Every year, Americans turn Cinco de Mayo into a margarita-drinking contest. While we certainly condone raising a glass to celebrate Mexican heritage, we think you should experiment with what’s in that glass. Expand your tequila palate with these 15 amazing tequila cocktails that put the margarita to shame.
If there's any lesson to be learned from the classic margarita, it's that tequila + sour = win. Grapefruit juice serves admirably as the sour component in the Ruby Partida, created by the undisputed king of cocktails, Dale DeGroff. Mix equal parts Partida reposado and ruby-red grapefruit juice, toss in a half-shot each of Cointreau and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and finish it off with splash of creme de cassis currant liqueur. Garnish with an orange tuile.
This sophisticated take on a margarita comes from Chris Attenborough of Baltimore's Grand Cru wine bar and restaurant. Two pinwheels of smoked Neopol jalapeno add some heat to this eye-opening cocktail that requires two homemade mixers. The first: bell pepper-infused tequila, which is two roughly chopped red or yellow bell peppers steeped in a bottle's worth of tequila for a day or two. The second: Grand Cru's sour mix, made by whisking together one egg white and six ounces of lemon juice, adding two ounces of orange juice and eight ounces of simple syrup, then chilling. Combine equal parts sour mix and infused tequila, toss in the jalapeno and serve over ice.
Cinco de Mayo falls on Saturday this year, meaning there's a good chance the Fifth of May will start with foggy memories of Cinco de Mayo Eve. The easy Spanish take on the Bloody Mary is the Bloody Maria, which simply substitutes vodka with tequila. The Bloody Mariachi takes hair of the perro south of the border. Start with sangrita, a mix of tomato juice, finely chopped jalapenos, habanero sauce, lime and orange juice. Rim a glass with agave syrup and sea salt, then add two parts sangrita and one part Patron reposado over ice, and garnish with a lime or cherry tomato.
If your plans this Saturday include drinking in the sun, this devil is actually very refreshing thanks to tart cranberry juice and ginger ale. Jose Cuervo's El Diablo starts with a shot and a half of Tradicional and adds an ounce each of fresh lime and cranberry juice, a half-ounce of simple syrup, a splash of lime juice and a lime wedge to garnish.
The Patron Cortez
Ladies will love this easy-to-make, wine-based cocktail. Just add one ounce of Patron reposado to five ounces of late-harvest Riesling. Caveat: The emphasis with the wine here is on "late-harvest." Late-harvest basically means super sweet; German Rieslings marked auslese or beerenauslese are considered some of the best in the late-harvest category.
Top-shelf tequilas deserve to be savored. If you're spending $30, $40, even $100 a bottle, don't mask it with frozen sour mix. Class up your fiesta with the understated elegance of the Herradura Manhattan served in a martini glass. Top a shot or two of Herradura Anejo with a quarter-ounce each of sweet and dry vermouth and a dash of bitters. A Maraschino cherry sweetens the pot for this sophisticated sipper.
This friendly afternoon quaff gets its refreshing side from one of the bartender's lesser-utilized mixers: apple juice. It starts with almost equal parts apple juice and Partida reposado (you'll want to pour the reposado with your heavier hand). The Caribbean kicker of this Spanish-inspired version of a Bermuda swizzle comes in the form of a quarter-ounce of falernum, a sweet syrup liqueur (John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum is the easiest one to find here in the States). Add a squeeze from a fresh lime and a dash of Angostura bitters, shake it all up with ice, then top that off with some ice-cold ginger beer and garnish with apple slices.
Here's a tequila-based after-dinner cocktail perfect for pairing with tres leches or churros (though feel free to administer as needed). In a martini glass, combine a shot of Don Julio Blanco with a half-ounce of coffee liqueur—Tia Maria would be particularly suited to the cause—and sweeten with a quarter-ounce of agave syrup. Float a few coffee beans on top for a classy garnish.
XO Cafe Mix
This simple little shot packs a punch thanks to Patron's tequila-infused XO Cafe coffee liqueur. For an added dash of Mexican Criollo chocolate, opt for the new XO Cafe Dark Cocoa. Top two parts XO with one part Irish cream float, with Bailey's being your best bet.
Yes, you'll know Avion from Turtle's own real tequila-meets-fiction story arc of "Entourage," but it's nonetheless a legit operation, making fine high-altitude blue-agave filtered tequilas that compete with Jalisco's best. Machetes are to be taken seriously. Slightly sweet Avion reposado cuts through the bitter citrus of the Aperol aperitif (Campari can substitute) and Carpano Antica vermouth. Garnish with an orange twist.
Mexican Sexy Lemonade
So much effort was put into creating this warm-weather masterpiece that there was apparently nothing left in the tank when it came time to name it. Nevertheless, 1800's Mexican Sexy Lemonade is a treat, and not terribly strong, either, so it's a smart option for long-haul holiday reveling. In a highball glass, mix a half-ounce of 1800 reposado with an ounce of triple sec, half an ounce of 7 Up, add sour mix to taste and top with a few dashes of Worcestshire sauce, a tablespoon of sugar and a slice of lemon.
La Pinta Royale
West Coasters have been hip to Claze Azul tequila for a little while now, but the newest ultra-high-end tequila is just now arriving in the northeast. Claze Azul La Pinta is their pomegranate-infused version, and serves as the base spirit for La Pinta Royale. Start with a shot and a half of chilled La Pinta in a champagne flute and top with an ounce of sparkling wine. Garnish with an orange twist.
The Mexican Destroyer
The shot specialists at Barcelona Bar in New York have a shot for every occasion (from living out "Top Gun" fantasies to casting Harry Potter spells), and there's frequently fire involved. The Mexican Destroyer's heat comes in the form of a healthy dash of Tabasco sauce, layered in between a half-ounce each of Cuervo Gold and Capitan (a tequila and triple-sec concentrate). Of course, if you are in the mood for playing with fire, they can set you up with a Napalm (yet another variation on the classic Prairie Fire): tequila, Tabasco and a literal fireball of Bacardi 151.
There's much more to Cinco de Mayo boozing than tequila. Mezcal, for years derided as tequila's ugly cousin (with worms, no less), has become quite the darling among boutique spirit lovers. High-quality versions are getting easier to find, and Del Maguey makes an excellent range of entry-level to single-village and specialty bottlings. The Valentina comes from wine and spirits writer Wyatt Peabody. It starts with two ounces of Del Maguey San Luis del Rio Mezcal and adds one ounce of fresh blood-orange juice, a half-ounce of lime juice, three-quarters of an ounce of agave nectar, a quarter ounce of Campari, a couple dashes of orange bitters (Regan's), a maraschino cherry (soaked in mezcal) and garnished with a blood-orange wheel. Peabody serves it alongside a small glass of straight mezcal for good measure.
Next: Cinco de Mayo Movie Makeovers
Sotol No. 1
Are your friends so hip to food and booze trends that bone luging boutique single-village mezcals are so last month? Show them what's up by busting out a bottle of Sotol this weekend. Sotol is a tequila-ish spirit made in Chihuahua, though unlike tequila mezcal, which are distilled from agave, sotol is made from the pointy-leafed succulent known as the desert spoon. The drink has a grassy, herbal smoothness, in contrast to tequila's peppery pop. It's not easy to find—look for Don Cuco or Hacienda de Chihuahua brands—but on-trend mixmaster Andy Borberly at Seven Saints in Champaign, Ill. has been playing around with it. His first creation is the aptly named Sotol No. 1. Muddle four fresh strawberries, add a shot and a half of sotol reposado, one ounce Aperol, a half ounce St. Germain liqueur and a squeeze from a fresh orange. Shake it all up with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.