with triple sec.

This classic ingredient has been replaced with all kinds of other liquors and mixers that make the margarita a shadow of its former self. It's time to bring the classic margarita back, triple sec, and all. 

How to Make a Margarita with Triple Sec

What is triple sec?

Triple sec is a sweet, orange flavored liqueur that is used in a variety of drinks.

It's usually clear, but a few companies choose to color their triple sec. It's traditionally made with grain alcohol and a mixture of dried orange peels and other spices, giving it a unique flavor.

Most triple secs land in the 20 to 25 percent alcohol range (40 – 50 proof), making them a pretty strong liqueur. 

Are there different types of triple sec?

There are many orange-flavored liqueurs, and their names are often interchanged, making the world of triple sec a confusing one.

Triple sec is often thought of as the cheaper option of name brand orange liqueurs, but there are differences between them.


Curacao is thought to be the first orange liqueur. It is believed to be the sweetest of the orange liqueurs and, over the years, has been more associated with the sweetness than the orange flavoring.

It's traditionally made with a rum base, but it has also been made with grain alcohol in recent times, making the alcohol percentage vary widely between 15 and 40%.


Cointreau is a name brand orange liqueur that is often thought of as a high-quality triple sec, but it's slightly different.

Its base is sugar beet alcohol, and it is made with both sweet and bitter orange peels versus the tropical oranges used in triple sec and curacao. Cointreau is always clear, with an alcohol percentage of 40. 

Grand Marnier

Grand Marnier is another name brand that is thought of as a high-class version of triple sec, but that's not entirely true. 

This orange-flavored alcohol is a mixture of cognac, bitter orange, and sugar, leading it to be considered a curacao/triple sec hybrid. Grand Marnier also checks in at 40% alcohol, making it a more potent liqueur. 

Is triple sec high in calories?

There is no way around the fact that traditional triple sec is a high-calorie addition to your drink. Luckily, there are a few ways you can still enjoy the taste and save some calories in the process. 

Sugar-free triple sec

It is not incredibly common to find sugar-free triple sec, but it does exist. The high alcohol content will still offer a significant number of calories, but at least you’ll save a few from the sugar. 

Alcohol-free triple sec

There are triple sec syrups available in the exact opposite vein that offer the taste of the liqueur without the alcohol content.

This is an excellent way to save on calories and enjoy a margarita that isn’t as strong as the traditional recipe. It also allows you to make a delicious margarita mocktail with all the taste but none of the alcohol. 

How to make a margarita with triple sec

Now that you know a little more about what’s going in your drink, it's time for the best part. This classic and straightforward recipe is both easy to make and delicious. 


1 ½ oz. reposado tequila
½ oz. triple sec
1 oz. lime juice
Lime wedge

Rub a lime wedge around the rim of your glass and press it into your salt, creating a salt rim around the glass.

Fill the glass with ice and garnish the edge with your lime wedge.

Fill a shaker with ice and combine the tequila, triple sec, and lime juice in the shaker.

Close and shake well to combine the ingredients. Strain the contents into the glass and enjoy it. 

Welcome to Margaritaville

Now that you know how to make a margarita with triple sec, nothing can stop you from enjoying this sweet treat whenever your heart desires.

After trying a margarita in this traditional style, you will start to wonder why they have done so much with a drink that is already perfect the way it is.

For the most authentic experience, don’t forget to use genuine triple sec and follow the recipe. 

Janelle Rogers

As an organic chemist, Janelle always preferred her drinks pure, like bottled water from the Pyrenees. That is, until a jazz saxophonist blew the doors of her taste buds wide open by introducing her to the joys of cocktails. When not tinkering with new blends, Janelle is runs a classified black-ops department of the NIH.