Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, but the date actually marks the Mexican army’s improbable trouncing of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Similar to St. Patrick’s Day, most people aren’t concerned with the reason why it's celebrated, and see it as a great excuse to down alcoholic concoctions inspired by the country. And what's more appropriate to drink than tequila?
With nearly 1,000 brands of tequila to choose from in the U.S. (not too long ago, not that many could be found), we've gathered a few stand-out tequilas and recipes that are bound to tilt your sombrero.
Drinking in the area code
Tequila 512 hit town last November and is quickly gaining notoriety. It picked up a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in March and was recognized as “Best Blanco Tequila in Austin” by the Austin Tequila Society last fall. Not bad for a tequila created by one man, Scott Willis, who has boot-strapped the entire operation on his own.
Willis was inspired by the local distilling trail-blazer, Tito Beverage, and decided to follow his passion for the art of craft tequila. He has spent six years perfecting a specific recipe that has a prominent agave flavor, and is smooth enough to be accessible to the American palate. Tequila 512 is made with 24 hour filtration to mellow it out and an oxygenation process for a silky mouth feel.
While Willis named after Austin’s area code, it is made at the La Cofradia distillery in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico.
“I traveled to Mexico to find a distiller that would make my tequila. Most distilleries won’t do custom recipes,” said Willins. “I was also interested in finding a distillery that sourced its agave from a specific region. Where the agave is grown matters a lot to the flavor.”
Tequila 512 is starting on a small scale and Willis hopes to sell 1,000 cases in the first year. You can find it at retail shops for under $30 and at restaurants like Shady Grove.
Willis prefers to drink his tequila straight, but when he is in the mood for a cocktail he mixes a classic skinny margarita.
Organic 512 Skinny Margarita
- 2 ounces Tequila 512 Blanco
- 1.5 ounces orange juice
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- .5 ounce agave nectar (light)
Shake well and serve over ice in a brandy snifter.
Keep it in la Famila
The Camarena’s have been making Familia Camarena Tequila in the Los Altos Highlands of Jalisco Mexico for six generations and entered the U.S. market in 2010. The approachable, easy drinking tequila is made from 100 percent blue agave and is one of the better value tequila’s around for $20 or under. This tequila is a solid base for excellent cocktails. The website has a huge list of recipes and they sell a nice “Tipple Toolkit” with everything you need to make them at home. Here is a delicious drink from mixologist Joel Black, of Tinga in Los Angeles, CA.
Camarena Grand Slam
- 1.5 ounces Camarena Reposado Tequila
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- .75 ounce agave nectar
- 1-2 slices fresh jalapeño
- 2 cubes fresh pineapple
- 1 pinch fresh cilantro
Muddle all ingredients, except tequila in a shaker tin. Add tequila and ice, shake nice & easy and strain over fresh ice in a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with a pineapple square, jalapeno slice and fresh cilantro.
See unicorns with Sparkle Donkey
Legend has it that people have been drinking Sparkle Donkey Tequila in Mexico for more than 100 years, but it just found its way into the U.S. last fall. Made in the Jalisco region, Sparkle Donkey Silver, which won a Gold Medal at the 2012 BTI International Spirits Competition and the Reposado tequilas are available around Austin for just north of $20. Try this simple mix with a kick, but don’t have too many or you may be seeing unicorns.
The Mule Driver
- 1 part Sparkle Donkey Silver
- 3 parts orange juice
Combine in a shaker over ice, shake well, and strain into a rocks glass.
Spice it up
If you like a little zip in each sip, Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila is worth a try. This 100 percent Blue Weber Agave blanco tequila is infused with locally grown organic jalapeños. It will put a fire in your eye straight up, or you can try it in a tangy twist on the margarita.
Mexican Spiced Apples
- 1.5 ounce Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila
- 2 ounces apple juice
- .5 ounce fresh lime jice
- .25 ounce agave nectar
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice Shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with an apple slice.
Get out of the house
There are several bars in Austin restaurants celebrating Cinco de Mayo, with excellent tequila-based cocktails. The energetic matron of Drink.Well, Jessica Sanders, will convert the bar from Derby Day festivities to Cinco de Mayo overnight. In addition to their creative cocktails, their standard margarita will knock your socks off.
Drink.Well. House Margarita
- 1.5 ounce Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila
- .75 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- .5 ounce Paula's Texas Orange
Add all ingredients to a cocktail tin with a scoop of ice. Shake well. Strain into a glass with ice. Garnish with Lime. *For those who like a little extra oomph, Jessica recommends adding four drops of Bittermens Hellfire Shrub, which makes the drink nice and smoky/spicy.
Libationist Joyce Garrison at the W Austin is mixing up a few amazing specialty cocktails for Cinco de Mayo including a classic Paloma.
Paloma from Joyce Garrison at W Austin
- 1.5 ounces Don Julio Reposado
- 3 ounces grapefruit soda
- 1.5 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
- .5 ounces lime juice
Build in a tall glass and garnish with lime.
Whether you stay in or head out on the town to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, you won’t go wrong with these ideas.