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This year’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations will look wildly different from previous years, which were often marked by public gatherings at parks and local watering holes. But COVID-19 doesn’t mean people can’t celebrate the holiday at home (or over Zoom).
Social distancing also provides the perfect opportunity to brush up on the history of the holiday. With that in mind, Fox News reached out to a couple of leaders in the spirits industry for more about the origins of Cinco de Mayo, and what it meant for the bartending business. And for those who long to celebrate with a cocktail, our experts have shared a few easy recipes you can make at home.
Fox News: What does Cinco de Mayo commemorate?
Jaime Celorio, CEO of Ambhar Tequila: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the 1862 Battle of Puebla (the Mexican Army’s victory over France), but it’s really not a major holiday here in Mexico. It’s not even a federal holiday here. People in the U.S. sometimes mistakenly think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, but that’s actually celebrated in September. For some reason, it has become such a popular time in the U.S. to drink tequila.
Sonya Auvray, founder of Dona Vega Mezcal: Mexico had lost several wars during the 1800s, which led them to bankruptcy, and unable to fulfill loans from several European countries. Although the others accepted extensions (Spaniards and British), the French did not. May 5th marks the day of Mexico’s major victory over the larger, and more powerful French army in the Battle of the Puebla; when France sought both money and land as re-payment.
Fox News: When is Mexico's actual Independence Day celebrated?
Celorio: Mexican Independence Day is observed on September 16. We celebrate with festive decorations and parades in town plazas across the country, and of course traditional foods and tequila.
Fox News: What can you tell us about the history of Cinco de Mayo that many people may not know?
Camille Austin, director of Advocacy for Abasolo Whisky: In Mexico, while Cinco de Mayo is celebrated regionally in the state of Puebla with parades, speeches and re-enactments of the 1862 battle, in other parts of the country the holiday goes largely unnoticed. Fighting in Mexico continued for many years after 1862, but this victory over the French army at Puebla became a true symbol of Mexican resistance to foreign domination and over the years. This day has become a way of encouraging pride in Mexican culture and heritage, all around the world.
Fox News: What does Cinco de Mayo mean for you?
Aurvay: Although of Mexican heritage, I’ve lived my whole life in the United States. This holiday was a way for families living in areas where they were the only Mexican-Americans to share their culture and heritage. It’s a fun celebration to look forward to, and a time to be festive with family and friends!
This holiday is considered a minor holiday in Mexico, while it is highly celebrated in America. The beer and spirit companies heighten the celebration of Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.— starting in the early ’80s, for promotional reasons. But Cinco de Mayo represents bravery, community, determination and pride
Celorio: Even though Cinco de Mayo isn’t a major holiday here in Mexico, I love that it has become such a great occasion in the U.S., and in other countries to recognize and celebrate Mexico's culture! In some ways, it has become the unofficial start of summer.
Austin: Although this holiday may have transformed over the years into something very different from what is celebrated in Mexico today, it should be a reminder to Mexican Americans, Americans and global citizens to be thankful, come together and celebrate over great Mexican food and spirits; all ideals that remain true to the very core of authentic Mexican culture.
Elliott Coon, founder & creator director at Gem & Bolt Mezcal: Cinco de Mayo, especially at its historical origin, speaks to the power of the collective union of smaller forces working together to accomplish or defeat something for the greater good. This semblance feels especially powerful given the current global climate.— I’d like to think of it as a unified call to action for the present times.
Fox News: What did the holiday normally mean for bartenders?
Chris Moran, founder and CEO of Ghost Tequila: Cinco always meant, 'Get ready to make margaritas and pop Corona’s all night!' As a bartender, Cinco is definitely always a fun night, extremely busy, and great tips. I could budget a potential week’s worth of tips on [Cinco de Mayo] alone. I worked at one of the top tequila bars in Boston for a number of [holidays]. It was great until you were running out of everything!
It didn’t matter what day of the week Cinco fell on — we did two-and-a-half times the business of any other busy Friday or Saturday night. At any tequila-focused bar, it’s the busiest drinking day of the year — it’s more of a summer kick-off in bars than Memorial Day! Of course, this year, Cinco looks a lot different. I hope people will still celebrate at home though. It’s important to try to continue to do the things that you always do, and that make you happy. It’s also very easy to make spicy margaritas at home.
Longing to stay safe at home and celebrate with a cocktail? Keep reading for six easy recipes.
- 1½ ounces Ghost Tequila
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce agave nectar
- Splash of orange juice
Shake together all ingredients and serve on the rocks. Garnish with a lime. For extra spice, serve with a chili salt rim by first laying out a mix of salt and chili powder on a plate. Moisten the rim of the empty cocktail glass with lime, then invert the glass and dip into the salt/chili powder. The construct the cocktail as normal.
- 1½ ounces Ambhar Plata Tequila.
- ½ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce grapefruit juice
Stir together ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. When cold, pour over ice into a rocks glass. Top with soda water and serve.
Jilo Old Fashioned
- 2 ounces Abasolo Whiskey de Mexico
- ½ ounce Nixta Licor de Elote (corn liqueur)
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
Add Abasolo, Nixta and bitters to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until cold and diluted. Zest citrus over rocks glass and add fresh ice. Strain drink into glass, roll zest into curls and lay garnish atop the ice.
- 2 ounces Doña Vega Espadín Mezcal
- ¾ ounce agave syrup
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg white*
- Maraschino cherry and grated cinnamon, for garnish
Combine ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Shake vigorously, strain and garnish with maraschino cherry and freshly-grated cinnamon
*Consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.
Beso de Katrina
- 1½ ounces Acre Mezcal
- 1½ ounces pineapple juice
- 3/4 ounce lime juice
- 3/4 ounce hibiscus syrup
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, and strain into a coupe glass
- 1½ ounces Gem & Bolt Mezcal
- 1½ ounces fresh grapefruit juice
- ¼ ounce fresh lime juice
- A dash of simple syrup (to taste)
If you'd like a salt rim, pour the salt into a small dish. Moisten the rim of a tall glass with a grapefruit or lime wedge. Invert the glass into the salt, turning it as needed, to coat the rim. Fill the glass with ice. Pour in the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and stir to combine. Garnish with the grapefruit or lime wedge.
Emily DeCiccio is a reporter and video producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.