If you’re throwing a Cinco de Mayo party, you’re probably busy prepping your guac and homemade tacos al pastor. But have you thought about what you’ll be offering to drink?
Step one: stock up on beer. Before you head to the store, give a quick read to our Mexican food beer pairing guide.
But a Cinco de Mayo party really needs some cocktails, too. Here are a few ideas, starting with our favorite margarita recipes.
There is nothing wrong with a really good margarita. This is Kenji’s easy recipe for a pitcher full, made with a mix of fresh lemon and lime juice. Be sure to use fresh citrus juice: the bottled stuff is just not as tasty. Psst…wondering which tequila to use? Here are our top picks under $ 25.
Get the Fresh Margarita recipe »
The Best Frozen Lime Margaritas
In a warm home kitchen, you can’t just dump tequila, fresh lime, triple sec, and simple syrup in blender with ice: as you whir the mixture together, the room-temperature liquid melts the ice, so you get a cool, but not brain-freezing-frozen margarita. The secret to real slushie-style margaritas at home is to make your margarita base the day before and keep it in a sealed container in your freezer. The mix won’t freeze since there’s so much alcohol and sugar in it, but it will drop way down in temperature: ours clocked in at 5 degrees Farenheit after an overnight rest. When the party starts, throw your ice in the blender, add your super-cold homemade margarita mix, get it whirring on “ice crush” mode. The result is sweet-tart, boozy, and totally refreshing.
Get the Frozen Lime Margarita recipe »
Tangerine Ginger Margarita
We have a weakness for pretty much any drink made with fresh ginger, but this one is particularly tasty, made with sweet, fresh tangerines and tart, vividly colored pomegranate juice.
Get the Tangerine Ginger Margarita recipe »
Fresh Pineapple Margaritas
Fruity cocktails rarely taste authentically of fruit and spirits, but this one does a pretty amazing job of showcasing the caramel notes of reposado tequila and deliciously sweet and tangy pineapple. If you discover that your pineapple isn’t super-sweet, microwave the sliced pineapple chunks on a plate for a few seconds to bring out the juicy flavors.
Get the Pineapple Margarita recipe »
Got a taste for super-spicy salsa? Cool the burn with this thirst-quenching watermelon margarita, made with a touch of salt to bring out the melon’s flavor. Instead of the traditional triple sec, this cocktail calls for St. Germain elderflower liqueur, which adds a very delicate floral sweetness that works especially well with watermlon.
Get the Watermelon Margarita recipe »
Quick and Easy Margarita Shandy
Looking for the easy way out? Fresh juice is the way to go when you’re mixing one or two cocktails, but if you’re hosting a bash and you want a super-quick cocktail for a thirsty crowd, frozen limeade comes in handy. Here, it’s mixed with rich reposado tequila and beer for the slightest effervescence and savoriness that makes your mouth water. Serve it in salt-rimmed glasses.
Get the Quick and Easy Margarita Shandy recipe »
There’s more to tequila cocktails than just margaritas, and not enough people know about this simple, refreshing tequila drink. It’s a highball made with bright, herbal silver tequila and fresh lemon, plus grapefruit bitters for a little extra flavor. Thank Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler the next time you see him at Clyde Common—this creation is all his.
Get the Santa Carla recipe »
If you’ve never tried a Paloma, you should. It’s a highball made with tequila, grapefruit soda (such as Jarritos or Squirt), lime juice, and maybe a pinch of salt. This variation on the classic is just a touch more complicated, but it pays off in flavor. The addition of fresh orange and grapefruit juice makes for a well-rounded sweet-tart cocktail that’s wonderfully bright and refreshing.
Get the Paloma Brava recipe »
Tequila and Campari With Tangerine
Here, sweet tangerines balance the bitter side of Campari in a refreshing drink that features aged tequila. Making a big batch before the crowd arrives comes in handy when you get a little too tipsy to keep operating a cocktail shaker.
Get the Tequila and Campari With Tangerine recipe »
A spicy variation on the Bee’s Knees cocktail straight from Texas, this easy drink is shaken with lemon juice, honey, and jalapeno for earthiness and heat. The richness of aged reposado tequila latches in nicely with the honey.
Get the Bee Sting recipe »
If you like a Bloody Mary when you’re doing mid-day drinking, this Clamato-based tequila cocktail is one you should put on the must-make list. It’s somewhere between a Bloody and a Paloma, lightened with lemon juice and a splash of grapefruit soda. It’s a little spicy (add more hot sauce if you wish), but don’t worry: it doesn’t taste like clam juice.
Get the Vampira recipe »
Bitter Salty Perro
Salty dog and G&T drinkers, meet your Cinco de Mayo fave. Made with fresh pink grapefruit juice, tequila (or joven mezcal), and tonic, this drink has just the right amount of bitter flair.
Get the Bitter Salty Perro recipe »
The Jewel of Oaxaca
Let’s talk about mezcal for a minute. If you like tequila and you like, say, Scotch, you should really be drinking mezcal, too. It’s smoky and earthy and delicious when mixed in cocktails, and your Cinco de Mayo party is the perfect opportunity to make a few converts. If you’re firing up the grill anyway, throw on some mango halves for this delicious drink, mixed with mild ancho chili peppers for complex, smoky flavor.
Get the Jewel of Oaxacao recipe »
Basil Cranberry Julep
If you’re having a joint Derby Day / Cinco de Mayo party, this obviously needs to be your signature drink. This mezcal-based variation on the Derby Day classic adds in cranberry and basil for a refreshing and slightly savory result. This is a great entry cocktail for mezcal beginners.
Get the Basil Cranberry Julep Recipe »
Yes, you do need to offer something nonalcoholic, like this awesome homemade limeade. Panela, unrefined cane sugar that is often sold in solid discs, has robust molasses-like flavor. It needs to be chopped up and dissolved in hot water before being used in a drink, but the resulting deep, caramely flavor is totally worth the small amount of extra effort.
Get the Panela Limeade Recipe »