Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a largely American holiday in celebration of Mexican-American culture.  The date commemorates the anniversary of Mexico’s victory of the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  The victory of a smaller, poorly equipped Mexican force led by General Ignacio Zaragoza over the larger, better armed French army served as a morale boost for Mexicans.  However, the French forces ultimately defeated the Mexican army at the second Battle of Puebla and occupied Mexico City.

The day is sometimes mistaken for Mexico’s most important national holiday, their Independence Day, which takes place on September 16.  The date commemorates the Cry of Delores in 1810 which initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain.

In the US, focus on the day started in 1863 in California in response to Mexico’s resistance to French rule.  Miners fired rifles, shot fireworks, made speeches and sang patriotic songs in celebration.  The Chicano movement in the 1940s brought greater attention to the day, with slow spread to the rest of the country in the 50’s and 60’s.  However it gained it annual party popularity in the 80’s due to advertising campaigns by beer, wine, and tequila companies.  The celebration generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl. 

In Mexico, however, the holiday is widely ignored, with commemoration of the day at a more local level, and is largely ceremonial, with military parades and battle reenactments, rather than a party or celebration.  Due to American marketing and entertainment and media referencing, the day has become an increasingly global celebration of Mexican culture, cuisine, and heritage.


Tequila is an alcoholic spirit made from the blue agave plant in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, located 40 mi northwest of Guadalajara, in the Jaliscan Highlands of the central western Mexican state of Jalisco.  The red volcanic soils in the region are well suited from growing the blue agave.  The region near Tequila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006 due to its historical and cultural importance.  Mexican law states that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near the city of Tequila, which was not incorporated until 1666.  A fermented beverage from the agave plant known as pulque was consumed in pre-Columbian central Mexico prior to European contact.  When Spanish conquistadors ran out of brandy, they turned to the distillation of agave to produce one of the first indigenous distilled spirits of the New World.  Tequila began being mass produced around 1600 in Jalisco. 

Spain’s King Carlos IV granted the Cuervo family the first license to commercially make tequila in the late 1700’s.  Don Cenobio Sauza, founder of Sauza Tequila (that now produces the brands Sauza, Hornitos, and Tres Generaciones) and Municipal President of the Village of Tequila from 1884-1885 was the first to export tequila to the United States. 

Tequila varieties:

Silver: also known as blanco (or white) is unaged tequila stored in stainless steel, harsher in flavor

Gold: also known as joven or oro is silver tequila with the addition of grain alcohol and caramel color

Reposado: tequila aged In wooden barrels 2 months to 1 year, golden in color, more subtle flavor

Anejo: tequila aged in wooden barrels for greater than 1 year, often dark amber in color, subtle flavor

Extra Anejo: tequila aged in wooden barrels for at least 3 years, subtle, mellow though earthier flavor

I found this excerpt in Wikipedia entertaining:

Once the bottle is opened, the tequila will be subject to oxidation which will continue to happen even if no more oxygen is introduced. In addition, if the bottle has more room for air, the process of oxidation occurs faster on the liquor remaining inside the bottle. Therefore, it may be the best to consume the tequila within one or two years after opening.

Who wouldn’t finish a bottle of tequila in less than two years?!?!

Also, spirits marketed as tequila can never have worms in the bottle. Worms in mescal bottles are primarily a marketing ploy and are not traditional in Mexico.  The worms in mezcal bottles are typically the larvae of agave moths.  Agave that have moth larvae are infested and thus of lower quality flavor.

While Jose Cuervo is one of the most popular brands, it is largely NOT 100% Agave Tequila, with only its Cuervo Tradicional variety being 100% agave, which far and wide it not served in bars and restaurants.  Non-100% agave tequila typically has grain alcohol in it, and thus the headaches many people report from drinking (cheap) tequila.

Celebrities have more recently gotten into the tequila-making game, with Sammy Hagar starting things off with Cabo Wabo Tequila, paving the way for 2 of the more popular current celebrity tequilas Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Teremana Tequila, and George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila

Jimmy Buffett has his Margaritaville Tequila, Santana has Casa Noble Tequila, Nick Jonas Villa One Tequila, Thomas Rhett Dos Primos Tequila, George Strait’s Codigo Tequila, Justin Timberlake 901 Tequila, Guy Fiere and Sammy Hagar (again) with Santo Tequila, Michael Jordan Cincoro Tequila, and Lebron James with Lobos 1707.

The top selling tequilas in the US are 1. Jose Cuervo, 2. Patron, 3. Sauza, 4. Don Julio, 5. El Jimador, and 6. Hornitos.  Milagro and 1800 area also popular.  One of my everyday favorites, the very affordable Corralejo Reposado, at $25 a bottle is often listed as one of the most versatile tequilas.  And for those who don’t care about fancy names, Members Mark (Sams Club) 100% Agave Silver Tequila is palatable and a bargain at $22 for 1.75L!

