Cinco de Mayo, which falls at the beginning of May, is the perfect time to embrace the warmer weather and get together with friends over margaritas, palomas and perhaps the stray shot of tequila. But before you get to sipping, it’s important to understand what the holiday is all about.
Cinco de Mayo may be widely understood in the U.S. as “Mexican Independence Day,” but it’s actually meant to commemorate Mexico’s victory over the French during the Battle of Puebla, which took place in 1862. The holiday is mostly celebrated by Mexican-Americans who live in the U.S., but it’s also celebrated in Puebla, the town in which the battle took place. Some companies have capitalized on the holiday as little more than an excuse to imbibe (and buy more alcoholic products), but understanding the roots of Cinco de Mayo is an important aspect of celebrating with respect.
For those who want to celebrate without having to leave home, we’ve compiled this list of some of our favorite Mexican and Mexican-inspired cocktails and nonalcoholic creations. From the super-simple margarita to unexpectedly complex riffs on classics like palomas and sangria, these refreshing and citrus-forward cocktails are ideal for all of your spring celebrations. Grab a bottle of tequila, start squeezing fresh limes and ready your cocktail shaker for these mouth-watering Cinco de Mayo drinks.
You need just three ingredients to make this simple-but-delicious margarita — but you can take it to the next level with a variety of add-ons. A splash of club soda will give you a fizzy margarita, and jalapeño slices can add a hint of spice. Don’t forget to add a salted rim for a savory touch.
It’s hard to make a cocktail more refreshing than this frozen paloma. Grapefruit juice and lime juice join forces to create a citrus-y base for the drink, while the agave syrup adds a bit of sweetness to tone down the intensity of the tequila. Freeze the juice and blend all the ingredients together for a supreme sipper.
Freshly squeezed lime juice is essential for this classic margarita cocktail that’s spiked with Cointreau and sweetened with simple syrup. Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice to produce a drink that’s a step up from the frozen margarita mix you likely used in college.
Why choose between a Mexican tequila sunrise and a Spanish sangria when you can have the best of both worlds? This tequila- and wine-based cocktail balances the sweetness of fresh fruit with the fresh acidity of juicy limes. It’s ideal for warm-weather sipping.
One average paloma gets an upgrade with this recipe that calls for smoky mezcal and orange liqueur. A splash of soda gives this drink just enough fizz to make it even more refreshing, and the lime wedge for garnish makes it feel extra celebratory.
This margarita recipe bucks convention by calling for grilled citrus instead of fresh, which lends a smokiness to the cocktail that’s only enhanced by the inclusion of mezcal. Add some hot sauce to the mix for an impressive kick and surprising complexity.
This alcohol-free mocktail is perfect to pair with your taco spread without forcing you to imbibe. Soda water and ginger ale provide the fizzy base for freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, while Angostura bitters add a depth you won’t find in a typical soda.
Fresh lime juice plays a starring role in this drink and offers a punch of acidity to complement the savory, salt-rimmed serving glass. By swapping sugar for Splenda, you can make your very own skinny margarita without having to purchase a pre-made mix.
For those who love palomas but are trying to limit their alcohol intake, this paloma punch recipe is perfect. Forget the tequila; grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup and grapefruit-flavored sparkling water do the heavy lifting here. Add a rosemary sprig garnish to give your punch a lovely aromatic quality.
Give your standard frozen margarita recipe an upgrade by adding baked shredded coconut and coconut cream to the mix. This frozen margarita balances the subtle sweetness of coconut with the bracing acidity you’re used to from this typically lime-heavy cocktail.
The typical spicy margarita gets an upgrade with this creative cocktail recipe that calls for jalapeño slices and apple-pepper jelly, the latter of which lends a surprising creaminess to the recipe. The brown sugar and salt rim will please both sweet and savory cocktail lovers.
For this Cinco de Mayo mocktail, Martha Stewart uses Sanbitter, which has a flavor profile that’s similar to Campari, to add a touch of pleasant bitterness to this grapefruit juice and ginger ale concoction. A citrus wedge garnish makes this drink feel perfect for a special occasion.
This super-simple mocktail is ideal for booze-free sipping on Cinco de Mayo. Start by making a lime simple syrup, then add it to freshly squeezed lime juice and soda water. Floral notes from the mint garnish ensure this lime-forward drink isn’t too one-note.
Adding coffee to a margarita might not sound like a natural pairing, but this unconventional recipe results in a deeply complex, layered cocktail that offers a fun alternative to an espresso martini. Toasted sesame oil lends a rich, umami quality to the cocktail, and the kumquat garnish offers a pop of bright color.
This margarita recipe is a stark departure from your typical restaurant cocktail. The tequila is infused with peppermint tea, which gives the drink its signature coolness. Starfruit garnishes are an unexpected but gorgeous addition to the mango liqueur-spiked cocktail.