Lemon Margarita (Tequila Lemon Cocktail)
Don’t have any limes around? Use this recipe for margaritas made with lemons instead. The bright, fresh lemon flavor is actually very similar to a traditional margarita.
Can you make a margarita with lemon juice?
Naturally, the first thing everybody thinks of when they think of a margarita is limes (OK, or possibly a blood orange margarita, if you’re me).
But what if you don’t have limes, but you DO have a bunch of lemons (leftover from a lemon smoothie or blueberry lemon smoothie, perhaps). Can you make a margarita with lemons?
You totally can, and I’m going to teach you how today.
I was expecting these Lemon Drop Margaritas to be mind blowing for one reason (how lemony they would be!), but they turned out to be mind-blowing for a completely different reason (they actually didn’t taste that different than a regular margarita!).
This lemon margarita actually tastes pretty similar to a traditional lime margarita!
One night when I ran out of limes, I had an idea. I wanted to stick pretty close to a traditional margarita recipe, but swap all of the lime juice for lemon juice, just to see if it would work.
I also wanted to rim the glasses with sparkling sugar (like you would get with a lemon drop [vodka] shot) instead of the traditional salt that you use for margaritas.
“They’re going to be so lemony, like my lemon curd cake!” I thought. I made them and took a sip . . . and they tasted just like a regular (lime) margarita.
I was cooking dinner at the same time as I was making these, so I took a break from making fajita veggies for a fajita bar, took another sip and waited . . . same reaction.
So, though I was expecting some life-changing lemon flavor in these margaritas, I didn’t really get that. And maybe that’s OK!
Go ahead and use the good tequila for this lemon margarita recipe!
When I made these lemon margaritas, I used really good tequila. My husband (used to!) take business trips to Mexico frequently, and brought home the good stuff for the price of bottled water, basically.
Thus, we generally have pretty nice tequila on hand, and we use it for tequila mojitos and margaritas on the nights where we have slow cooker chicken burrito bowls or taco mac and cheese.
So, in the finished lemon margarita, it was mostly the great tequila flavor was coming through.
There was lots of citrus flavor, but by the time it muddled with the tequila, my tastebuds couldn’t tell much of a difference between lemon and lime here.
I think my tastebuds are still getting over my last sinus infection, because my husband says he COULD tell these margs were made with lemons, so go figure.
You’ll have to try it for yourself (alongside some mushroom tacos maybe)and tell me what you think. Maybe you’ll agree with Jeff and think these are lemony, and I’m just crazy.
Don’t have any limes and want a margarita? No problem!
The reason this recipe IS mind-blowing for me? Because I don’t always have limes on hand (and they can be expensive at times), or oranges for brandy old fashioneds, but I ALWAYS ALWAYS have lemons around (I put lemon juice in just about everything, even Greek yogurt mashed potatoes).
They’re cheap and plentiful, and I have a drawer in my fridge that is JUST lemons, usually.
I mean, if the name of this blog didn’t already give it away, OF COURSE I have them on hand always.
Which means that homemade margaritas to go along with Sonoran hot dogs don’t have to be a “great, now we have to go buy 20 limes” situation.
It’s more like a “let’s have margaritas because we have a few lemons” situation.
Side note – don’t you hate it when you get those dud limes? Like, the ones that have hardly any juice and are all mealy inside? Seems like I ONLY get those when I want to make margs or basil cocktails and really really need juicy ones instead.
Anyway, when life gives you lemons, make margaritas!
Another great cocktail recipe for when you don’t have limes is my apple cider mule. While traditional Moscow mules call for lime juice, this one does not.
You can also serve this drink as a shot, like a tequila lemon drop.
If you want to serve this lemon margarita more like a shot (maybe alongside some New Year’s Eve finger foods?), you can keep the proportions of the liquid ingredients the same as listed below, but just shake everything up with one scoop of ice in a cocktail shaker.
Then, once everything is shaken and nicely chilled, divide the liquid between shot glasses, and you’ve got tequila lemon drops!
More recipes for when life has given you lemons:
Sometimes I think I’m ordering one lemon from online grocery delivery, and when it comes, it’s a whole bag instead. Here’s what I make when that happens:
Lemon Margarita (Tequila Lemon Cocktail)
Don't have any limes around? Use this recipe for margaritas made with lemons instead. The bright, fresh lemon flavor is actually very similar to a traditional margarita.
For the Lemon Simple Syrup:
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- Peel of 1 lemon
For the Lemon Drop Margaritas:
- 4 cups ice
- 6 ounces fresh lemon juice
- 6 ounces tequila
- 4 ounces Lemon Simple Syrup
- 1 ounce triple sec
- Granulated sugar, for rim of glasses (optional)
- Make the Lemon Simple Syrup: In small saucepot, heat sugar, water and lemon peel over medium-high heat. Cook until all sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally (do not boil). Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Remove and discard lemon peel; transfer syrup to jar or bottle and refrigerate until completely cool. Makes about 8 ounces (enough for 8 margaritas).
- Make the Lemon Drop Margaritas: Place ice, lemon juice, tequila, 4 ounces Lemon Simple Syrup and triple sec in blender; blend until well combined. Divide between 4 glasses garnished with sugar, if desired.
Home Chef Tip: Want to make just one margarita? Let me do the culinary math for you: 1 cup ice, 1-1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice, 1-1/2 ounces tequila, 1 ounce Lemon Simple Syrup, and 1/4 ounce triple sec.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 277Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 5mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 1gSugar: 41gProtein: 0g
Lori, someone taught me that the way to get juicy limes is to choose ones with very smooth skin (fine pores). I think they are usually shinier looking, too. That has usually worked very well for me. Hopefully it will for you, too. If you have any recommendations for good tequila, I would be interested because I really don’t know much about it.
Thank you so much for this lime tip! I had never heard this, but now I will keep it in mind. I’ve never known how to choose the best limes, and I just HATE ending up with those ones that seem to be all flesh, no juice inside.
Susan, I realized I forgot to respond to your question about tequila. The one that we always keep stocked in our bar is Herradura Blanco. Mid-range in price so won’t totally break the bank, but also not the cheap cheap stuff. It has a nice neutral flavor that works really well in margaritas and palomas. We love it!
Thank, Lori! I’ll make sure I keep that information handy.
Where did you get the glass set from?
Hi Andrew – it’s from Sur La Table!