Cinco de Mayo is synonymous with tequila. For Americans, the holiday, which celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the 1862 Battle of Puebla, is often a good excuse to indulge in a few margaritas. But the lime and salt-rimmed drink isn’t the only way to enjoy Mexico’s traditional spirit. From chile-spiked spins on the classic to craft cocktails made with smoky, agave-derived mezcal, here are five ways to shake up your Cinco de Mayo cocktail hour.
Bring the Heat
Spice up the classic margarita with fiery flavors that balance refreshing citrusy with a heady dose of heat.
BALEEN at Naples’ LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort puts a sweet and spicy spin on the class margarita using blood orange puree, lime juice, Grand Marnier and jalapeño-infused tequila.
Downtown Social House in Fort Myers packs two types of peppers into its Watermelon Fiesta cocktail. Made with zero-waste, 100% blue agave tequila CAZADORES, the cocktail balances spicy hits of jalapeño and cayenne with refreshing melon.
Lamoraga in Naples adds fiery habanero simple syrup to its fruity Strawberry Spiced Margarita, rimmed with salt and sugar.
Sip it Straight
With dozens of aged tequilas that drink like fine whiskey to choose from, these restaurants implore you to skip the chaser and sip these smooth pours neat.
Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar at Mercato boasts the region’s largest selection of tequila. The Naples restaurant stocks roughly 500 bottles (and 100 mezcals) behind its bar, ranging from familiar brands, like Patrón and Casamigos served with an orange slice and cinnamon-salt rim, to ultra-premium labels, like Fuenteseca Vintage 1993, which will set you back $200 for a 2.5-ounce pour.
K-Rico Mexican Grill in Naples’ Bayfront complex also stocks a substantial list, with more than 120 offerings from big and boutique brands. For the uninitiated, the menu starts with a tasting guide, explaining the difference between the spirit’s four aging categories—unaged blanco and progressively barrel-aged reposado, añejo and extra añejo—with recommendations on how to order each one.
Tacos & Tequila in Naples and Fort Myers encourages diners to pair sips of tequila with hard and soft shell tacos. Its Tacos & Tequila flight includes a choice of three tacos, like Modelo Negra-battered mahi-mahi or Korean-inspired steak, to pair with an equal number of featured tequilas.
Elevate the Experience
When a simple salt rim and a pour of Cuervo won’t do, up the ante with top-shelf ingredients and sophisticated presentations.
The Vine Room in Naples took inspiration from some of The World’s 50 Best Bars in developing its menu. For its bestselling VR Margarita, bartenders combine reposado tequila, Cointreau and agave nectar, before topping it with a sea salt foam topper and garnishing the drink with black salt.
Marco Prime Steaks & Seafood in Marco Island also adds a foam topper to its house M.P. Margarita. The bar tops its mix of tequila, orange liqueur and citrus juices with a dollop of Grand Marnier foam.
Ocean Prime in Naples shakes up its $36 Grand Añejo margarita with only three ingredients: fresh lime, Grand Marnier and small-batch Avión Reserva 44 Extra Añejo tequila, which is aged for 36 months in American bourbon barrels, yielding warm notes of spice and vanilla.
Go Big or Go Home
Quality meets quantity in these large-format offerings (designated driver recommended).
Chops City Grill in Naples and Bonita Springs packs a punch with The Desperado margarita. To make the drink, fresh lime is spiked with 5 ounces of anejo tequila and Grand Marnier (triple the alcohol of a standard drink), served in a salt-rimmed glass with a slow- melting, spherical ice cube.
400 Rabbits in Sanibel offers a flight of four margaritas. CAZADORES blanco tequila is the base for the classic Blurred Lines, amaretto-spiked The Italian Rabbit and the Mangonificent with housemade mango puree. Finish with the brightly hued Purple Haze, a blend of reposado tequila, blackberry puree and lime, rimmed with hibiscus sea salt.
Fall for Mezcal
Made with smoked agave, mezcal is tequila’s character-filled cousin that gives bartenders creative license to craft cocktails with an intriguing, smoky spin.
Jungle Bird Authentic Tiki Bar in Cape Coral puts a tropical spin on mezcal with its Mezcalhuna cocktail, blending it with rum, Aperol, cinnamon and bruleed banana, all served in a coconut goblet.
Chartreuse Craft Cocktail Lounge in Bonita Springs mixes mezcal and absinthe for its potent Not For The Faint Of Heart, which balances the spirits with orange shrub, honey and citrus to give the beverage a sweet, tangy element.
Bar Tulia’s two locations in Naples stir up a Paloma—Mexico’s effervescent national drink—with sustainably crafted, small-batch Ilegal mezcal. Like the tequila original, Bar Tulia’s No Se Paloma includes the refreshing flavors of grapefruit and lime, swapping the traditional flavored soda for fresh juice.