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In San Antonio, any time is a good time for the unofficial cocktail of South Texas – a margarita. This recipe for our Christmas margarita puts a twist on the classic and combines the essential ingredients of a traditional margarita with cranberry juice for a tart and sweet margarita that is kind of addictive. It is the perfect cocktail for all your holiday gathers.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Authentic margaritas rely on only a few ingredients, so not skimping on the quality is the key to how they taste.
The full ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Tequila: We are using a mid-range Blanco style tequila (clear) for this recipe, something that sells between $20-30 for 750 ML. While you can spend more, you won’t necessarily be able to detect the subtle nuances more expensive tequilas deliver – but don’t go for the cheap stuff either. You can certainly substitute with a mezcal if you’ve got a favorite, and respado-style tequila (golden) would also be delicious. I’d avoid an añejo style, however, as it will dominate the overall taste and not marry well with the other ingredients.
- Orange Liqueur: Two of the most popular brands are Cointreau, a top-shelf triple sec, and Grand Marnier, a blend of cognac and triple sec. Curaçao is another popular style, which is sweeter than triple sec, so you can cut back on the agave nectar as appropriate. This is another area where if you buy the cheapest option, you will add more of a sour note, with a harsh alcohol after-taste rather than the orange note we’re looking for to compliment the cranberry.
- Cranberry Juice: We are using a high-quality, unsweetened cranberry juice that’s not from concentrate. This is not your everyday Ocean Spray cranberry cocktail. If you do substitute this with a cranberry cocktail, double the amount you add and you’ll probably not need any additional sweetener. The cranberry flavor won’t come through as clearly, so it may be worth a purchase of the real stuff.
- Agave Nectar: This used to be harder to find, but most grocery stores will have it where you would find honey. The sweetness of agave nectar is concentrated, so be careful how much you add. It really enhances the flavor of the tequila and can be the X-factor in a really memorable margarita. If you can’t find it, you can substitute it with simple syrup or honey, and add a little bit more to taste.
- Orange and Cranberry Bitters: To balance the sweet and sour taste of the cocktail we added a combination of orange and cranberry bitters. They give the drink a complex and complete flavor.
How to Make a Christmas Holiday Margarita
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: It’s better to make these in a batch rather than individually, so adjust the recipe to the number of servings you’d like.
Christmas Margarita on the Rocks: Pour about 3 tablespoons of sugar onto a plate. Rub the rim of your favorite cocktail glass with a slice of lime then dip it into the sugar. Carefully fill each glass halfway with ice. Add the tequila, orange liqueur, bitters, cranberry juice, lime juice, and orange juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds and then using a cocktail strainer pour into the prepared glasses. Garnish with cranberries and lime slices and serve.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Frozen margaritas can be made by adding a quarter cup of water per serving, then transferring to an airtight container and putting it in the freezer for at least 24 hours in advance to achieve the best texture. If using a cranberry cocktail, you won’t need to add any water. The mixture won’t completely freeze because of the alcohol and sugar. Mix thoroughly prior to serving.
- Keep a couple of cocktail glasses in the freezer until you are ready to serve to keep your drinks colder longer.
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Other Cocktail Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this cocktail, we recommend checking out some of our other favorites:
Christmas Holiday Margarita
- 3 ounces blanco tequila
- 1 ½ ounces orange liqueur
- 5 ounces cranberry juice, not from concentrate
- 1 ounce lime juice, fresh squeezed
- 1 ounce orange juice, fresh squeezed
- 3 splashes cranberry bitters
- 3 splashes orange bitters
- ½ ounce agave nectar
- ½ lime, cross section
- 6 cranberries, fresh
- Rub the rim of each glass with a slice of lime then dip it into sugar. Carefully fill each glass halfway with ice.
- Add the tequila, orange liqueur, cranberry juice, lime juice, orange juice, bitters, and agave nectar to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds and then using a cocktail strainer pour into the prepared glasses. Garnish with cranberries and lime slices then serve.