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Whether you’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo or just filling a lazy August afternoon, nothing pulls guests into your home faster than a margarita party.
The traditional problem for the host of any margarita party is that someone has to make all of those frozen drinks! You can get stuck behind the bar.
This is where owning or renting a frozen margarita machine makes a real difference. Automating your drink making eliminates most of the bartending work, freeing-up time for you to mingle and munch with your guests. And isn’t that what hosting a party is all about?
In addition to automating your drink making, a little bit of planning and prep work can go a long way towards making sure everyone has a great time – including you!
Here are our best tips on how to plan and host your next margarita party, based on over fifty parties we’ve hosted and attended over the past few years.
What You’ll Need
Frozen Margarita Machine
The right drink machine can really set the mood for a Mexican-themed party.
A frozen margarita maker like the Margaritaville Fiji DM1000 will easily support parties of up to 30-40 people, depending on drinking habits. For larger gatherings, you may want to consider upgrading to the DM3500.
Any of these units look great as the centerpiece of any party drink station.
Use large–bowled, stemmed glasses for the true frozen margarita experience.
Also provide old fashioned cocktail glasses for people who like theirs on the rocks. In Mexico, margaritas are served in glasses similar to double old–fashioned glasses.
You’ll need a few extra drink pitchers to accommodate large batches of margaritas.
Your margarita machine will come with its own reservoir or pitcher, but always have an extra on the side to allow for batching. Set aside one clean pitcher for every flavor.
Use cocktail shakers to blend and chill ingredients before pouring into a margarita glass, if serving on the rocks.
Use these to accurately measure liquor for beverages.
Ice Bucket or Ice Chest
Keep plenty of ice at hand for margaritas on the rocks. You’ll need even more ice for frozen margaritas, so consider storing a couple of bags of ice in an ice chest for larger events.
Use these to salt the rims of the glasses before pouring margaritas.
The proper way to do this is to run a lime wedge or two around the rim, then dip the moistened rim into kosher salt. You can also dip half the rim in salt to allow guests to taste with and without salt. Pour to just under the salt rim so that the salt doesn’t get into the drink prior to drinking.
If you’re serving strawberry or other fruit margaritas, the traditional lip condiment is sugar. Set aside a second dipper dish and fill it with pure white cane sugar (not brown).
A great solution for a party is to use a multi-flavor rimmer like the kind we use at our house. Ours lets you present three choices of rim flavors at the same time. The one we use at home is shown on the right (click to view on Amazon):
Add the final touch of a fresh Persian lime wedge, strawberry or other garnish to your beverage after salting the rim. Have bowls stocked with enough garnishes to go around.
Bowls from Pottery Barn’s Agave Collection are a nice, upscale way to hold garnishes and their authentic character adds to the Mexican theme of the party.
Use a hand juicer to extract fresh juice from citrus fruits, like oranges and limes.
If you’re holding the party on your outdoor deck or in the back yard and you expect the event to go into the evening, then definitely add some mood lighting.
Here is a top-rated light set that we like: 25ft Clear Globe Lights on Amazon (shown in photo above) $35.00
Setting Up The Frozen Margarita Bar
Place your frozen margarita machine in the center of your drink station. Push it right up against the front edge of the bar/countertop, so your guests can easily pour their own drinks. Place a folded dark tablecloth (try to match the color of your countertop) underneath the machine dispenser nozzle or right in front of the blender pitcher, to catch drips.
Place your clean glassware to the right of the margarita machine. Most people are right handed and will naturally reach for glasses with their right hands.
Place your liquor station to the left of the frozen drink machine. Put pouring spouts on your liquor and mixer bottles. Designate one cocktail shaker for each drink recipe that requires one. It’s helpful not to mix jiggers or stirring spoons as well. Always have a quality bar–towel on hand for quick clean up.
Post drink recipes and drink machine instructions on 4 x 6″ cards and display them inside frames at your bar station. That way, guests can mix their own drinks once the party is in full swing. This is key to freeing up your time!
Set up several water and non–alcoholic drink stations away from the margarita drink station, to keep the crowd dispersed. It’s helpful to elevate drink dispensers on a cradle so no one has to lean down to fill their glass.
Offer your guests a choice of tequilas, including blanco, reposado, and añejo. You’ll also need a citrus liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Cheaper triple secs work fine, too.
If you want to spice the drinks up a bit, offer Elderberry liqueur or Blue Curacao as additional options.
Check out these recipes for more innovative drink ideas.
At a bare minimum, you have to offer sliced limes and oranges.
Cut the fruit and garnishes in advance and refrigerate them in covered containers so the fruit doesn’t dry out. At your bar station, group the garnishes with sister ingredients and organize them into groups flavor of drink – “lime group”, “strawberry group”, etc.
For fruits and avocados that could darken, dip them in a mild solution of lemon or lime juice and water right after slicing to keep them looking fresh.
Choose the Right Music
Create a music playlist ahead of time that will help set the mood during the party. We like to alternate back and forth between lounge-style music to “party hard” about once an hour.
Here’s a playlist of high-energy/danceable tracks we listen to at our parties:
Light, fresh dishes and salty snacks pair best with the fruity flavors of margaritas. We recommend serving light casual fare like salsa, pico de gallo, ahi poke, guacamole and ceviché.
For warmer fare, serve plates of warm tortillas, quarter-sliced quesadillas and taquitos. Spanish tapas are another great option.
Avoid heavy warm dishes like enchiladas, chile and tamales, because your party goers will quickly go into a food coma when all that sugar and fat enters their system!
Place bowls of fresh restaurant-style (very thin) tortilla chips and salsa around the room, so people don’t crowd the food station.
Fish tacos are a great meal option, if you need to serve a meal.
Plates and Napkins
Have stacks of cocktail plates and napkins available for appetizers and tapas. Paper plates are perfectly acceptable for a margarita party. So is plasticware.
A Few Extra Touches
If you want to a more authentic Mexican atmosphere, offer the following delicacies, drinks and traditional party treats:
- pinatas: for the kids or the adults, depends on what you put inside 😉
- Sangria: great warm weather alternative; you can make these frozen, too
- horchata: a traditional Spanish sweet drink made from steeped rice and cinnamon. An interesting and unique non-alcoholic treat. Most kids love it, too.
- Tortilla Soup: perfect for cooler weather
- Carne Asada, if your crowd is starving.
How Do You Like To Party?
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Have fun y’all!
I’m looking for a way to keep the pitcher colder in the warm weather. I have a Margaritaville single pitcher machine with a dispenser. I’m thinking of trying to find a pliable ice pack to wrap around the pitcher. Last summer the drinks melted way too fast! Any ideas???