Cinco de Mayo is the commemoration of Mexico’s unlikely win over French Napoleonic forces at the Battle of Puebla, in which two thousand Mexican resistance fighters overcame a five thousand-strong French military attack. The event galvanized the Mexican army into fighting for the eventual withdrawal of France six years later. Today, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration held particularly in the Mexican State of Puebla, but its festive spirit is celebrated all over the world and remains as one of the best days of the year for slinging margaritas and other tasty cocktails—not that we really needed an excuse. For tequila and mezcal cocktails to make at home, we’ve turned to the bars of San Antonio, which is marking its tricentennial this year. Here, we share the recipe and story behind a tequila concoction at Esquire Tavern’s Downstairs, as well as recipes from Sternewirth at Hotel Emma, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, and El Mirador.
For Houston Eaves, beverage director at Esquire Tavern, extolling Mexico’s influence on Texan cocktail culture is a year-round passion. The opening of Esquire’s ground-floor bar, aptly named Downstairs, in 2016, gave Eaves the chance to drill deeper into his spirits arsenal. Batman of Mexico, which emphasizes the floral, herbaceous notes of the agave plant, is his nod to the efforts of the country’s tequila makers to help sustain migratory populations of bats, the main pollinators of agave, by allowing a portion of their plants to flower each year. The drink is named for conservationist and ecologist Dr. Rodrigo Medellín, known as the “Batman of Mexico,” who is co-founder of the Bat Friendly Tequila and Mezcal Project, which is studying the relationship between agaves and bats.
Batman of Mexico
2 ounces high-proof blanco tequila, like Siembra Valles
¾ ounce fresh corn syrup (see recipe below)
¾ ounce key lime juice
2 to 3 dashes Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub
Combine in an ice-filled shaker and shake well. Strain into a chilled glass rimmed with sal de chapulín (grasshopper salt).
Fresh Corn Syrup
2 pounds of sweet corn
2 pounds of sugar
32 ounces of water
Simmer all ingredients for about thirty minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Strain syrup into an airtight container and reserve in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Bulls on Parade
This drink, from Ben Guerra at Sternewirth at Hotel Emma, combines mezcal with touches of hibiscus and chiles.
1½ ounces mezcal
¾ ounce hibiscus cordial*
¼ ounce cynar
½ ounce fresh lime
4 drops chile tincture**
Combine mezcal and next three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Add four drops of chile tincture and serve immediately.
*Hibiscus Cordial: Bring ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add ½ cup hibiscus flowers and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and let cool in refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes.
**Chile Tincture: Add 1 cup chopped dried Guajillo chiles to 5 ounces of vodka. Let sit for 24 hours, allowing sunlight to hit it. Strain the chiles off of the infusion and place in glass container or jar until ready to use.
Jalapeño Cucumber Paloma
Megan Silver, of JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, mixes citrus flavors with tequila for a real refresher.
2 slices cucumber
2 slices jalapeño
1½ ounces tequila
½ ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
½ ounce agave syrup
Muddle cucumber and jalapeño in a cocktail shaker. Add tequila, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and agave syrup. Shake with ice and strain over fresh ice into margarita glass rimmed with chili salt. Serve immediately.
The Esquire’s Houston Eaves also created many cocktails at beloved, fifty-year-old restaurant El Mirador, including this combo of tequila and mezcal.
2 ounces Arette Añejo Tequila
¾ ounce Cocchi di Torino Vermouth
1 bar spoon Wahaka Espadín Mezcal
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 thick slice of grapefruit peel
Grapefruit peel twist for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir very well with ice. Strain over one large piece of ice in a rocks glass. Express the oil from a wide swath of grapefruit peel over the drink, and garnish with a grapefruit twist.