Cinco de Mayo, or May the fifth as it’s known in English, has become a big deal not so much in Mexico, but particularly in the US.
It’s the day after May the fourth/force and the day we pay tribute to everything Mexican in and out of the US. And after poking fun at what is now an official Star Wars holiday, Cinco de Mayo is our next favorite May event.
It’s the one time of year to revel in endless tacos and glory in bottomless tequila mixers without having to call it a Tuesday.
But when all is said and done, celebrating Cinco de Mayo means much more than just celebrating a triumphant event in history. So before we start downing our Cinco de Mayo themed cocktails, let’s take a moment to grasp what this day is really about.
What’s the History of Cinco de Mayo?
Flashback to July 1861, when Mexico was still recovering from the Mexican-American war and from gaining their independence from Spain.
President Benito Juarez was caught between a rock and a hard place because he had a very important decision to make at this point.
The first option was to repay the foreign debt they owed to France, England, and Spain at the time. The second was to suspend their repayments in favor of turning more resources towards domestic problems.
Ultimately he chose to address the concerns on his home turf and a certain power trio was not happy about this decision.
After careful negotiations, England and Spain withdrew the forces that they sent to Mexico in their brief showdown. France, however, was not having it.
France made the move to conquer Mexico City in 1862 and on their way there they faced resistance in the city of Puebla. It was here that a group of 2,000 Mexicans assembled by general Ignacio Zaragoza came out victorious against French troops on May 5th, 1962.
The French gave their mission a second try a year later. They overpowered the city of Puebla, claimed Mexico City, but were later forced out after pressure from the US.
Despite a surrender by the city of Puebla the second go around, to this day we still recognize their success from their first victory.
It’s a Mexican Celebration…in the US?
Think of it like Great Britain celebrating the fourth of July. And funny enough, Cinco de Mayo is not recognized in Mexico as it is in the US.
So why is Cinco De Mayo such a big deal on foreign soil and what’s the significance of it?
This day has become something of great importance to Mexican-Americans.
It’s a day for them to promote and strengthen their cultural identity as a way of building community.
Back on that fateful day, not only was the Mexican group outnumbered three to one, but they were inexperienced to top it off. Yet they triumphed despite the odds that were stacked against them.
Now, what does this say about Mexicans if they persevered in the face of slim odds?
That is what today’s Cinco de Mayo celebration has become: it’s a celebration to show Mexican Pride.
How to Throw a Proper Cinco de Mayo Party
Now’s your chance to throw a true fiesta that would make Mexicans proud.
So what if Cinco De Mayo is not really Mexican Independence Day like most people think.
Cinco De Mayo has grown to represent a day to celebrate Mexican history, culture, values, and ethnic identity.
And what better way to celebrate Mexican pride than with a tostada in one hand and a bottle of Jarritos in the other.
Incorporate Traditional Mexican Dishes
From the first celebration in 1863 through the commercialization of the 1980s. Cinco de Mayo is never Cinco de Mayo without a traditional Mexican feast.
And when Mexicans throw a feast, they throw a feast.
These are our top picks containing some of the most popular Mexican dishes to include in your next Cinco de Mayo party.
We said it once and we’ll say it again.
Nothing says Mexican like tacos! You can practically hear them screaming to be on your party menu.
Here are 45 different types of tacos to try getting your hands on. So take your pick and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Tamales may well be one of the most difficult Mexican dishes to make but they are most certainly worth the effort.
They’re made with masa (dough) and steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf and filled with a variety of savory and sweet additions. Meat, cheese, and beans for example as well as fruit or vegetables.
They are often served on big occasions like Christmas or birthdays and they’re also another must for your menu.
Pozole is a type of soup made with a variety of ingredients including meat, cheese, shredded lettuce, spices, and avocado.
Above all, hominy is a key ingredient and a must when making this celebratory dish.
Here is a great recipe if you’d like to try making pozole.
This one is simple and requires little to no effort to make.
All it is, is a corn cob cooked some kind of way (grilled usually) and slathered in spices and topped with cheese and/or other fun additions.
Here’s a recipe that takes elote up a notch, highlighting all the best qualities of Mexican street corn.
