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Blissed-out coastlines, fabulous food and an outdoor paradise make Mexico a wonderful destination for adventure. It also boasts some of the world’s most fabulous boozy delights, with many based on the tequila spirit. But there’s much more to Mexican cocktails than those featuring the country’s famous nectar. For a true taste of Mexico, read on to discover our top five picks for a perfect introduction to the country’s cocktail scene. However discerning your own taste, you’ll be sure to find a drink to fall in love with!
The margarita is the most famous of all Mexican cocktails, and probably the most popular outside of Mexico itself! You might be surprised to know that within the country, the paloma is a bigger favorite, but we’ll come to that in just a moment. Given its worldwide fame and utter deliciousness, we simply couldn’t kick off this list with anything else than the sacred margarita.
Even if you’ve tried a dozen different margaritas already, nothing beats the experience of sipping one in Mexico. Think of them as being similar to throwing all the ingredients of a tequila slammer in a glass and adding some refinement. Oh, and orange liquor of course.
Basic ingredients of a margarita cocktail
A basic margarita combines a good glug of quality tequila, fresh lime juice and orange liquor served over crushed ice. Glasses should be prepared by rubbing lime around the rim to form a ‘glue’, then dunking them into sea salt to coat the rim. Some bartenders will add a splash of sugar syrup or agave nectar.
A classic margarita should be sharp, sour and salty. Think ‘salt-lime-tequila’ in quick succession and that’s the sensation your palate should be enjoying. A margarita is best served in a wide champagne glass and imbibed before a meal. A good one will set your taste buds dancing in anticipation of those tacos to come! For an alternative with a bit of a kick, try a lip-smacking mezcalita. These use mezcal over tequila, which adds a distinct smokiness to the brew.
Don’t discount the delightful margarita, but be sure to seek out the local favorite of paloma. These scrumptious elixirs only hit prominence in the 1990s, but they’re now the official National Cocktail of Mexico. Once tried, it’ll be obvious why!
Basic ingredients of a paloma cocktail
A basic paloma cocktail combines tequila, grapefruit juice, soda and lime in a longer drink to a margarita. Some paloma recipes will use grapefruit soda, yet both forms are delicious. Many bartenders will add a salt rim to the glass for flair, but this is down to personal preference.
Best served in a tall highball glass, the paloma is a super-refreshing drink at any time of day. Given the grapefruit juice, they may taste less alcoholic than a margarita, so keep reminding yourself about the tequila before you plow in and down several glasses! For a wonderful mix of sunshine flavors that bring beach vibes and balmy weather to mind, the paloma is the go-to cocktail. If you’re looking for a true taste of Mexico, this is the one.
When it comes to Mexican cocktails, here’s something completely different. The chavela is known as the ‘Mexican bloody mary’. There are some obvious comparisons once you consider the ingredients, but this magnificent potion more than deserves its own stage.
Basic ingredients of a chavela cocktail
Chavela cocktails have a tomato juice base, mixed in with some tequila for a kick. But it’s what’s in the rest of this creation that things get interesting. Tajin spices containing crushed chilies and sea salt are added to the mix, and the whole concoction is topped up with Mexican beer. Served over ice, you’ll sometimes see celery salt or Tabasco thrown in, just like a bloody mary. But the beer-tomato-tequila combo makes this a very different drink indeed.
The taste of a chavela is a surprising one, but two sips in, you’ll discover that the flavors do work after all! The spices are beautifully complemented by the beer, which makes a chavela far more refreshing than the average bloody mary. For best results, pair one of these with a spicy Mexican meal. Here you’ll see the beauty of this cocktail really come to the fore.
Coffee, anyone? The espresso martini has grown in popularity over the past decade, and the carajillo is its Mexican cousin. Here our best Mexican cocktails’ list departs from tequila as an alcohol base, using Licor 43 in its place.
Licor 43 is a Spanish liquor, named after its (highly-secret) 43 ingredients. Pale yellow in color, it has a herby nose and an aftertaste of vanilla. The tipple is delicious as a digestif following a large meal.
Basic ingredients of a carajillo cocktail
The basic carajillo cocktail recipe is simple! Fill a glass tumbler with ice, pour over a couple of shots of espresso coffee, and add a glug of Spanish magic — Licor 43. Stir well, et voila!
If you like coffee, the carajillo will become your best friend! Just don’t forget about the alcohol – these are seriously moreish. The locals tend to take a carajillo roundabout lunchtime, and they’ll smooth your path into the afternoon. Imagine an espresso with a vanilla-boosted warm glow and you’ve got the gorgeous carajillo in a nutshell.
A real surprise for many Mexican travelers, the ponche is a world away from margarita or paloma cocktails! For starters, the basic ingredient is white rum, and locals tend to save it for the winter. Ponche is a Mexican Christmas punch, akin to the mulled wine or cider often served in the west.
Basic ingredients of a ponche cocktail
Ingredients differ from one mixologist to the next, but alongside the good dose of rum, you’ll find some seasonal fruit such as apples, pears, oranges and guavas. There will likely be some sugarcane added for sweetness, and plenty of cinnamon for a seasonal twist. You may also see star anise or tamarind in the mix, depending on what the host has available.
All the ingredients are chopped up and simmered in hot water. Once the fruit has softened, the concoction will be poured into mugs and drunk whilst still warm. The rum is added last, to avoid boiling off the alcohol. You may also be given a spoon with which to snaffle down all that delicious stewed fruit.
This is a classic winter cocktail with familiar flavors to anyone who likes a ‘mulled’ drink. The taste is a festive delight; fruity, boozy and warming. Some will be heavier on the rum than others, and the different fruit used makes for a fresh ponche experience every time.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our favorite Mexican cocktails and wish you good luck with your own tasting! For some interesting food to accompany these delicious drinks, check out our guide to strange but tasty Mexican food. For now, happy drinking, and as they say in Mexico: “salud”!
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