Critics rate Tequila Ocho Plata, Don Fulano Blanco, Fuentesca Cosecha, Siete Leguas Reposado, Don Julio Anejo, and Don Ramon Extra Anejo Limited Edition $400/bottle among the best tequilas.

Some top tequila options may include:

What would a music blog be without a Rolling Stone review of tequilas:

See: (you’ll have to copy/paste, as Rolling Stone Magazine does not allow embedded links or hyperlinks)

In Mexico, the traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt.  Some regions drink tequila along side sangrita, a sweet, sour, spicy drink typically made from orange juice, grenadine, and hot chili.  Another popular drink in Mexico is the bandera (Spanish for flag). Representing the Flag of Mexico, it consists of three shot glasses, filled with lime juice, silver tequila, and sangrita to create the 3 colors of the flag, green white, and red.


In the US, the most traditional drink featuring tequila is the margarita, a drink traditionally comprised of tequila, orange liquer, and lime juice, drunk on the rocks or frozen. The margarita is related to the brandy daisy, a drink made with brandy, a liqueur, and citrus. With its name margarita being the Spanish word for daisy, it replaces the spirit with tequila, the liqueur as cointreau, and the citrus as lime juice.

As early as 1937 the Cafe Royal Cocktail book contained a recipe for a Picador using the same concentrations of tequila, triple sec and lime juice as a margarita.  While there are several claims to the origin of the margarita name attached to the drink dating back to the late 1930s in Mexico and southern California, it is unknown the true origin of the drink name.  But by 1945 Jose Cuervo was already running ad campaigns for the margarita with the slogan, “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name.”

The margarita cocktail was the December 1953 “Drink of the Month” in Esquire Magazine, with this recipe:


1 ounce tequila
Dash of Triple Sec
Juice of 12 lime or lemon
Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin in salt—pour, and sip.

Esquire Magazine, 1953

It was further popularized by Jimmy Buffett’s now classic song “Margaritaville” in 1977. I had the pleasure of seeing Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band last week. More of a beach party than a concert – so much fun! He has translated his song into a brand, with restaurants, resorts and even retirement communities, one right down the road from me in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

And in 2004 the margarita was hailed as “the most popular mixed drink in America”

For those looking beyond the traditional margarita, The Rock and Teremana have some great tequila cocktail recipes:

And lastly, by simple margarita recipe, that requires no fancy measuring.  I have to credit my friend and former pediatric partner Tessa for the recipe.  Fill any size glass 2/3 full of ice, add 1/3 of your favorite tequila.  Then fill the remainder of the glass with Simply Limeade.  It will be the perfect strength and taste regardless of the glass size (though not for margarita glasses – more highball style or pint beer glasses).  You can adjust the height of the tequila to taste, but the above proportions are to my liking.  It isn’t truly 1/3 a glass of tequila, as the 2/3 a glass of ice takes up space and there is more volume above the ice for extra limeade.  While there is no orange liquer in the drink to make it a true margarita, it is akin to a skinny margarita at most restaurants and bars, and doesn’t suffer from the sickeningly sweet sour mix that is bound to give you heartburn.

Simple Margarita:

Favorite non-fluted glass
Salt rim if desired
2/3 glass ice cubes
1/3 glass tequila
Fill remainder with Simply Limeade

bill by way of Tessa L.G.

This is my go-to margarita, and everyone I’ve ever made it for agrees it’s
perhaps their favorite as well.  On rare occasion I will add a splash of Cointreau and Agave syrup, but even without it stands out as an exceptional margarita.  So much so I’m a bit of a margarita snob, and seldom order a margarita out, as I’ve had plenty of bad margaritas. Or I will order other flavor margaritas, such as blood orange or pineapple.  And to me, frozen margaritas are meant for the beach or poolside, not with meals, tapas, or chips and salsa or queso.

So on to some music.  The following videos of songs from the playlist to me embody the spirit of tequila:

John Wolfe’s “Tequila Sundown”:

Kenny Chesney’s “You and Tequila”:

John Pardi’s “Tequila Little Time”:

Dustin Lynch’s “Tequila on a Boat” – a very interesting still-life/slow-motion video:

Kameron Marlowe’s “Tequila Talkin’”:

And now for the playlist. It’s chock-full of songs with Tequila in the title, but also some songs with Margarita, Salt and Lime or Cuervo in the title. A few songs may seem a bit out of place, such as Alan Jackson’s “Five O’Clock Somewhere,” though it’s theme is definitely in the spirit of kicking back and relaxing with tequila or margarita in hand, Van Halen’s Cabo Wabo, though the name of Sammy Hagar’s tequila, and Steely Dan’s Hey 19, though prominently featuring “Cuervo Gold” in the lyrics. I have listened to the playlist several times. It is such a relaxing, sipping tequila neat or a margarita on the beach, summertime fun kind of playlist. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment.

Enjoy the moment.

Love the moment.

Listen (and drink tequila) to the MUSIC!