This Sat., May 5, will see two popular “holidays” celebrated nationwide: Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day. And how do Americans celebrate both occasions? By drinking, of course!
But with both holidays falling on the same day, a drinker’s dilemma arises: mint julep or margarita? If horses and big hats are your thing, try the Derby Day classic. If you’re a Cinco de Mayo celebrant but have a tough time deciding between cerveza and tequila, we present the “Beergarita” — so you can have both! These are very refreshing, but as with the julep, just watch out: it’s easy to guzzle down more than a few before you realize you’re sloshed.
Finally, I offer you my attempt at marrying the two holidays into one delectable drink — a hybridization of the grapefruit juice-based Paloma and the mint julep. Yes, the thought of bourbon and tequila in the same glass might worry some, but trust me, the addition of ginger beer bridges the cocktail culture gap and makes for one delicious pairing.
It’s best to use a mid-range reposado tequila (barrel aged for 2-11 months) for this — no “Gold” tequilas, as they’re just unaged silver tequilas that have been dosed with caramel flavor and coloring to fake an aged look. As for the bourbon, get one you can stand drinking on the rocks, but no need to spring for anything too expensive (just stay away from bottom shelf swill).
The Classic Mint Julep
Makes one cocktail; Recipe: Paul Clarke via seriouseats.com
2 to 3 ounces bourbon, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, to taste, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water (or use 2 teaspoons simple syrup)
8 to 10 leaves fresh mint
Mint sprigs, for garnish
“Place the sugar and water at the bottom of a julep cup or tall glass and stir until sugar is dissolved (or speed the process by using simple syrup). Add the mint leaves and gently bruise with a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon. Take care not to overwork the mint, but swab the sides of the glass with the mint’s aromatic oils. Half-fill the glass with crushed ice and add the bourbon, stirring to combine. Fill the glass with crushed ice and stir until the outside of the glass frosts. Add more crushed ice if needed to fill, and generously adorn the drink with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve with a short straw, so the fragrance of the mint bouquet will greet the drinker with each sip.”
Serves 4; Recipe: Gourmet Magazine
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup coarse salt
2 chilled 12-oz bottles beer (not dark; preferably a lighter-style Mexican lager)
1/2 cup thawed frozen limeade concentrate
1/2 cup chilled tequila
Rub lime wedges around rims of 4 Margarita glasses. Dip rims in salt to coat lightly. In a medium pitcher, combine beer, limeade, and tequila. Fill prepared glasses with ice, then with margarita mixture. Garnish with remaining lime wedges. Serve immediately.
The Cinco de Derby
Makes one cocktail; Recipe: Katie Machol
Ice cubes, as needed
6-8 mint leaves (plus more for garnish)
1 ounce Kentucky bourbon
1 ounce Reposado tequila (I used Familia Camarena)
1/2 lime, juiced (or 1/2 ounce)
1/2 grapefruit, juiced (or 2 ounces)
1/2 bottle (12 ounces) ginger beer
Bruise the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker with a muddler or spoon then fill with ice. Add bourbon, tequila and citrus juices to container and give it a good few shakes. Fill a tall glass with ice, strain liquids into the glass and top with ginger beer. Stir gently, then garnish with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge and serve.
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