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Can I get drunk off of one margarita?

This is a common question for those new to drinking alcohol or someone looking to enjoy just one cocktail without overdoing it. The short answer is that it depends on a variety of factors. While one standard margarita may not get the average person severely intoxicated, the effects of alcohol can vary greatly from person to person. Let’s take a deeper look at how margaritas are made, how alcohol is metabolized, and other considerations to determine if a single margarita can make you drunk.

What’s in a margarita?

A standard margarita contains the following ingredients:

  • Tequila – Typically 1.5 ounces per drink
  • Triple sec (orange liqueur) – 0.5 ounces per drink
  • Lime juice – 1 ounce per drink
  • Simple syrup (or other sweetener) – 0.5 ounces per drink
  • Salt on the rim
  • Ice

The primary alcoholic component is tequila, which typically contains between 38-40% alcohol by volume (ABV). This means a 1.5 ounce pour contains around 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Other ingredients like triple sec add a small amount more. In total, a standard margarita contains roughly 0.7-0.8 ounces of alcohol.

How alcohol affects the body

Once consumed, alcohol enters the bloodstream through the digestive system. The liver then metabolizes the ethanol (the intoxicating part of alcoholic drinks) at a certain pace. The level of intoxication depends on a few factors:

  • Amount consumed – More alcohol means higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
  • Body size/weight – Smaller bodies don’t dilute alcohol as much as larger ones
  • Biological sex – Females tend to reach higher BACs than males after consuming the same amount
  • Age – Older adults tend to react more strongly due to declines in metabolism and liver function
  • Food intake – Eating before/during drinking slows absorption into the bloodstream

On average, the liver can metabolize about 0.5 ounces of ethanol per hour. Anything above that will start to accumulate in the bloodstream and create intoxication. Symptoms of alcohol intoxication include impaired coordination, dulled senses, impaired judgement, mood changes, nausea, and drowsiness.

Factors that influence intoxication

Based on average alcohol metabolism rates, a single margarita is unlikely to lead to severe drunkenness on its own. However, some factors can change this:

  • Drink strength – A heavier pour or more alcoholic recipe will increase the drink’s alcohol content
  • Pace of drinking – Consuming the drink faster gives the liver less time to metabolize before effects occur
  • Low body weight – Smaller people will feel the effects sooner than larger people
  • Low alcohol tolerance – Those unaccustomed to drinking absorb alcohol more readily in the bloodstream
  • Interactions with medications – Some drugs amplify the effects of alcohol

Under normal circumstances, a 160 pound male who regularly drinks alcohol is unlikely to experience more than mild tipsiness from one standard margarita consumed over 30+ minutes with food. However, a 110 pound female who rarely drinks and consumes it quickly on an empty stomach may feel significant effects from the same drink.

Signs of alcohol intoxication

Here are some visible signs that indicate a person may be intoxicated from alcohol:

  • Flushed skin
  • Lack of coordination/balance issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed reactions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Agitation, mood changes
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Memory lapses or blackouts

At higher blood alcohol levels, severe symptoms can occur including loss of consciousness, seizures, irregular breathing, dangerously low body temperature, and even death due to alcohol poisoning. However, such severe reactions are very unlikely from one drink alone.

Measuring intoxication

Blood alcohol concentration or BAC is the most objective way to measure legal intoxication levels. In the United States, 0.08% BAC is considered legally impaired in all states. For the average person, this occurs after about 3-4 drinks consumed within an hour. Here is a general BAC chart by number of drinks showing what range a person might expect:

Drinks Consumed Probable BAC% (avg. person)
1 drink 0.01 – 0.05%
2 drinks 0.04 – 0.10%
3 drinks 0.06 – 0.15%
4 drinks 0.08 – 0.20%
5+ drinks 0.17% +

As shown, even a single drink rarely brings someone near the legal limit. However, impairment can occur at lower levels depending on individual factors.

Avoiding intoxication from one drink

If you want to enjoy one margarita without getting drunk, here are some tips:

  • Sip slowly – Take at least 30 minutes to finish
  • Eat before and during – Food slows absorption into the blood
  • Add extra ice – Water down the drink slightly
  • Alternate with water – Helps pace yourself and stay hydrated
  • Opt for lower ABV tequila – Look for a 80-proof variety instead of 100-proof
  • Use less triple sec – This will limit overall alcohol content
  • Avoid other drinks – Don’t have any other alcohol before or after

Using these strategies, you can moderate the effects and enjoy flavors and aromas of a margarita without significant intoxication. If you do begin to feel overly impaired, stop drinking immediately and drink plenty of water.


One standard margarita is unlikely to cause legal impairment or severe intoxication alone, but effects can vary based on personal factors. Smaller body sizes, lower alcohol tolerance, and faster consumption increase chances of intoxication. Sipping slowly, eating, adding ice, and selecting lower ABV ingredients will limit absorption of alcohol. While everyone processes alcohol differently, following responsible drinking guidelines helps moderate intake. Ultimately, if you feel too impaired by just one drink, stop to avoid adverse effects on health and safety.