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Cinco de Mayo Happy Hour Cocktails

Cinco de Mayo Happy Hour Cocktails

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Looking for a change of pace for your next Cinco de Mayo happy hour? Put down that cerveza and try these south-of-the-border cocktails instead!


By far the most popular tequila-based cocktail in the U.S., the margarita is a mainstay of the Cinco de Mayo happy hour. Tequila is mixed with triple sec and lemon or lime juice, and served in a glass with a salted rim. Most folks like them on the rocks or blended with ice (frozen), but a few prefer them served straight up (without ice). As always, variations abound, and it’s not uncommon to find margaritas made with juice from strawberries, mangos, oranges, watermelons, or blueberries.

Dozens of bartenders have claimed credit for having invented the drink. Depending on which story you believe, the cocktail was named for Marguerite Hemery, showgirl Marjorie King, or actress Rita Hayworth. The frozen margarita, a popular variation for outdoor fiestas, was invented in 1971 by Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez, after being inspired by a frozen drink machine in a local convenience store.


The margarita may be king of the tequila-based cocktails in the U.S., but in Mexico, the Cinco de Mayo happy hour cocktail of choice is the Paloma (“dove”). Tequila is mixed with white grapefruit juice, club soda, and sugar, and served on the rocks in a highball glass. Other variations use tequila and grapefruit soda, or tequila, grapefruit juice, and lemon-lime soda.

Tequila Sunrise

Although it originated at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, the Tequila Sunrise has become something of a Cinco de Mayo happy hour tradition. The original drink consisted of tequila, creme de cassis, lime juice, and soda water. However, a later and more popular recipe mixes tequila with orange juice and grenadine syrup. If the drink is properly made, the denser (and darker) ingredients will settle at the bottom of the glass, creating a color gradation from red to light orange that resembles a sunrise.


Also known as cerveza preparada (“prepared beer”), the Michelada is a loosely-defined mixed drink that can mean a number of things to different people. Beer is mixed with either hot sauce or Worcestershire sauce, along with lime juice and assorted spices and peppers. One popular variation includes tomato juice, creating a cocktail reminiscent of the Bloody Mary. The libation is poured on ice, garnished with a lime wedge, and served in a chilled salt-rimmed glass. In Mexico, the Michelada is renowned as a hangover cure.

Chela (“chill”) is a popular term in Mexico for beer, so some claim the drink name michelada came from folks ordering “mix-chela” (or mixed beer). Others say it’s derived from mi chela helada (“my cold beer”). Either way, the Michelada remains a popular cocktail choice for any Cinco de Mayo happy hour.

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