Go Beyond The Marg This Cinco De Mayo With These 3 Expert-Approved Cocktails

sobrero margaritas
sobrero margaritas - Skodonnell/Getty Images

We would never slander the margarita, one of the world's truly perfect cocktails, but when an opportunity to celebrate tequila presents itself, you should enjoy the full range of its capabilities. With tequila surging in popularity, there is a whole world of tequila cocktails to learn how to make, even when a delicious margarita is easy to default to. And what better time than Cinco de Mayo to enjoy them all? The holiday celebrates a Mexican victory over the French back in 1862, but in its home country, it is a rather small holiday. In the United States, however, Cinco de Mayo has become a chance to honor and explore all things Mexico, and that usually means plenty of tequila. So Tasting Table reached out to Molly Horn, the manager of cocktail strategy & spirits education at Total Wine & More, for her recommendations on tequila cocktails to try this Cinco de Mayo.

Horn had three suggestions for the upcoming holiday that all highlight the best of tequila. Her choices run from the Matador, a juicy twist on the normal margarita formula, to the lesser-known Bee Sting, and finally an agave twist on an American classic with a Tequila Old Fashioned. Each drink highlights a unique aspect of tequila and shows the endless potential Mexico's signature spirit has, not just during the holiday, but year-round. Best of all, they will also make a great compliment to many Cinco de Mayo Mexican dishes.

Read more: 13 Liquors Your Home Bar Should Have

The Matador Cocktail Is A Tropical Breeze

matador cocktail
matador cocktail - Youki/Shutterstock

For her first pick, she said: "I love the lightness and agave-forwardness of a Matador – the combination of flavors is so delicate and really lets the tequila shine." A Matador is an easy tequila cocktail made with pineapple and lime juice, and the limited amount of pineapple juice used doesn't overwhelm the drink as so many flavored margaritas do. Instead, the juice brings out the tequila's sweet notes while everything stays fresh and drinkable. To make a Matador, mix 1 ounce of tequila with 2 ounces of pineapple juice (ideally fresh), and a half ounce of lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Some variations also include a few dashes of bitters or a little simple syrup. Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass.

If you are doing some snacking with your cocktail on Cinco de Mayo, the clear choice to order with the Matador is some al pastor tacos. Pineapple and spit-roasted pork are a traditional pairing in Mexico, as the sweet fruit compliments the deeply savory meat and earthy spices. If you want to go a little lighter, this fresh tropical drink would be great with some grilled fish tacos or shrimp fajitas.

Bee Stings Pair Tequila With Sweet Honey Syrup

Bee Sting cocktail ingredients
Bee Sting cocktail ingredients - New Africa/Shutterstock

Second on Horn's list is a drink called the Bee Sting. She calls it, "a great simple cocktail," which is sometimes made with gin, "where you shake Reposado with lemon, honey syrup, and a few slices of jalapeño." Sweet, tart, and a little spicy, the Bee Sting highlights every aspect of your tequila while hitting a lot of classic Mexican flavors. Compared with cleaner, more vegetal types of tequila like blanco, or spicy aged anejo, resposado tequila balances the agave flavor with notes like citrus, vanilla, and yes, honey, so the Bee Sting pairing is a perfect fit.

Honey syrup, like simple syrup, combines one part hot water with two parts honey, and, sometimes, a little lemon. To make a Bee Sting, mix three-quarters of an ounce of both syrup and lemon juice with an ounce-and-a-half of tequila in a shaker with muddled jalapeño. Everything gets shaken with ice and strained into a glass.

The more refreshing sugary flavor with the jalapeño undertone makes this cocktail a perfect pairing for spicy foods on Cinco de Mayo. Of course, all kinds of salsas and chips are going to be welcome alongside a Bee Sting, but anything that uses chorizo or red chile sauce, like smothered enchiladas, is also a tasty choice.

Highlight The Depth Of Aged Tequila With An Old Fashioned

tequila old fashioned
tequila old fashioned - Vadym Ivanov/Shutterstock

Finally, Horn recommended a tequila twist on an American classic. "Of course, you can't go wrong with a Tequila Old Fashioned," she said, adding that to customize the recipe for tequila you can "try it with agave nectar instead of a sugar cube and Aztec Chocolate Bitters instead of Angostura to really amplify the notes of the Anejo Tequila." The complexity of Anejo tequila is especially nice here, and a great way to explore the spirit's flavors since a classic Old Fashioned recipe is built to highlight the liquor over everything else. Aged in oak barrels, Anejo will take on those woody flavors while also developing notes of vanilla, pepper, and butterscotch, which will only be heightened by mixing with the agave nectar.

As for food with your Tequila Old Fashioned, you don't have to stray far from what you would pair with the Bourbon version. A meaty grilled and spice-rubbed carne asada recipe will stand up to the powerful flavors of anejo, or try smoky and mildly spicy chiles rellenos. This is also a nice choice for an after-dinner drink to go with dessert, with Mexican chocolate recipes like a cake or chocolate flan highlighting the anejo's tasting notes.

You can always come back to your favorite margarita recipes for the rest of the year. But this Cinco de Mayo, try thinking beyond the classics.

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