Cinco de Derby: Drinking decisions for a double holiday

Cinco de Derby: Drinking decisions for a double holiday

Whether you're donning a feathered fascinator or a colorful sombrero this Saturday, here are some Cinco and Derby drinks perfect for celebrating this double holiday. (Photo: Polkaroo via Flickr)

This Saturday, May 5th, will see two popular “holidays” celebrated nationwide: Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day. And what do Americans enjoy doing most for both occasions? Drinking, of course!

But with both holidays falling on the same day this year, what will drinks will you be enjoying? Whether you’re donning a feathered fascinator or a colorful sombrero, here are some refreshing cocktails to enjoy this Saturday — a couple of classics and a new hybrid tipple by yours truly.

The Classic Mint Julep

If horses and big hats are your thing, try out this classic Derby Day libation, the Mint Julep. They’re quite refreshing, but sip carefully: these go down easily and it’s easy to guzzle down more than a few before you realize you’re sloshed.

Makes one cocktail; Recipe: Paul Clarke via

2 to 3 ounces bourbon, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, to taste, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water (or use 2 teaspoons simple syrup)
8 to 10 leaves fresh mint
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Crushed ice

“Place the sugar and water at the bottom of a julep cup or tall glass and stir until sugar is dissolved (or speed the process by using simple syrup). Add the mint leaves and gently bruise with a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon. Take care not to overwork the mint, but swab the sides of the glass with the mint’s aromatic oils. Half-fill the glass with crushed ice and add the bourbon, stirring to combine. Fill the glass with crushed ice and stir until the outside of the glass frosts. Add more crushed ice if needed to fill, and generously adorn the drink with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve with a short straw, so the fragrance of the mint bouquet will greet the drinker with each sip.”


The big question for many folks on Cinco de Mayo: Tequila or cerveza? With the “Beergarita”, there’s no need to decide as it contains both. They’re easy to make for a crowd and very refreshing; just watch out, as that tequila will bite you in the rear after a few of these.

Serves 4; Recipe: Gourmet Magazine

1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup coarse salt
2 chilled 12-oz bottles beer (not dark; preferably a lighter-style Mexican lager)
1/2 cup thawed frozen limeade concentrate
1/2 cup chilled tequila
Ice cubes

Rub lime wedges around rims of 4 Margarita glasses. Dip rims in salt to coat lightly. In a medium pitcher, combine beer, limeade, and tequila. Fill prepared glasses with ice, then with margarita mixture. Garnish with remaining lime wedges. Serve immediately.

For a frosty blended version, whiz together the beer, thawed limeade and tequila in a blender. Add more ice if needed.

The Cinco de Derby

Now here’s my attempt at marrying the two holidays into one delectable drink: the Cinco de Derby! It’s a hybridization of the grapefruit juice-based Paloma and the Mint Julep. Yes, the thought of bourbon and tequila in the same glass might worry some, but trust me, the addition of ginger beer bridges the cocktail culture gap and makes for one delicious pairing.

It’s best to use a mid-range reposado tequila (barrel aged for 2-11 months) for this — no “Gold” tequilas, as they’re just unaged silver tequilas that have been dosed with caramel flavor and coloring to fake an aged look. As for the bourbon, get one you can stand drinking on the rocks. There’s no need to spring for anything too expensive though, mid-range priced spirits work just fine. There are many brands out there that are just as good as brands that are $10-15 more expensive (you’re just paying more for the brands that spend millions on advertising).

Makes one cocktail; Recipe: Katie Machol

Ice cubes, as needed
6-8 mint leaves (plus more for garnish)
1 ounce Kentucky bourbon (I used Old Bardstown)
1 ounce Reposado tequila (I used Familia Camarena)
1/2 lime, juiced (or 1/2 ounce)
1/2 grapefruit, juiced (or 2 ounces)
1/2 bottle (12 ounces) ginger beer (like The Ginger People or Reed’s), or as needed
Lime wedge

Bruise the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker with a muddler or spoon then fill with ice. Add bourbon, tequila and citrus juices to container and give it a good few shakes. Fill a tall glass with ice, strain liquids into the glass and top with ginger beer. Stir gently, then garnish with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge and serve.

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