Ceviche con Tostadas
If your Cinco de Mayo falls on a hot day then ceviche is an excellent way to cool off.
It’s flavorful, refreshing and, similar to elote, it’s an easy dish to perfect.
Ceviche usually contains shrimp or other seafood alternatives. Throw in diced onions, tomatoes, cilantro, other extras and you have the makings of an appetizing ceviche platter.
Mole is not exactly a dish, but a sauce that accompanies a dish like meat or vegetables.
It can have an average of about 20 ingredients, two of which may surprise you when combined. They’re chili and chocolate.
Yes, chocolate. If you’re curious enough then you can try making this concoction and taste it yourself.
Incorporate Traditional Mexican Drinks
You have to wash down your food with something other than water.
Take a look at our top picks to add to the kid-friendly drink menu that everyone can enjoy.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jarritos, it’s a popular brand of Mexican soda.
It comes in all sorts of flavors ranging from the popular mandarin and mango flavors to the lesser known tamarind and grapefruit.
And if you don’t know what flavor to get, perhaps this Spoon University writer can help shed some light on the best Jarrito flavor to buy.
Otherwise known as rice water.
The best way we can describe horchata is like drinking a light, milky, cinnamon, nutty, vanilla sweet concoction. And it can take many forms from boba tea to ice cream to beverages.
That description really won’t do it justice. You’re going to have to find out for yourself just how awesome horchata is.
There is nothing more refreshing on a hot spring day than a cup of agua fresca.
‘Fresh waters’ or ‘cool waters’ when translated to English. It’s made with fresh fruit, water and sometimes sugar to add sweetness.
You won’t find an easier drink to make than agua fresca. It’s simple, it’s unprocessed, and the ultimate spring drink for any event.
Think of ponche like hot fruit tea or hot fruit punch.
Though ponche is especially popular around Christmas, it’s also enjoyed year round for any occasion.
Throw in a variety of diced fruit into a large pot, some sweetener (a splash of brandy if you’re feeling gutsy) and you’ve got the makings of great ponche.
Champurrado, or atole as it’s sometimes called, is like the Mexican version of hot chocolate, but better.
It’s a warm corn and masa-based mixture and is extremely popular during Christmas time.
When the evening rolls in and the weather starts to cool down, a mug of champurrado is exactly what you need to finish out the night.
Cinco De Mayo Themed Cocktails
Here comes the fun part, so let the celebration commence with our top picks for Mexican inspired cocktails. Make sure you brush up on your bartending skills before breaking out these cocktails.
Anything With Kahlua
Did you know that Kahlua originated in Veracruz, Mexico in 1936?
Yes, folks, we have Mexico to thank for coffee liqueur.
The options are endless with a bottle of Kahlua in hand. You can make anything from coffee cocktails to some edgier vodka and tequila mixes.
For example, you can make:
- Kahlua Iced Coffee
- Kahlua Hot Chocolate
- Black Russian
- White Russian
- Espresso Shake
- Kahlua Sour Martini
Here’s a list of over 30 cocktail recipes you can make all using Kahlua.
Anything With Tequila
Tequila is to Mexican-Americans on Cinco de Mayo like beer is to the Irish on St. Patrick’s.
Point being that a true Mexican celebration calls for cocktails with some traditional Mexican ingredients. Tequila being one of these ingredients.
If you didn’t already know, Tequila is made from the blue agave plant near the region of Jalisco.
Take it in a shot with lime or in a cocktail — tequila is a worthy addition to any Mexican inspired drink menu.
Charro Negro, or Black Cowboy, is a prime example of a mixed drink you can make. Check out how to make a Vampiro, another fun cocktail that brings Tequila into the mix.
Here’s a more extensive list of Tequila cocktails to keep the party going.
Cinco de Mayo is more than a simple marketing ploy where stores place their Mexican related anything on display units.
And though the history of Cinco de Mayo is mostly forgotten, we can still appreciate it for what it has become.
It’s become a day to observe what it means to be Mexican. And observe it through good food, parades, speeches, and other festivities.
Now we can safely clink our Cinco de Mayo themed cocktails in a toast to Mexican-American culture.
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