Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo actually has little—if anything—to do with Mexican Independence Day. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on, well, the 5th of May. Mexican Independence Day, on the other hand, takes place on the 16th of September.
This date actually falls on the anniversary of the Mexican Army’s triumph over the French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This underdog victory has since become an important celebration of Mexican-American culture in the United States. While Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that is celebrated exclusively in the United States and not at all in Mexico, its roots and ties to the Mexican-American community make it a great opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture and appreciate classic Mexican drinks and spirits.
Here are our favorite Cinco de Mayo cocktails to help you celebrate the victory at the Battle of Puebla!
As excited as you might be to order a margarita at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant every 5th of May, you might be surprised to find out that Margaritas actually aren’t all that popular in Mexico at all. That easy sipping, refreshing, feel-good drink is instead replaced by the cultural heavyweight Paloma. If you’re looking for a cocktail that’ll make your Mexican friend raise an eyebrow in approval, this is the one.
To make a classic Paloma, you’ll need:
- A generous 2 ounces of tequila
- A squeeze of lime juice
- Grapefruit soda, such as Squirt
- Optional salt for the rim
Putting this drink together is very simple:
- If you want a salted rim, wet the rim with the lime juice and press the rim of the glass into a bed of salt
- Fill the glass to the top with ice
- Pour in the tequila and the lime juice
- Top off your glass with the grapefruit soda
Another drink that is incredibly present throughout Mexican culture is the Michelada. This is one that will certainly challenge your palate if you’re not used to a whole slew of different flavors in one single cocktail. The Michelada is a staple in dive bars across Mexico. Try and see if your palate stands up to the challenge!
To make a Michelada, you’ll need:
- A beer of your choice
- 1 lime
- Worchester sauce
- Maggi sauce (soy sauce will do in a pinch)
To make a Michelada:
- Salt the rim of the glass, as with the previous cocktail
- Add the lime juice
- Fill your glass with ice
- Add the sauces
- Top with the beer
This one isn’t technically a cocktail, but it’s certainly a drink that’s rich in both Mexican culture and flavor. Mezcal is a Mexican spirit, similar to tequila in its production, and often much more difficult to handle. Traditionally, a shot of Mezcal is served alongside some orange wedges, some sal de gusano, and some chapulines (or crickets) as a bar snack. If you really want to dive into Mexican beverage culture and feel the spirit of Oaxaca, these are the things you’ll need to plate up your Mezcal:
- A few pinches of sal de gusano (plain salt works if it’s what you have)
- Orange slices
- Chapulines, or crickets
To properly “plate” this drink:
- On a small plate, arrange the salt, orange slices, and chapulines separately
- Fill a shot glass with Mezcal and place the glass also on the plate
And that’s it! It’s a very simple presentation. Commonly, a bite of an orange slice and a bit of salt is taken after a sip of the spirit. The chapulines are snacked on as you please.