Happy Hour at Home: Margaritas in Every Color

Be our guest for Happy Hour at Home, a small series about the joys of lesbian socializing from home, because let’s be honest with ourselves — we’re going to be here for a while.

Yes, it is totally okay if you miss the ritual of happy hour right now. For a lot of us, our days are saturated with fear and anxiety and loneliness. The seismic changes happening in a lot of people’s lives right now due to the pandemic are nuanced and plural. But there’s still absolutely space to miss the little, trivial things.

Happy hour is, after all, about more than just the drinks. It’s a way to gather with friends over food, and it’s also a way to engage with one’s neighborhood and break up the day. And you know what? You can absolutely do these things at home.

Maybe “happy hour at home” looks like just walking to your fridge and opening up a beer or two, and that is honestly fine! But if you’re looking to spice up your drinks-at-home and don’t necessarily have a lot of cocktail making experience, a great place to start is the ever-versatile, always-pretty, perfect blend of salt and acid and sweetness that is known as the margarita.

Orange, Cilantro, Jalapeño Margarita

I have been making… so many flavored margaritas. In a pinch, you can use pre-made margarita mixes, but it’s easy and cheap to make fresh fruit margaritas. And then, as a bonus, you’re also getting a serving of fruit! Look at you!

The basic ratio for my margaritas is two parts tequila, one part fresh fruit juice, half part triple sec, and a few squeezes of lime juice. But there are a bunch of alternatives and modifications you can do, especially if you’re just working with what you’ve got. So here’s a more detailed and perhaps TOO thorough breakdown of what you’ll need/what you can use:

Alternative: Mezcal, which will lend a smokier taste. If you want to make a mocktail version, then use a (preferably citrus-)flavored club soda/seltzer as your base. Topo Chico’s “twist of grapefruit” would be my top choice for margarita mocktails.

For a straight up traditional margarita, all you need is lime juice, but if you want to get fun with the colors and flavors, that’s where these other fruits come into play. I recommend fresh citrus if you’ve got it. You can even use citrus that’s starting to go a little mushy, because guess what? The juice is probably still good! Think oranges, mandarins, blood oranges, grapefruit, pomelos, etc. You’re going to want to slice em in half and juice them. I use the juicing attachment for my stand mixer, but again, just use what you’ve got! If you don’t have a handheld juicing mechanism, then try using tongs to squeeze the halved citrus instead of doing all the work with just your hands. Remove any seeds.

No fresh citrus? No problem. While TECHNICALLY margaritas are citrus-based, you can cheat a bit with other fruits. You can use fresh pineapple chunks, but you’ll need to break them down. Put them in a bowl with a little bit of sugar and use a potato masher to mash it into a pulverized mess. Do the same thing with blueberries or strawberries. You can also peel a very ripe mango and then grate it with a cheese grater.

If you don’t have any fresh fruit at the moment, that’s understandable! Canned pineapple chunks are a great cocktail ingredient, and you don’t have to do the mashing process with the canned kind. Just leave as is (don’t drain!). You can also use a jug of premade citrus juice (I like Simply Grapefruit), but those are generally sweeter than fresh, so keep that in mind and adjust accordingly.

You can also use frozen fruit to make really easy frozen margaritas, but the ratio is a bit different than the rocks version. For a frozen fruit margarita, use about a cup of frozen fruit per margarita that you’re making. Add to a blender with tequila and a little bit of orange juice or triple sec.

Sweetener/ Spice/ Salt!
Triple sec/orange liqueurs are absolutely not necessary for making margaritas. In fact, it’s kind of just a shortcut, but I LOVE SHORTCUTS, especially at the current moment in time. The triple sec lends sweetness. If you want a super boozy and acidic margarita with just a touch of sweetness, then you can straight up just combine tequila and citrus juice, but it’s going to be a pretty intense drink. Cut it by making a simple syrup (simmering equal parts granulated sugar and water until dissolved).

Dress up your margarita with a salt rim — or my personal favorite, tajín. And if you want to make it a spicy margarita, add chopped jalapeño or a light dusting of chili powder. Chopped cilantro, lime zest, or a ginger-infused simple syrup are also things you can add.

Blood Orange Margarita

Here’s a Quick Cheat Sheet:

Classic Margarita
Two parts tequila / One part lime juice / One part simple syrup
Serve over ice

Flavored Margarita
Two parts tequila / One part fruit juice or mashed fruit / Half part orange liqueur / Squeeze of lime juice
Serve over ice

Frozen Flavored Margarita (Makes One)
One cup of frozen fruit / 1.5 shots tequila / One-third cup orange juice or orange liqueur

Margarita Mocktail
Two parts flavored seltzer / One part fruit juice or mashed fruit / Squeeze of lime juice
Serve over ice

Pineapple Cilantro Margarita

Tasting as you go is an important part of cooking, and the same goes for making drinks. The ratios I’ve outlined are what I prefer, but maybe you like your drinks boozier (add more tequila, duh) or sweeter (more simple or triple sec or splash of juice).

Invite your friends for virtual happy hour! Simulate a raucous bar environment by popping on Vanderpump Rules! Or if you want a more chill happy hour, light a coconut candle and pretend you’re drinking on the beach. If you have a space where you’re able to safely drink outside, then absolutely do that. Or throw open your windows. The best thing about happy hour at home is that you absolutely dictate the vibe.

Mango Margarita

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 814 articles for us.


  1. Just my luck, I just made green apple-hibiscus margarita, with real apples & home brewed hibiscus tea. Half way through it & it is going well with the rain & quarantined solo birthday.

  2. Ooh I just made my very first cocktail like 15 minutes ago, was not a margarita.

    But I wanna rep for mango as a mashed fruit to consider and the still sweetened cranberry juice with tequila is good.
    Also good lining the rim with cinnamon sugar.

    • I recently worked at a tequila bar and we would use orange simple syrup in place of tripel sec or other orange liqueurs. Blend equal parts OJ with cane sugar et voila! Makes a very fresh and delicious marg!

      Our recipe was:
      2oz tequila of your choice
      1oz fresh lime juice
      .5oz orange syrup
      .5oz agave syrup (equal parts agave nectar and hot water to dissolve)

      We also made a killer spicy hibiscus Marg made with a watermelon syrup (one part watermelon juice to one part came sugar blended well to combine, but you could probably muddle some WM with the addition of simple syrup if you don’t have access to a juicer!) and habanero hot sauce. Soak some dried hibiscus into your tequila until it takes on a good color, use two parts of that, one part wm syrup and one part lime. A dash of habanero or a muddled jalepeno will take it over the top!

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