Cinco de Mayo has become a reason to celebrate with friends from another culture (as if New Orleans needs to find reasons to celebrate) but likely the roots of the celebration are not what you think they are. That fact, of course, does not dampen our enthusiasm for all things Mexican, and yet, let’s at least accompany our love of tequila and beers from south of the border with the real story.

After all, there are many Americans who think the Boston Tea Party was about tea. Why sully another nation’s story of reaching for independence as we have done with our own history?

In 1861, General Benito Juarez became president of Mexico, a country whose economy was in ruins. He defaulted on his European debt. England and Spain negotiated a settlement, but France’s Napoleon III was bound and determined to grab their just piece of the pie right then.

The French, under the command of General Charles Latrille de Lorencez landed at Veracruz on the coast, quickly captured that Gulf of Mexico port city, and then moved inland. President Juarez retreated inland and prepared to defend the town of Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east central Mexico. It was not looking very good for the quickly gathered group of 2,000 Mexican troops against the marching army of France, 6,000 strong.

On May 5, 1862, Lorencez attacked. By the end of the day, he had lost 500 men to the Mexican loss of fewer than 100. This was not a major military victory, but the Mexicans were eager for good news from any front. It was a symbolic day for the country. Six years later, under great pressure from Mexico’s good neighbor to the north, France left the country. The late entry of America into the fray was due to the fact that we were having our own little skirmish, now known as the Civil War, although there was nothing civil about it. That’s another story.

The actual Day of Independence in Mexico is September 16, and Cinco de Mayo in Mexico is considered a minor holiday.

Not so around here where the tequila and the cerveza will flow freely. When it comes to reasons for staging a celebration, no piece of history is too small for us. There are times when we party even when there is no reason at all, except to celebrate life.

How about a few margarita recipes that should serve the purpose of letting our friends from Mexico know that we were behind them all the way, except for that Alamo thing?

The margarita, by the way, was invented in Mexico, somewhere in the late 1930s or early 1940s, with various stories noting American involvement, notably former Ziegfeld Follies dancer, Marjorie King, who was allergic to some spirits but not tequila; Tommy Hilton of hotel fame; the daughter of Germany’s Ambassador to Mexico, Margarita Henkel; pop singer Peggy Lee, whom it is also rumored the drink was named after; and Mexican showgirl, Rita de la Rosa.

The margarita is the most popular cocktail made in America using tequila, and variations on the theme are quite prevalent all over the world.

Always use fresh lime juice and a solid, middle-grade of tequila. Silver is the usual choice. Anything more will likely be overwhelmed by the citrus and sugar, and a lesser tequila grade will provide you an unbalanced, green-centered drink. Oh, and watch those sugar levels. Most of the ingredients have a suitable amount of sugar, with the pre-prepared “sweet and sour” mix giving you only cloying levels of sweet.

Jalepeno Margarita 
as prepared at Whiskey Blue in the W Hotel, Poydras Street.

In a shaker:
3 pieces already muddled jalapeno (No seeds. Very important. The seeds will have you reaching for a fire hose. )

Add to the shaker:
1 1/2 oz. Casamigos Blanco Tequila
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. simple syrup (or double up on the Cointreau and eliminate simple syrup.)
1 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice


Top with ice and shake.

Serve in rocks glass over ice.

Garnish with jalapeno slice.

Cucumber Margarita
Also featured at Whiskey Blue in the W Hotel on Poydras Street.

1 1/2 oz Casamigos Blanco Tequila
3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup (again, maybe you will want to eliminate the Simple Syrup and double up on the Cointreau)
5 Cucumber wheels

Muddle cucumber with the simple and lime juice.

Combine all ingredients to iced mixing glass.

Shake vigorously and strain over fresh ice.

Garnish with cucumber slice on a bamboo pick.

Okay, let’s combine the two cocktails above and see how the gang at the new restaurant, Mizado, serves this refreshing drink.

Cucumber and Jalapeno Margarita

2 oz. tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
1 1/4-inch round Jalapeno
4 1 inch cucumber round quarters
1 oz. agave nectar
1 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice

Salt (I am not a major fan of salt rim treatment with a margarita. But your preference is what’s important here.)

Place jalapeno rounds and cucumber round quarters in metal shaker.

Add agave nectar to the shaker and muddle for 5 seconds.

Add the tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and 1 scoop of ice to the shaker and shake for 5 seconds.

Pour drink into glass with salted rim.

Jimador Margarita

A tip of the sombrero to Chilled Magazine, May 2014. This is a fairly typical and traditional margarita recipe. Margaritas are among the finest and easiest to make three-ingredient cocktails. Easy to make. So why do so many establishments complicate or dumb-down matters, using less than top quality and fresh ingredients?

1 1/2 oz. el Jimador Reposado
3/4 oz. Triple Sec
4 oz. sour mix made by you (1/2 sugar, 1/2 lemon)
Salt and lime juice
Lime wedge for garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, place all ingredients. Shake. Strain and pour. Garnish.

The Dos-Arita
The addition of beer to cocktails is a long-standing Mexican favorite. Thank you, Dos Equis Lager, for continuing the tradition.

12 oz. Dos Equis Lager
1/2 oz. 1800 Silver Tequila
1/4 oz Triple Sec
2 oz. sour mix
Coarse salt and lime for garnish

To a shaker, combine tequila, sour mix, triple sec and ice. Shake. Strain over fresh ice into a 16 oz. glass with salted rim (or not, as you prefer). Top off with Dos Equis Lager. Garnish with lime wedge.

Enjoy the party! But remember, Seis de Mayo is the next day. And it’s martes. Still a long week in front of you.