Cinco de Mayo is, to many American drinkers, a day to celebrate Mexico through the copious ingestion of the country’s spirits. A couple of misconceptions about the holiday abound, however.
First, it’s not Mexico’s Independence Day; that’s on September 16. Rather, Cinco de Mayo, or Fifth of May, celebrates the anniversary of the country’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla.
Second, the day isn’t even an official Mexican holiday, and although celebrations take place, mostly in the state of Puebla, most Mexicans don’t really even celebrate the holiday and tend to find it odd that Americans use it as an excuse to stuff themselves on tacos and copiously imbibe.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t celebrate the holiday. We simply urge you to do so with quality drinks rather than an enormous quantity of them, along with an understanding of what it is you're actually celebrating.
These are 11 cocktails made with Mexican spirits, beer, and/or mixers to make your Cinco de Mayo celebration appropriately festive.
If there’s one drink you associate with Cinco de Mayo, it’s probably this one. The classic combination of tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur or agave syrup (or a split of them, as this recipe calls for) is popular for a reason: It’s a delicious drink and easy to make. (It’s great frozen, too.)
If you really want to celebrate Mexico, make the country’s favorite drink. This combination of tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda is wildly popular in its home country, and you’re sure to love the refreshing mix too.
Beer is great on its own, but beer cocktails are even better. Turn your typical Mexican lager on its head with this spicy recipe, which calls for livening up the beer with hot sauce, lime juice, and a few additional spices.
If you prefer to celebrate with tequila shots, make a batch of this savory concoction to serve on the side. Its complex flavors are a classic accompaniment to good tequila served neat. Just combine tomato, grapefruit, and orange and lime juices with Tabasco, then add a jalapeño for some spice. Let the mix stand so everything combines, then serve alongside your favorite tequila.
Continue to 5 of 11 below.
Oaxaca Old Fashioned
Created by famed bartender Phil Ward while he was at NYC’s Death & Co., this cocktail, a simple combination of reposado tequila, mezcal, agave nectar, and Angostura bitters, helped kick off the mezcal craze in the U.S.
Large-Format Mezcal Negroni
A Negroni might not be a classic Mexican drink, but swap in mezcal for the usual gin, and you’ll have a delicious party pleaser. Just combine equal parts mezcal, Campari, and sweet vermouth in a large container with a bit of water and serve over ice, each glass garnished with an orange twist.
Not into agave spirits? This interpretation of a Paloma will allow you to celebrate sans tequila. Here, vodka and lime juice get topped by Jarritos grapefruit soda in a glass with a vanilla-flecked salt rim for a gentler version of Mexico’s favorite drink.
Spicy Mint Avocado Margarita
It may not be a traditional Margarita, or even a conventional spicy one, but a muddled slice of avocado brings an additional (if unexpected) Mexican touch to the usual tequila-lime-triple sec combination. Mint leaves bring freshness, while jalapeño lends a welcome kick.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
Naked & Famous
This modern classic takes the equal-parts formula of the Last Word for a mezcal-fueled spin, mixing a particularly complex bottling of the spirit with Aperol, yellow Chartreuse, and lime juice to create a refreshing and citrusy cocktail.
Ready Fire Aim
Honey-pineapple syrup accents joven mezcal and lime and pineapple juices in this cocktail, which gets an extra punch from Bittermens Hellfire habanero shrub, which accentuates the sweetness while simultaneously adding a layer of heat.
This cocktail takes the classic Margarita and kicks up the spice, adding muddled jalapeño to the traditional mix of blanco tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and agave syrup. A salt rim and an extra jalapeño slice finish it off.