There's a pretty good chance that if you walk into any bar on Cinco de Mayo, pull aside a random drunk American in a sombrero and ask him what exactly it is he's celebrating, he probably won't be able to give you a decent answer. He can tell you there's a good deal on Coronas with a shot of tequila, but he might not be able to talk about how the celebration is thanks to the Mexican army beating back the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo, in many respects, is the new St. Patrick's Day in America: it's a holiday that has meaning in its land of origin, but here in the States, we just drink more than we would on normal days. Enterprising people behind Mexican beer brands, knowing that giving people even more of an excuse to order a few more drinks than usual results in more money for them, have capitalized on our need to be given an excuse to get really drunk, and have done everything they can to make sure that we order their beer.
So what do you do when May 5th rolls around and your options are pretty much limited to frozen margaritas, bad margaritas, or the unbeliveably cheap Coronas, Tecates, or Pacificos? Those things are fine and all, but you'd rather save them for drinking on the beach or any other time that isn't your post-work unwind. The answer could lie in a few simple hacks that could help you enjoy those pitchers of watery beer just a little bit more, and getting you drunk enough to be that guy who pulls up the holiday's Wikipedia entry so he can school everybody in the bar on the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo.
One of my favorites was found atop a can of Modelo at Holiday Cocktail Lounge in Manhattan. The bar, an old haunt where everybody from revolutoionaries to rockers like the Rolling Stones and even Frank Sinatra stopped by to have a drink at in its original incarnation, was recently reopened by Pirate's Booty creator Robert Ehrlich, under the guidance of Michael Neff, formerly of Ward III and The Rum House, and his brother Danny Neff, previously at Extra Fancy and The Bar Room. It's a perfect little haunt that isn't doing anything too crazy, but also goes above and beyond the call of duty when serving you up cocktails and beers. In the case of the Modelo, the spicy salt rim around and on the lime that I popped into the can kicked a normal beer up into something totally different and better. It wasn't the kind of thing I'd normally order, but just for the spicy salt alone, I might reconsider. Danny Neff says to make it yourself, just grab two cups of kosher salt to one or two ounces of chili oil, toss until the oil has spread evenly, then bake for about 10 minutes at 300 degrees. Once it is cool it's ready to use.
Another option is sipping a liquor along with your beer. In this case, I'd suggest something like Ancho Reyes as an aperitif. With hints of vamilla, anise, and dark chocolate complementing the heat of the pepper, taking a sip of beer after a little bit of the liquor is a real treat.
But what if you're at a bar and spicy salt or a good chili liquor aren't available? What if it's just Corona and tequila and you don't want to do shots to go with your beer? The answer is simple: dump the tequila into your beer. That is the Cinco de Mayo hack that you can't go wrong with.
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