A little sweet, a little salty, and a little sour — you can’t go wrong with margaritas. This tequila-based cocktail is the perfect accompaniment to chips and guacamole on your back porch on a summer day.
While there is a classic concoction, you can make up your own rules when it comes to margaritas. Have it on the rocks or frozen, and add fruit if you fancy. Your drink, your way.
However, you may be wondering how a margarita stacks up against other cocktails and if it’s a healthy option.
Keep reading to learn the nutritional profile of margaritas, including their calorie count, how much sugar they have, and how to make a healthier version.
What is a margarita?
A margarita is a cocktail made with one ounce (29.6 mL) of orange liqueur — usually Cointreau, Triple Sec, or Grand Marnier — two ounces (59 mL) of tequila, and one ounce (29.6 mL) of lime juice.
The rim of the glass is typically dipped in salt, and the ingredients are shaken and poured over ice.
In addition to being served on the rocks, margaritas can be made frozen. Margaritas come in a variety of flavors, including strawberry, mango, or passionfruit, which can be made with a premade mix or with fresh or frozen fruit.
Due to the amount of sugar in margaritas, a lower calorie version has also emerged. You can make these margaritas with tequila, lime juice, an ounce (29.6 mL) of orange juice, and 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 mL) of agave nectar.
How many calories are in a margarita?
The number of calories in your margarita can vary widely depending on how it’s made and what ingredients are used. This chart summarizes calorie counts you might expect based on the margarita you choose.
||Restaurant Margarita (Applebee’s)||Frozen Margarita
||Lower Calorie Margarita
|Serving Size||4 oz
|1 drink||4 oz
|Total Carbohydrates||15 g||41 g||15 g||11.4 g||21.5 g|
|Total Sugar||13 g||31 g||13 g||8 g||17 g|
|Added Sugar||12.5 g||31 g||12.5 g||7.5 g||12.5 g|
|Ingredients||1 oz (29.6 mL) Cointreau, 2 oz (59 mL) tequila , 1 oz (29.6 mL) fresh lime juice, poured over ice||Restaurants typically mix a premade, sweet and sour margarita mix with tequila.||1 oz (29.6 mL) Cointreau, 2 oz (59 mL) tequila, 1 oz (29.6 mL) fresh lime juice, blended with ice||Tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, orange juice (optional). Ratios vary according to taste and preference.||1 oz (29.6 mL) Cointreau, 2 oz (59 mL) tequila, 1 oz (29.6 mL) fresh lime juice, ½ cup sliced strawberries|
Remember that calories are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the nutritional value of the foods and beverages we consume.
While keeping an estimate in mind may help you stay on track with health goals, calorie counts aren’t always reliable, and it’s best to avoid thinking of nutrition as calories alone.
If you’re of legal drinking age and don’t have any health conditions that make alcohol particularly unsafe for you, it’s OK to enjoy a margarita on occasion — regardless of calorie count.
How to make a healthier margarita
There’s no need to worry about occasionally indulging in a margarita. But there are ways to make a healthier version if you wish.
First, try making a margarita from scratch at home. It will likely have fewer calories and less sugar versus a premade mix.
Homemade margaritas are also healthier than restaurant margaritas, since restaurant portions tend to be much larger. And depending on the restaurant, they may use a premade mix high in added sugars.
Reducing the amount of sugar in your margarita is another way to make a healthier version. Try swapping an ounce (29.6 mL) of orange liqueur for a teaspoon (5 mL) of light agave nectar and an ounce (29.6 mL) of orange juice. That nixes about 5 grams of sugar.
Another option is to only use light agave nectar or honey in place of orange liqueur and skip the orange juice, saving another three grams of sugar.
Keep in mind that agave nectar and honey have about the same number of calories and grams of sugar. If you want to skip sugar all together, replace the orange liqueur or agave with another sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
You can learn about other sweetener options here.
Or make a fruit-flavored drink, like a strawberry margarita, using real strawberries to sweeten the drink. Fruit is naturally sweet, and it provides vitamins, minerals, and a some fiber. Consider using fresh or frozen fruit, skipping the agave and honey.
Finally, using less tequila than the standard two ounces (59 mL) will reduce the number of calories from alcohol — and your alcohol intake.
Alcohol, sugar, and your health
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that men limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day and women consume no more than one drink per day (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
A standard drink is defined as 12 ounces (355 mL) of beer, 5 ounces (147 mL) of wine, or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of liquor.
Generally, a margarita uses 2 ounces (59 mL) of tequila, which is more than the recommended 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of liquor that defines a drink.
Drinking alcohol — even in moderate amounts — is associated with a number of health concerns, including increased risk of cancer, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease (8Trusted Source).
It’s also important for some people to avoid alcohol entirely, including (8Trusted Source):
People who are or may be pregnant
People who are lactating, breastfeeding, or chestfeeding
People under the legal drinking age in their area (21 in the United States)
People living with certain medical conditions or taking medications that interact with alcohol
People recovering from an alcohol use disorder
If you’re not sure how alcohol affects you, any conditions you may have, or any medications you take, talk with a healthcare professional before consuming anything alcoholic, including margaritas.
Margaritas can be high in sugar, depending on how they are made. Margaritas made from premade mixes, as well as restaurant margaritas, typically have more sugar than homemade ones.
Consuming too many added sugars can lead to unwanted weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease (9Trusted Source).
Although agave and honey are natural sources of sugar, when added to drinks like margs, they are considered added sugars.
The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day and women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day (10Trusted Source).
That’s nine teaspoons and six teaspoons respectively, and the average American consumes closer to 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day (9Trusted Source).
Drinking one restaurant margarita or two homemade margs surpasses the amount of added sugar that is recommended for one day.
Of course, a day here and there of excessive sugar isn’t going to derail your health goals or discount an otherwise healthy eating pattern, but it’s good to be mindful and avoid regularly consuming high amounts of added sugar.
The bottom line
Margaritas are sweet and sour cocktails made from tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. You can make countless variations of the drink by switching up the source of sweetness, adding fruit, or blending it into a frozen version instead of shaking over ice.
All margaritas are OK to enjoy in moderation if you’re of legal drinking age and don’t live with conditions or take medications that are affected by alcohol.
Still, some have more calories and sugar than others. If you consume margs on the regular, you might seek a healthier version.
To make a healthier margarita, skip the premade mixes and make your own from scratch. Try swapping orange liqueur for a little agave and splash of orange juice.
Remember that all foods and drinks, including margaritas, are OK in limited amounts. One day of too much sugar won’t cancel out an otherwise healthy diet.