Considering recent developments, it is entirely possible that any celebration, any at all, might be well worth celebrating. We as a state, and we as a country, are certainly in dire need of some good news.
Usually in the leadup to Cinco de Mayo I would normally point out that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (September 16 is). And that May 5th is a mostly a U.S. celebration that commemorates a battle won by Mexican Nationalists headed by an American born general over a French expeditionary force in Mexico serving a Hapsburg Prince turned Mexican Emperor during the height of the U.S. Civil War. In fact, Cinco de Mayo is barely celebrated in Mexico at all. And usually only in the state of Puebla, the site of the battle, and a few mainly U.S. tourist destinations.
But today I will not make that argument. Today we get ready to fiesta! And since Marin County was once part of Mexico (1822-1847) maybe some additional leeway is warranted. Just be sure to observe social distancing!
Tequila is the undeniable king (emperor?) of Mexican liquor, at least in terms of international sales. Corona beer (corona means “crown”), until recently was the best-selling Mexican beer in the world, and the best selling imported beer in the United States. My how things have changed. Ironically, it was Corona beer that originally spearheaded the idea of celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. (perhaps after observing what St. Patrick’s Day celebrations here had done for sales of Guinness beer). Earlier this month Corona beer temporarily halted their production due to coronavirus concerns. The irony is not lost on us. Leaving tequila as the undeniable go to for specious Mexican American celebrations.
Here are five easy to make tequila-based cocktails for “refugio en su lugar” (sheltering in place). Other Mexican succulent-based spirits: mezcal, sotol, comiteca, will also work well in these cocktails, lending their idiosyncrasies to the overall flavor profile. Three of the five listed, the margarita, the sunrise and the Caesar diablo, all have strong California connections.
May Day Margarita*
1 ½ ounces good quality tequila**
¾ ounce good quality triple sec (Cointreau, Combier, Grand Marnier, Gran Gala)
2 ounces fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
Combine all four ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake to chill and then strain over new ice in a salt rimmed serving glass. Garnish with lime wheel.
*Margarita means daisy in Spanish. A daisy is a type of drink featuring a spirit, a sour citrus juice (lime or lemon), sugar and a fruit liqueur, in this case triple sec (orange). Simply put, a margarita is a tequila daisy and came into being somewhere along the Mexico/U.S. border.
**You can use any type of tequila, blanco will be fresher tasting, reposado will be a bit richer, and anejo will add an oaky fullness (and some considerable extra cost). The choice is up to you.
Uno Paloma Blanco*
1 ½ ounces good quality blanco tequila
2 ounces fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
¼ ounce simple syrup
¼ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
Splash of sparkling water
Combine first four ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and shake. Strain into a tall salt rimmed glass filled with fresh ice. Top with soda and stir.
*Paloma means dove in Spanish. Specifically, in this case, the dove of the Holy Spirit. Purported to have been invented in the town of Tequila at a former church turned bar called appropriately enough La Capilla (the chapel). Typically, Palomas are made with grapefruit or tamarind sodas instead of fresh juice and are the most popular type of tequila cocktail in all of Mexico.
Trident Tequila Sunrise*
1 ½ ounces good quality tequila
1 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
Dash of good quality crème de cassis (such as Mathilde)
Dash of premium grenadine (such as Sonoma Syrup Co. or Stirrings)
1 Bada Bing all-natural maraschino cherry
Fill double old-fashioned glass with ice. In order listed add all ingredients careful to affect a layered “sunrise” effect. Garnish with the cherry.
*Invented by Bobby Lozoff at the Trident in Sausalito in the early 1970’s, the original was a five-ingredient drink. Eventually it was reduced to just tequila, orange juice and grenadine. Lozoff’s original version is far superior, taste wise, then that more well-known syrupy sweet version.
2 ounces good quality tequila
3 ounces Clamato juice (or tomato juice with clam juice added)
1 dash Tabasco
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of celery seed
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
2 anchovy stuffed green olives
In a mixing glass combine first seven ingredients without ice. Dry shake. Pour liquid ingredients into an ice filled salt rimmed glass. Garnish with olives.
*In Mexico, Tequila is often served with a chaser of sangrita (little blood) which is a mixture of tomato juice, hot sauce and fruit juice. The Bloody Caesar is a Bloody Mary served with Clamato juice (the Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana Mexico). And the Bloody Maria is a Bloody Mary made with tequila. Put all three together and you have the Caesar Diablo.
1 ½ ounces good quality tequila
1 lime wedge
Sprinkle of salt
Fill shot glass with tequila. Look at salt and lime, then drink shot in one gulp. “Crutches? We don’t need no stinking crutches!” Repeat as necessary.