Cinco de Mayo marks the Mexican Army’s 1862 victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla, but over the years it’s evolved into a general celebration of Mexican independence and culture. To commemorate, we’ve got a tasty new cocktail, La Batalla de Puebla.
I must have been busy sneaking snacks in the back row of my history class and not paying attention, because it came as a surprise to me to learn that what’s being commemorated on Cinco de Mayo, May 5, isn’t margaritas and Mexican dinner out. It’s the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican Army defeated Napoleon III and the French, who had shown up to aggressively collect on some debts and set up a French satellite state in Mexico.
I wasn’t even aware enough to confuse it, as lots of other people do, with Mexican Independence Day, which is actually September 16.
A work colleague must have been paying way better attention in history class. We were talking about a certain cocktail named for the Battle of Puebla when I thought I’d casually slip in my new Cinco de Mayo knowledge.
Not news to him. “And did you know,” he asked, “that the general who led his small Mexican army to victory against the powerful French forces — Ignacio Zaragoza — was born in what is now Goliad, Texas? And did you know that the following March, the French took Puebla after all?”
No and no.
The good-natured one-upmanship sent me straight to Wikipedia and then to Encyclopedia Britannica, where I found out that “the victory is shared by a young officer (and future president), Brig. Gen. Porfirio Diaz” and that “on April 2, 1867, Diaz retook the city, ending the French occupation. The Cinco de Mayo holiday symbolizes Mexico’s determination to thwart foreign aggression.”
Is it shallow of me to like the idea of drinking some tequila on Cinco de Mayo in symbolic support of determination to thwart foreign aggression?
One of these days, I’m going head to San Antonio, Texas, for a full-on Cinco de Mayo celebration, along with something like 30,000 to 50,000 visitors who are drawn on May 5 to the historic Market Square to celebrate with mariachis, Tejano and conjunto music, folkloric dance, arts and crafts, concerts, food — and, one imagines, well-crafted margaritas in nearby restaurants.
In addition to Market Square in San Antonio and, of course, Puebla in Mexico, USA Today’s “10 Best Places to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo” suggests these eight other events/venues: Celebrate Culture in Denver; Cinco de Mayo Parade in New York City; Los Angeles Cinco de Mayo; National Cinco de Mayo Festival in Washington, D.C.; Cinco de Mayo in Chicago; 5th of May in Dolores Park in San Francisco; Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Phoenix Cinco de Mayo.
Wherever you’ll be spending this Cinco de Mayo, and whether it comes as news to you or not what the day actually celebrates, we think you’ll appreciate this recipe for a commemorative cocktail.
La Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla)
La Batalla de Puebla is a new cocktail from Rosewood Puebla, a luxurious hotel property in the culturally significant Mexican city of Puebla. Crafted with tequila, spicy macha sauce, agave syrup, and locally made Ancho Reyes liqueur, the drink pays homage to the holiday of Cinco de Mayo, a commemoration of the Battle of Puebla, which took place near the hotel’s grounds.
2 ounces of Tequila Blanco Siete Leguas
¾ ounce Ancho Reyes liqueur
½ ounce lime juice
½ teaspoon of spicy macha sauce (recipe follows)
⅓ ounce agave syrup
Mix all the ingredients in the shaker, add ice, and shake hard. Strain into a martini glass rimmed with Tajin powder (dried chiles).
Spicy Macha Sauce
4 cups of oil
4 cloves of garlic
12 pieces chile de árbol
2 pounds of peeled peanuts (toasted)
½ pound of sesame seeds (toasted)
4 teaspoons of white vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a hot pan, fry the garlic and peppers until they begin to darken and crisp but not burn. Set aside and let cool. Mix ingredients, including the garlic and peppers, together in a blender, adding the vinegar little by little. Finish by adding the salt and pepper for seasoning.
Recipe courtesy Rosewood Puebla.