How to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo Like an American
We've got all of the taco and margarita recipes you need. Drink up and celebrate, <i>amigos y amigas</i>.
Photo by Brayden Olson.
Americans have no idea what Cinco de Mayo is. No, it is not Mexico's Fourth of July. Hell, it's practically ignored in Mexico.
Cinco de Mayo is basically an invention of the United States, now completely removed from the event which it ostensibly commemorates: the Mexican army improbably defeating a much better-equipped French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, where the Mexicans were outnumbered three to one. A lamentably short-lived victory, this had strategically important implications for the French empire under Napoleon III, who later installed a Habsburg puppet monarch in Mexico City as a bid to fatten the Empire's coffers in the Americas—
"Blah blah blah history blah blah. WHERE'S THE PATRÓN AND GUAC, BRAH?"
Fine. Google it later. (You won't.)
If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo like an American, we've got all the recipes you need right here. And don't worry: There won't be a quiz at the end because we'll be just as drunk as you. ¡Olé!
If there's a single dish that represents the whole of Mexico's rich and variegated food culture, it's the taco. For starters, try a grilled fish taco and pretend you're soaking up the sun in Baja. Or embrace California's influence on Mexican food with a simple carne asada taco like they serve at San Francisco's famed Taqueria La Cumbre.
Better yet, go wild with a taco that blends two distinct taco styles: spicy and pineapple-y fish al pastor.
Feeling even more adventurous? Stuff that tortilla with some strips of long-cooked beef tongue. Your own palate won't be disappointed.
Last, but certainly not least is the carne asada taco with pepita pesto, concocted by none other than actor and all-around badass Danny Trejo. Chase them like Machete does with a shotglass of milk.
Not ambitious enough? We've got you covered. Hardly content with any old fish, we've upped the ante with some bomb-ass marlin and guacamole tostadas. (Need guac? More on that below.) Top this beautiful mess off with some sour cream and radishes, and you're winning Cinco de Mayo already.
Oh, and that brings up an important point: tortillas. If you live in the United States, you're surely within spitting distance of a plastic-wrapped package of tortillas. But they're garbage. Don't eat them.
Instead? Find an awesome taco shop willing to sell you some fresh masa, or cook up your own flour tortillas at home. These ones from Santa Monica's Tacos Puntas Cabras contain exactly three ingredients and taste exactly perfect.
You'll need some salsa for that taco. Again, please, don't buy the jarred stuff. There are a billion quality recipes available online, but we love these two: a spice-packed salsa de hormiga that includes a hint of Mexican chocolate and fiery chiles, and a mild Tex-Mex salsa roja that's great for people who don't like a lot of heat. It also happens to be an equally welcome dip for a bowl of tortilla chips.
And if you're gonna bring chips into the equation, you'll need some guac.
Here's a pro tip: Don't put fucking peas in your guacamole.
Instead, make classic guacamole. Why? It pleases everyone. It's classic for a reason. It's just avocado, jalapeño, tomato, red onion, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
Finally, to drink: a margarita, of course. Sure, lots of fancy food magazines will tell you to "elevate" your cocktail game by swapping out this classic cocktail for a Paloma or some bastardization based on gin.
Ignore them. You will drink margaritas.
First up is the classic Tommy's Margarita. This one is all about technique and ingredients, neither of which are fancy or complicated. It won't involve a blender or a bottle of electric-green mixer. It's just quality tequila, lime juice, a little agave syrup, and salt.
This is the Platonic ideal of a margarita.
And fine, if you want to be fancy and all, we will tell you that you can swap out that cheap handle of Cuervo for some primo mezcal. Sip it on its own or mix it into a mezcal margarita with a few unlikely bedfellows: limoncello, Midori, and cucumber.
But that's not traditional, you say? Well, neither is Cinco de Mayo.
Drink up and celebrate, amigos y amigas.