Published on May 1st, 2016 | by Mark Chesnut


How You Should REALLY Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

The Mexican celebration called Cinco de Mayo is always festive — especially in the United States and in the city of Puebla, Mexico, where it all started.

So how should you prepare for the big celebration? Here are a few suggestions:

• First, get your facts straight. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. In fact, May 5th isn’t even that big a holiday in most of Mexico. The main place where you’ll see people on the streets is Puebla, Mexico’s fourth-largest city. The event commemorates the day when, in 1862, a band of some 4,000 Mexican soldiers served up a stunning defeat to a much larger force of 8,000 French troops, who were intent on invasion.

Since the fight took place in Puebla, May 5 is a time for impressive military parades and celebrations right in the city (I shot the pic above during the parade one year, as a throng of perfectly dressed military nurses marched by). Of course, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a decidedly more general festive tone, and serves as anything from a celebration of Mexican heritage to an excuse for people to enjoy drink specials at their favorite local hangout. But go to Puebla, and you’ll get the true flavor.

• Consider visiting Cinco de Mayo’s birthplace. Puebla is just 85 miles from Mexico City, making it easy to reach (you can also fly nonstop to Puebla from various cities).

Celebrate locally. Many cities outside of Mexico celebrate Cinco de Mayo. In Los Angeles, there will be music and celebrations on May 5 along Olvera Street, a pedestrian-only walkway near where the city was founded. There will also be Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Dallas, Chicago and New York City (granted, many U.S.-based celebrations may be more focused on alcohol than historic celebrations).

• Capture some flavor with artwork. Not to tout my own work too much, but for a variety of beautiful and fascinating visuals from Puebla’s Cinco de Mayo festivities, you can also order an eBook version of my book, Puebla: The Real Cinco de Mayo for just $2.99 (or a bit more for the print edition). This 28-page collection is far from your average travel photo album.

For some reason, my surreal photo of marching military nurses from Puebla’s Cinco de Mayo parade has become the biggest-selling artwork in my Zazzle shop. It’s available as a print, as well on gift cards, post cards and even cell phone cases.

I’m not sure how many people realize the image is from Cinco de Mayo — I have a feeling the popularity of this image, which I’ve exhibited in public gallery shows, resonates with people who support our hard-working nursing community, or who want to send a symbolic “army of nurses” to wish their sick friends well. But at any rate, it is also a symbol of Mexico’s pride about one of the nation’s most exciting moments in history.

Cinco de Mayo cocktail at Grand Velas resort in Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo cocktail at Grand Velas resort in Mexico.

• Make a Toast. Lots of bars in the United States have Cinco de Mayo specials, of course. In Mexico, some hotels create special cocktails for the occasion. The all-inclusive Velas Resorts, for example, have been good enough to share their recipes for what they’ll be serving guests on May 5. (If you need even more ideas, check out my 70-page cocktail recipe book, Mexican Cocktails: Libations & Inspiration from Top Hotels, Bars and Restaurants in Mexico, which is available for only $2.99 for the eBook version, perfect for your iPad.)

Grand Velas Riviera Maya will feature the Ignacio Zaragoza Cocktail, named after the Mexican General who defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Velas Vallarta will serve the Victoria Tropicale, a fruity martini that symbolizes the Mexican victoria (victory in English). The Mexican Bite at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is red, one of the colors of the Mexican flag, which represents the Spaniards that joined in the quest for Independence and the blood of the national heroes. At Casa Velas, the 2000 Martini is named after the 2,000 Mexicans who defeated the 6,000 French troops.

For those unable to travel to Mexico to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Velas Resorts shares its cocktail recipes below.

Ignacio Zaragoza Cocktail
1 ½ oz                    oregano-infused tequila
4 oz                        fresh tomato juice
1 tbsp                    lemon juice
dash                      tabasco
pinch                     celery salt
½ cup                    ice
1 stalk                   celery
1 slice                    bacon, cooked

Oregano-Infused Tequila – Wrap 1 tbsp oregano in a cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine. Macerate the oregano in 1 liter of tequila, letting sit for two days to a month. Remove the oregano and filter the tequila through a cheese cloth.

Combine tequila, tomato juice, lemon juice and tabasco in a shaker. Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with celery and bacon.

Victoria Tropicale
1 ½ oz                    Mezcal Amores
dash                      lemon
dash                      simple syrup
½ pc                       kiwi
½ slice                  pineapple
½ cup                    crushed ice
1 tbsp                    Tajin (chili salt)

Combine the kiwi and pineapple in a blender, and strain to separate the liquid from the pulp. Pour liquid into a shaker along with the mezcal, simple syrup, lemon juice and ice. Shake strongly. Serve in a martini glass previously rimmed with tajin chili salt.

Mexican Bite
1 ½ oz                    PAMA Pomegranate Flavored Liqueur
1 ½ oz                    Montelobos Mezcal
1½ oz                     cranberry juice
½ tbsp                   simple syrup
½ tbsp                   lemon juice
½ cup                    crushed ice

Combine the PAMA, mescal, cranberry juice, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker. Shake strongly and pour over ice in a glass.

2000 Martini
1 ½ oz                    vodka
1 oz                        lemon juice
1 oz                        simple syrup
1/3                         cucumber
1 tsp                      coriander
½ cup                    crushed ice
1 tbsp                    Tajin (chili salt)

Macerate cucumber with coriander in shaker.  Add the vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and ice. Shake strongly. Serve in a martini glass previously rimmed with tajin chili salt.

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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