Trader Joe's Everything But The Bartender Margarita Review: You Get What You Pay For

There's nothing that screams summer sipping quite like a smooth, balanced, perfect margarita. Unless you're ready to shell out big bucks at the bar or squeeze limes until your hands go numb, it's not always easy to find a good margarita, especially one that balances flavor and convenience. Enter Trader Joe's Everything But the Bartender Classic Lime Margarita, a canned cocktail designed to rule out the need for squeezing limes, sourcing high-quality tequila, or looking up any recipes. It's a convenient cocktail in a can — but does it actually taste good?

Trader Joe's certainly isn't the first brand to foray into the world of pre-mixed cocktails or canned margaritas, so I was curious to see if these little drinks were going to pack a punch — and more importantly, if they were going to rival a real margarita. We put Trader Joe's canned margaritas to the taste test, not only sampling the cocktail itself, but comparing it to a fresh, homemade margarita. 

It's pretty hard to beat a genuine margarita made with fresh-squeezed limes and top-shelf tequila, so I didn't judge TJ's canned version too harshly on how well it competed with the real deal. Instead I focused on how good the pre-made margarita tastes, and if the convenience makes it worth the price and the trip to the store. 

What is Trader Joe's Everything But The Bartender Classic Lime Margarita?

It's possible that you've heard of Trader Joe's other popular "Everything But" products, like the Everything But the Bagel seasoning that started it all or the Everything But the Elote Mexican-inspired seasoning. Now, this Everything But the Bartender offering is a little different from other products in the Trader Joe's lineup, as this is no seasoning blend, cheese, or chip variety — these are classic margaritas packed succinctly into a four-pack of little cans.

These canned margaritas boast the same ingredients that you'd expect to find in a real margarita — tequila, of course, along with additions like agave syrup and lime juice. The alcohol content of one can is 15%, which perhaps isn't as high as a cocktail you might order at a bar, but it's certainly much higher than your average beer or glass of wine, so these do pack a boozy punch. 

As the name of the drink suggests, the idea here is that a pack of these gives you everything you need for a margarita — sans bartender, of course, but that's where you come in, no mixology experience necessary. All you need to do is chill the cans beforehand or pour a can over ice, and voilà: You've got a ready-to-drink cocktail at your fingertips. Perhaps you'd be so inclined to serve the cocktail in a glass rimmed with salt, but again, that's up to the not-included bartender. 

Where can you find Trader Joe's canned margarita, and how much does it cost?

Like just about any Trader Joe's product out there, there's one place to find the Everything But the Margarita four-pack, and that's at your local Trader Joe's store. Since these do contain alcohol, there's a good chance they'll be located somewhere near the wine or spirits in your neighborhood TJ's, though the store might have them placed closer to the entrance to showcase the summery beverage. Also, it's a good idea to call your local store before visiting to make sure they have these margaritas in stock. I was able to find them in the Chicagoland area, but availability may be limited depending on your region.

As for the price, which can vary based on store location, a four-pack box of the Everything but the Bartender canned margaritas cost $10.99 at my local TJ's, which breaks down to about $2.75 per can, with each container being just shy of 7 ounces. Though you could enjoy more than one of these canned cocktails in one sitting, it's safe to say that one can is equal to one serving, so that makes for a margarita that is significantly cheaper than what you could find at a bar. 

Taste test: Trader Joe's Everything But the Bartender Classic Lime Margarita

When sampling Trader Joe's Everything But the Bartender lime margarita, I figured the best course of action was to try it straight from the can, and also a little more jazzed up. So, first I chilled a can and cracked it open to take a sip sans frills. My first impression was that the drink did indeed taste like a real margarita, and if anything, it came on a bit strong at first. I got a potent, boozy taste of tequila first, then it mellowed out into something a little sweeter and more citrus-leaning. However, I wouldn't say that the citrus flavor necessarily tasted like lime; it was more of a general sweet-citrus note that had the slightest of chemically aftertaste to it.

After sampling the cocktail from the can, I played bartender and poured the rest of the drink into a glass with a salted rim, ice, and a lime wedge for garnish. This simple action definitely improved the drinking experience, with the salt rim really helping to remind me that I was, indeed, drinking a margarita. The flavors remained the same, with notes of tequila and citrus shining through quite nicely. Of course, with any margarita on the rocks, the flavors become a bit subdued as the ice melted, though I didn't find that made the cocktail any less enjoyable. 

Trader Joe's canned margarita vs. a homemade margarita

So, Trader Joe's Everything But the Bartender margarita is pretty tasty on its own, but how does it stack up against a homemade margarita? I put this very question to the test by whipping up a classic fresh margarita, with the ingredients including tequila, Cointreau, agave syrup, and freshly-squeezed lime juice. 

Once mixed and poured over ice, the homemade margarita didn't look too different from the TJ's one, though the vibrant freshness of the lime juice did set the two apart slightly. For context, in the above photo the Trader Joe's margarita is in the glass on the left, while the homemade margarita is on the right.

The biggest difference flavor-wise with the homemade margarita is that the fresh lime juice was very palpable, whereas I was having a hard time distinguishing lime from a general citrus flavor in the TJ's one. Is the homemade margarita better? Yes, but I don't really see how a fresh margarita made with quality ingredients wouldn't be. Both margaritas had a good balance of flavor, both tasted equally of tequila, and both were refreshing. The homemade one was objectively better than the Trader Joe's one, but it also took me quite a while to squeeze out all of that lime juice, so the TJ's margarita wins on the convenience level.

Is Trader Joe's Everything But the Bartender Classic Lime Margarita worth it?

Balanced, boozy, and refreshing, I found Trader Joe's Everything But the Bartender margarita to be well worth the price. The convenience alone made this cocktail worth my while, as enjoying it can be as simple as cracking open a chilled can and sipping. Even if you want to play bartender and jazz up your cocktail a little bit, it only took me about a minute to salt the rim of a glass and cut a lime wedge for garnish. Compared to preparing a homemade margarita recipe — which took me about five minutes to whip up — there's no denying the convenience factor here.

Also, considering that a serving of Trader Joe's margarita can come down to less than $3 a pop, I think the price is well worth what you're getting. Sure, margarita purists who only use top-shelf tequila and hand-squeezed limes probably wouldn't be too impressed here. But those who are looking for a smooth cocktail to crack open at the pool, on the beach, aboard a boat, or simply by the backyard patio, you're not going to find many better options than Trader Joe's Everything But the Bartender Classic Lime Margaritas.