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Food + Drink

9 Best Cinco de Mayo Cocktails

So what if Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated more in America than Mexico? If salty margaritas are involved, we're all in. From masterfully crafted classics to innovative riffs, here are nine of the best ones north of the border.

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Photo by April Ellis


Death & Co., New York

Ditch the cringe-worthy sour mixes for revolutionary cocktails at this East Village joint helmed by Alex Day and David Kaplan. The dynamic duo became household names by opening a string of hot spots from LA to Manhattan that sling their pitch-perfect concoctions. Try the Sound & Fury. It's the perfect mashup of savory and sweet: muddled raspberries balance out red bell pepper and Ancho Reyes, a chili-infused liqueur.

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Broken Shaker, Miami

A vibrant day-drinking scene unfolds in the shaded backyard of this buzzy lounge at the Freehand Hostel. The high-concept elixirs are the work of Bar Lab’s Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, the duo responsible for bringing cocktail cred to mojito-marred Miami Beach. Their take on a margarita: Pretty Dope, inspired by the Mexican street snack elote, with tequila, roasted jalapenos, corn coulis, lime and cilantro.

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Pastry War, Houston

Leave it to the Lone Star State to mix up a killer Cinco de Mayo cocktail. In true big Texas style, renown bartender Bobby Heugel boldly claims his house margarita to be the best on earth. And based on the legions of thirsty locals that fill his bar, he might be right. His secret? Mixing Persian and key limes, an old Texas tactic used at the turn of the century. His margaritas include orange liqueur (Kentucky Club) and jazzed up salt rims (strawberry balsamic), served frozen or shaken, with citrus salt. Now that's one margarita you'll want to mess with.

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Casa Vega, Los Angeles

Fancy sipping margaritas with Mila Kunis and Ryan Reynolds? This no-frills Studio City restaurant has long been a celebrity hangout thanks to authentic Mexican cuisine and notoriously potent margaritas. Under dangling Christmas lights, stars rub elbows with Angelinos pilgrimaging to the Valley. They all come for The California, a generous pour of Don Julio Silver mixed with Cointreau, agave nectar, and grapefruit juice. After knocking back a few of these, count on Ubering back to Venice.

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Big Star, Chicago

This hole-in-the-wall cash-only taqueria by Blackbird’s Paul Kahan and Justin Large of Avec has been a mega-hit since its 2010 Wicker Park debut. When the weather gets nice, throngs of locals nosh on braised pork belly tacos with tomato guajillo sauce and sip the namesake margarita on the front patio’s communal tables. The smoky-sweet combo of mescal and orange curacao delivers a complex flavor profile. Hard-drinking Chicagoans can get their fill too—these cold ones come in pitcher form. Another round, por favor?

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Tres, San Francisco

A Bay Area institution for more than a decade, Giants fans pack this brick-clad hall for pre-game margaritas that put the focus where it should be—on the tequila. And no, we're not talking about shots. The purist-approved recipe is simple but perfectly executed, with hand-squeezed Mexican limes and agave nectar as the base for over 150 varieties of blanco, barrel-aged reposado, and añejo from the highlands and lowlands of Jalisco.

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Johnny Sánchez, New Orleans

Trade Creole country's signature spicy cajun for salty margs at modern taco spots like Johnny Sánchez. Opened in 2014 by local culinary chancellor John Besh and Food Network mainstay Aaron Sanchez, this innovative Mexican joint serves a menu of margaritas that won't disappoint. Go for happy hour (3-6 p.m.) when pitchers of the Margarita de la Casa are half off, or opt for one of the rotating monthly specials like wood-grilled pineapple with mint and chili salt.

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Oyamel, Washington D.C.

We have to hand it to celebrated chef José Andrés to elevate a classic margarita with his signature flair. At his lively Penn Quarter spot, under a canopy of faux monarch butterflies, the bartenders dole out the limey cocktail capped with salt foam. Take it with an order of the mouthwatering—and daring—tacos like the Oaxacan specialty sautéed grasshopper, which comes doused in tequila and topped with guacamole, or the confit of baby pig with green tomatillo, porks rinds, and cilantro.

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La Condesa, Austin

Let’s get something straight—Austin is a blue blood margarita town. You’ll have a hard time finding one that outshines the Margarita La Condesa at Rick Lopez’s color-splashed joint in downtown’s 2nd Street District. Barman Nate Wales layers his version with an herbal damiana spirit and housemade tepache, a Mayan drink of fermented pineapple and ginger, and coats the rim with cactus-and-lemongrass salt. It's the ultimate reprieve from the sweltering Texas heat.



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