Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby

I love the first weekend of May: two great events to celebrate at the start of the month!

These two events are The Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo. I refer to this time as "Derby de Mayo;" I realize this makes nearly no sense when translated from Spanish – but it's a catchy title!

Derby HatsFirst, it's time to dust off your absurdly-sized hats and make yourself a Mint Julip in preparation for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 3rd.

Mint Julips

Mint Julips were originally made using brandy as the base spirit.  However, since the race is held in Kentucky, and the Mint Julip is the official cocktail of the race, it is now made with bourbon.

Mint Julips are very easy to make:

  • 4-5 mint leaves
  • 2 sugar cubes (or ½ oz. of simple syrup)
  • 2 ½ oz bourbon (e.g. Puckett's Branch Small Batch Bourbon)

Just muddle the mint and sugar/simple syrup, add the bourbon, and serve over crushed ice.

Or you can save yourself the muddling and buy the DeKuyper Muddled Mint and mix in the bourbon of your choice. Or save yourself the trouble of both muddling and adding a bourbon of your choice by purchasing a pre-made, 1.0 liter bottle of Early Times Mint Julip

Oh, and don't forget to watch the race!

Second, on Monday May 5th, get some tequila and toast the Mexican army's victory over the French on May 5th, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is not the celebration of the Mexican Independence (which is on September 16th) but similar to St. Patrick's Day significance to Irish-Americans, it is a celebration of Mexican-American heritage.

Margaritas are the go-to cocktail for most people on this day, but you could celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a couple of other cocktails.

My preferred Cinco de Mayo drink is the Chico:


  • 2 oz. blanco/silver tequila (e.g. Cazadores Tequila Blanco)
  • 2 oz. blackberry liqueur (e.g. 99 Blackberries)
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • Club soda
  • Fill a glass with ice and mix in the first four ingredients. Top off the drink with club soda.

It's a refreshing drink and the blackberry liqueur gives it a deep purple hue. For the blackberry liqueur, I suggest Echte Kroatzbeere

A couple more non-margarita cocktail suggestions for Cinco de Mayo are:

The Paloma

  • 2 oz. blanco/reposado tequila (e.g. Tequila Chamucos Blanco)
  • 6 oz. grapefruit soda
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • Salt (for glass rim)

Put salt on the rim of the glass, fill the glass with ice, and mix in the other ingredients.

The Mexican Mule

(similar to the Moscow Mule):

  • 2 oz. silver/blanco tequila (e.g. 1800 Silver Tequila)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 2 dashes of Old Fashioned bitters
  • Ginger beer

Mix the first three ingredients in glass (with ice) and top off with ginger beer

Of course, I'm not suggesting you avoid margaritas entirely, but these other three cocktails are some personal favorites that are also Cinco de Mayo-approved - so try something new!

There are many other holidays and events to celebrate this month, most notably "Dance Like a Chicken Day" on May 14th, but what better way to start a month than by celebrating Derby de Mayo with a few great cocktails. So come to Premier Wine & Spirits in Amherst, NY to stock up on your bourbon, tequila, and other cocktail items listed above.