May 2, 2013 at 12:01 PM ET
Most people don’t realize Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Mexican Independence Day, which is on September 16, but instead, this holiday started as a way to honor the day the Mexican army triumphed over the French in the Battle of Puebla. However, in the U.S. this holiday tends to represent Mexican pride, and what better way to tap into the country’s heritage than by throwing back a few craft cocktails and toasting to Mexico.
The two primary Mexican liquors are tequila and mezcal (or mescal). Both get made from the agave plant and they can only be grown in certain regions for the product to be considered and labeled a true tequila or mezcal. So, what’s the difference? Distilled from the blue agave plant, tequila comes mainly from the state of Jalisco (Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas and Michoacan can also legally produce this spirit). Mezcal comes from the maguey plant, also an agave, and is largely manufactured in Oaxaca. Both use the heart of the plant, called the piña. For tequila, it gets steamed, and for mezcal, the piña roasts in an underground pit, which is why the liquor tastes smoky.
That said, there are hundreds of tequilas and mezcals in Mexico, and quite a few have wandered over to this side of the boarder. In an attempt to go beyond the margarita, here are five (cinco!) tasty Mexican-inspired cocktails from various cocktail masters for you to try at their establishments, or make at home.
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Rim a coupe glass with cayenne pepper and salt mix.
Shake hard and pour into the chilled coupe glass.
Created by Mat Resler for Empellon in New York
Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
Shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.
Recipe courtesy of Rosa Mexicano
In cocktail shaker, muddle strawberry fully by pressing down firmly on the fruit and twisting.
Add ingredients and ice.
Shake and then strain over fresh ice.
Blood Orange Jalapeno Margarita
Created by Peter Kane, Beverage Director of Beauty & Essex in New York
Combine ingredients in shaker.
Shake and pour on the rocks into a double old fashioned glass.
The Desert Rose
Created by Debbie Shapiro of the JW Marriott in Chicago for their “Art of Aroma” cocktail collection
Combine all ingredients in shaker (save one lime wedge for garnish)
Squeeze in lime wedges and drop in glass.
Shake 20 times, and pour into double old fashioned glass.
Garnish with a lime wedge.