Margarita Vs Skinny Margarita – Key Differences Explained

As an Amazon Associate, Eat Wine Blog earns from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

The classic margarita is a simple, yet delicious, drink. Made with deep notes of tequila, a fresh squeeze of citrus, and a hit of sweetness, margaritas are perfect for a refreshing drink in the sunshine, or pleasing a crowd as a party.

Margarita Vs Skinny Margarita - Key Differences Explained

The margarita is an easy to drink cocktail, and as the sweetness is offset by the tequila and citrus, you might not be aware of how many calories you’re drinking.

After all, there’s only 3 ingredients in a classic margarita. Just how many calories can there be?

You might be surprised to learn that the classic margarita can pack quite a calorie punch, particularly if you’ve lost track as you sip your way through a pitcher.

The skinny margarita is a play on the traditional, substituting triple sec for orange juice, to keep the calorie level down.

A skinny margarita loses none of the flavor, and is a great choice for parties and celebrations.

In this guide, we’ll explore the key details between margarita and skinny margarita. 

What’s In A Classic Margarita?

The classic margarita truly is a queen among cocktails.

The easy flavor balance makes it a good choice when you’re learning cocktails, but the bold citrus paired with the smooth tequila makes the margarita a drink even a cocktail aficionado can enjoy.

It goes surprisingly well with food, but can also be enjoyed on its own. And, thanks to the simple and fruity ingredient list, there are many variations you can try!

Try a spicy margarita, or a watermelon margarita!

So, what is in that simple ingredient list? A classic margarita is made from:

  • Tequila
  • Triple sec
  • Lime juice

You’re also likely to use:

  • Ice
  • Salt (for the rim)
  • Lime (garnish)

As you can see, the classic margarita has a fairly limited ingredient list.

Most of the calories come from triple sec, an orange-flavored liquor that typically contains a lot of sugar.

The most popular variety of triple sec is Cointreau, but you can use any brand that you like.

The flavor of triple sec is very distinct, as orange peelings are steeped in beet sugar before being mixed with spirits.

But you can recreate the flavor of triple sec in a way that keeps the deliciousness, while cutting down the calories!

What’s In A Skinny Margarita?

Ordering skinny cocktails can be a little bit hit and miss. Too many skinny cocktails lose the heart of the original, leaving you with a bland and boring drink.

But not so for the skinny margarita! Skinny margaritas are the rare “skinny” cocktails that retain the flavor balance of the classic drink, while limiting calories.

So, exactly what ingredients are used in a skinny margarita? The skinny margarita ingredients list consists of:

  • Tequila
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Light agave nectar

And you’re likely to use these ingredients as garnishes:

  • Ice
  • Salt
  • Lime

The very heart of the cocktail stays the same. This is still a margarita, featuring that fabulous blend of tequila and lime, plus an orange citrus sweetness.

The key is replacing the triple sec with a combination of orange juice and light agave nectar.

The orange will provide the citrus, while the light agave brings sweetness without any other flavoring.

If you want to keep your cocktail skinny, make sure to use freshly squeezed orange juice! Processed orange juice in a carton is often packed with sugar and calories.

It can also overwhelm the rest of the flavors in the cocktail.

Using freshly squeezed orange juice instead will give you an extra burst of citrus, and it will play well with the lime juice you’re already using.

What Is The Difference Between A Classic Margarita And A Skinny Margarita?

What Is The Difference Between A Classic Margarita And A Skinny Margarita?

The classic margarita is considered a member of the “daisy” family of cocktails (and margarita is actually the Spanish word for daisy).

Daisy cocktails combine spirits and citrus to create a sweeter take on the sour cocktail.

These cocktails are designed to offset sharpness with sugar, so they will never be the most diet-friendly option.

However, by replacing the triple sec with orange juice and agave, savvy bartenders can control the sweetness level, and reduce the calories.

This is the key difference between the margarita and the skinny margarita. The lime and tequila both stay the same!

When creating a skinny margarita, you might want to play with the salt levels, as well. A margarita will typically have salt on the rim of the glass.

This provides a flavor contrast every time you take a sip. For the skinny margarita, you might prefer to leave the salt out altogether. 

Alternatively, try adding salt to just half of the glass. That way, you can control how much salt is in each sip.

The skinny margarita is less a reaction to the classic, and more of a response to the ice-and-sugar margarita variations you can buy by the jug from cheap beach bars.

The skinny margarita is a stand in for bottles of margarita mix that need just a pour of tequila for a good night out!

These margaritas, while they certainly have their place, are often sickly sweet, and loaded with calories.

Classic Margarita Vs Skinny Margarita: The Calories

So, what’s the calorie difference between a classic margarita and a skinny margarita?

A margarita is likely to contain around 248 calories, when made the classic way, with just tequila, triple sec, and lime. A skinny margarita is around 187 calories.

However, a margarita in a hotel or bar can often be packed with extra calories from a pre-made mix. These sugar bombs can run from 300 to upwards of 500 calories!

Do Skinny Margaritas Contain Less Alcohol?

Skinny margaritas don’t necessarily contain less alcohol. However, bars will often place skinny cocktails on the less alcoholic side of the menu, reducing the level of tequila for a drink with a lighter touch.

However, unless stated, you shouldn’t assume a skinny margarita will go easy on the tequila, or you might find yourself with an unexpected hangover!

For many bartenders, the only change in the skinny margarita is removing the triple sec.

At home, you can make your skinny margarita to your own specifications.

Many recipes suggest a slightly lower amount of tequila, as it does contain some calories.

However, if you’re looking for a skinny drink, tequila is surprisingly adaptable for dieters! 

How To Make A Skinny Margarita

To make a simple skinny margarita, you will need:

  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ½ ounces fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon light agave nectar
  • 1 lime wedge (for garnish)
  • Kosher salt
  • Ice
  1. Sprinkle a light layer of kosher salt on a plate. Dampen the rim of your chosen glass with a lime wedge, and dip the rim in the salt.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, and agave nectar. Put the lid on, and shake! Strain your margarita into your glass, and finish with your lime wedge.


A skinny margarita keeps all the traditional elements of the margarita — tequila, sour citrus, and a hint of sweetness.

However, by replacing triple sec with a combination of fresh orange juice and agave nectar, you can lighten up the calories without losing the flavor. 

The skinny margarita is an excellent crowd pleaser, easy to scale up if you’re making a pitcher.

Be sure to use freshly squeezed orange juice, to maintain that sunshine taste, and avoid sugar-laden processed drinks. Cheers!