Skip to Content

How to Garnish a Margarita

The Margarita is one of the most popular cocktails ordered at bars and restaurants around the world. And with just three ingredients, it’s also an easy drink to make and enjoy at home. But once you’ve measured, shaken, and poured, how should this classic be garnished?

cocktail being poured into a margarita glass.

A classic Margarita garnish is the lime wedge, although it is also often garnished with a lime wheel. What’s the difference and why choose one over the other?

The lime wedge

Lime wedges are the perfect garnish for a cocktail that benefits from the bright aroma of fresh citrus. The peel of the fruit adds a lot of fragrance, enhancing the lime flavor of the drink.

margarita in a rocks glass garnished with a lime wedge.

Wedges are also an ideal garnish if you may want to add an additional squeeze of fresh juice over the drink. Think Gin and Tonic or Vodka Cranberry.

How to cut lime wedges

A lime wedge is prepared in one of two ways. The lime can be cut in half either lengthwise or straight through the middle. The halves are then typically cut in half again, and wedges can easily be cut at an angle from each section.

The images below are taken from my How to Make Cocktail Garnishes for Beginners and demonstrate cutting the two types of wedges with an orange.

an orange cut into basic wedges.
Basic citrus wedges cut from an orange

These two methods of creating lime wedges produce slightly different looking wedges, with those that are cut lengthwise often being a bit bigger (and therefore having more juice). It’s subjective, but the smaller wedges cut from the second method below are often a bit more aesthetically pleasing.

Check out the video in this post for a walk-through on both method of cutting of citrus wedges.

an orange cut into fancy wedges.
Fancy citrus wedges

A lime wedge looks great on a Margarita that’s served in a rocks glass (over ice), and it can sit neatly on the rim. Wedges are also ideal if you plan to salt your glass’s rim. You can glide the wedge along the rim of the glass, creating a moistened surface for the salt to adhere to. More on how to rim your glass below!

The lime wheel

Lime wheels are made by cutting a lime in half the short way (separating the top from the bottom of the fruit). Next, thin slices can be cut from each half, producing several circular slices from each side. In general, you can cut more wheels than wedges from a citrus fruit. This is helpful to know if you’re having a cocktail party or planning drinks for a group.

cutting board with a knife and an orange cut into wheels
Wheels cut from an orange

Lime wheels add fresh lime aroma to a cocktail but they don’t have the secondary benefit of adding an extra squeeze of juice. They’re best suited to being floated on top of the drink or positioned on the rim.

To add a lime wheel to the rim of your glass, make a small slit in the wheel, extending from one edge to the center of the wheel. With this opening in the wheel facing down toward the rim, it provides the perfect seat for the edge of the glass.

a pale, icy cold cocktail in a coupe glass with a lime wheel.

When it comes to deciding between a lime wedge or a lime wheel, it mostly boils down to personal preference. For me, lime wheels are almost always more practical, and I think they make a more beautiful finishing touch.

How to salt the rim of a Margarita

To salt the rim of your glass you’ll need a lime wedge OR agave syrup. If making a Tommy’s Margarita, you’ll have agave syrup on hand. While lime juice is the go to way to wet the rim of the glass, you can use a syrup to help the salt stick even better. The combination of salt and sweet is also a nice touch that works well with just about any Margarita recipe.

Run the lime wedge along the outside edge of the glass’s rim. If using agave syrup, simply apply a small amount of syrup to the outside edge of the glass and gently smear it using a clean finger or a basting brush.

Take care to not get the juice or syrup on the inside of the glass. Next, carefully dip the glass’s exterior edge into a small dish of coarse or flakey salt. Don’t dunk the entire glass into the salt.

margarita served on the rocks with a reddish Tajin garnished rim.
Margarita on the rocks garnished with a lime wheel and Tajin.

This will result in salt getting inside the glass, which could add far too much salinity to your finished cocktail. The key is to keep the salt only on the outside of the glass, so that you can choose with each sip how salty you want to go.

Another Margarita pro tip is to only salt half of the rim. This will allow greater control and prevent extra salt from falling in the drink.

More tips on how to rim a glass

And if you don’t want to rim your glass or you accidentally poured the cocktail and forgot to rim the glass first, you can always just add a small pinch of salt directly to the drink (or cocktail shaker)!

To be honest, this is my default practice when making Margaritas at home. There’s less mess and that tiny bit of salt boosts the sweet and sour flavors immensely – in every sip.

Margarita recipes you might enjoy:

classic-margarita-cocktail-recipe-02
Print
No ratings yet

How to Garnish a Margarita

Learn how to garnish a Margarita with lime wedges and wheels.
Prep Time1 minute
Total Time1 minute
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: garnish, Margarita, mezcal, tequila
Yield: 8 lime wedges or wheels
Author: Amy Traynor

Equipment

  • 1 Sharp paring knife
  • 1 cutting board

Materials

  • 1 lime

Instructions

For a lime wedge

  • Begin by cutting your lime in half, either lengthwise or through the middle.
  • If cutting the lime lengthwise, you may choose to remove the center line of white pith. Do this by pressing your knife into the lime on either side of the pith and then carefully sliding it out.
  • Next, cut each lime half in half, and then repeat this process once more.

For a lime wheel

  • Cut your lime in half through the middle, between the top and the bottom.
  • Carefully cut thin slices from each circular half.
Recipe Rating