Celebrate Mexican Independence Day with Cocktails

September 16 is Mexican Independence Day. I know what you're thinking: Isn't that Cinco de Mayo? Good question! But no.

September 16, 1810 was the day that the war of independence broke out between Mexico and Spain. (Mexico, of course, was part of the Spanish Empire back then, and under the rule of a Spanish Viceroy.) Various factions of Mexican life formed an uneasy alliance to rebel against Spanish rule.

The war continued for the next 11 years, after which Mexico finally defeated the Spanish. Peace was declared with the Treaty of Córdoba and Mexico was free…to appoint themselves an emperor. But don't worry, he was gone within the year.

So where does Cinco de Mayo (the Fifth of May) come into play? That was 40 years later. Mexico once again came under the thumb of a foreign power, this time the French. In 1861, French forces invaded Mexico, trying to capitalize on the political instability and general chaos that were the order of the day. But on May 5, 1862, the Mexican Army won a decisive battle near the town of Puebla.

Sadly, the Mexicans were to go on and eventually lose the war. This lead to the installation of Emperor Maximilian I as El Jefe. He's the guy who was buddies with Napoleon III, in case you remember him from your history classes. But Maximilian I only ruled for three years before Benito Juárez and his rebels got ahold of him and introduced him to a firing squad.

Cinco de Mayo as a holiday is largely an invention of Mexican-Americans, popularized in particular by the Chicano student movements of the 1960s. It has little meaning in Mexico itself, and here in the United States it has become little more than a marketing-driven holiday, used to promote partying and beer sales. (Not so different from the Fourth of July, really, which we use to sell mattresses.)

So if you want to celebrate the real deal Mexican independence, today is the day. History lesson aside, we can always use a good reason to celebrate, and September 16 is an important day in Mexico. Let's join with our neighbors to the south and do a little celebrating of our own.

Tequila on bar
For suggestions of some different brands of agave spirit to try, check out Professor Cocktail's Tequila Taste Test. Or see this review of Z Tequila (Blanco, Reposado and Añejo).


2 oz. Tequila
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
2-3 oz. Grapefruit Soda
Pinch of Salt (if desired) 

In a highball or collins glass, add tequila, lime juice and salt. Add ice and stir. Top with grapefruit soda and garnish with a lime wedge.

Professor's Note: For grapefruit soda, I like Jarritos (if you can find it) and San Pelegrino Pompelmo. For the record, I prefer mine without salt.

El diabloEl Diablo

Adapted from a recipe by Trader Vic.

2 oz. Reposado Tequila
1/2 oz. Crème de Cassis
1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
2 oz. Ginger Beer

Shake the first 3 ingredients with ice, then strain over fresh ice in a highball glass. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Tequila CriollaTequila Criolla

1 1/2 oz. Tequila Don Julio Blanco
1 1/2 oz. Guava Nectar
1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1/3 oz. Agave Nectar
1 Slice Jalapeño

Shake ingredients vigorously with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (If desired, you can salt the rim of the glass.)

Professor's Note: Kern's makes a good guava nectar. There are also Mexican brands like Jumex and Goya that you can find in the Latino aisle at the grocery store. To make this cocktail really "top shelf," try using Tequila Don Julio 70, a clear añenjo tequila.


2 oz. Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion 1580
1 oz. Apricot Brandy
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

Shake with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


La perlaLa Perla

Recipe by Jacques Bezuidenhout

1 1/2 oz. Partida Reposado Tequila
1 1/2 oz. Manzanilla Sherry
3/4 oz. Mathilde Pear Liqueur

Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Want to know how Professor Cocktail makes a Margarita? You'll find out here: Margarita recipe. (Scroll to the bottom.)