The only way to improve on a holiday that encourages a rainbow of primary colors, strong cocktails and Mexican food is to forgo the driving home part of the celebration. If you plan on staying in this Cinco de Mayo, invite some friends over and throw together some finger-friendly bites that are easily navigable by even the clumsiest party host.
Each of the five simple dish ideas below is paired with a nifty cocktail recipe from a top Houston bar. Sure, with a few of the city’s leading bartenders throwing in their two cents, it wouldn’t hurt to have a bar-tool arsenal at your disposal, but a missing muddler, strainer or premium tequila won’t put a damper on this laid-back fiesta. (I did, however, steer clear of traditional margaritas and micheladas.)
These recipes, like any good recipe, are flexible starting points. And since you’re not driving home, experimenting with ingredients and proportions is highly advised.
Albondiga tacos paired with Baby On a Plane
To make these Mexican meatballs more finger food-friendly, serve them in a taco. Combine lean ground with an egg, cumin powder, minced onion and chopped tomato, salt and pepper. Form into one-inch balls and cook in a pan with steamed rice and olive-oil-drizzled tomatoes. Wrap a few meatballs in a warm flour tortilla and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Baby On A Plane
Recipe by Capt. Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge owner Justin T. Burrow, this cocktail will be on the bar’s forthcoming menu.
2 oz Siete Leguas Reposado
1 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
.25 oz Maraschino Liqueur
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.
Sopes paired with the Post Requisite
Sopes look like gorditas, but instead of being stuffed with shredded meat, sopes are topped with ingredients so they look like a small pizza. Stir up shredded chicken or pork with a salsa of chipotle en adobo (you can buy this in cans or jars) blended with cumin powder-topped chopped tomatoes and onions. (To make your own chipotle mix you can take the more advanced route by buying chipotle peppers — which are just dried jalapeños — steam, skin and blend with tomatoes.)
Top fried, store-bought or homemade gorditas with the meat and serve with a jicama slaw made of julienned jicama, chopped red onion, cilantro and a drizzle of lime juice.
Recipe by Goro & Gun bar manager Alex Gregg, this drink is currently on the downtown restaurant’s menu.
1.5 oz Blanco Tequila
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Apricot Brandy
.25 oz Simple syrup
.25 oz Laphroaig
2 dashes Thai chili bitters (this is made at the bar- at home just muddle a couple slices of Thai chili or Serrano and use orange bitters)
Shake, strain into a rocks glass with cubes.
Flautas paired with El Sabio
Heat tortillas, fill with shredded chicken, roll up and fry. Let them rest with a toothpick keeping them in place. Remove toothpick and top with a salsa made of puréed avocados, onion, fresh jalapeños crema fresca (I like La Vaquita), cilantro and a pinch of salt.
Recipe by Lainey Collum, “steward of beer” at Hay Merchant.
1.5 oz Casa Noble Reposado
.75 oz Velvet Falernum
4 Sage leaves
1 oz Pineapple
2 Tablespoons simple syrup
.5 oz Lime
Dash of Bitters
Garnish with fresh Jicama and dash of cayenne
Seafood tostadas paired with the Bandido
Toast entire corn tortillas in your oven until crispy. Sautée shrimp or tilapia in olive oil, tomatoes, cumin powder and cayenne (paprika is a good alternative here), drizzle with lime juice and spread over the tostada. Top that with a handful of shredded romaine lettuce, chopped tomatoes, onion and crumbled queso fresco (again, I prefer La Vaquita).
Recipe by bar consultant Chris Frankel, this cocktail is featured on Cuchara’s current bar menu.
1 oz Hacienda de Chihuahua Blanco Sotol
1 oz Lemon Juice
.75 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice, and strain into a rocks glass. Add ice cubes.
Prepare chia seeds by adding 1 ounce of water per 1 ounce of chia seeds. Let the chia seeds soak in the water until they congeal into a gelatinous mass. Vigorously stir the spoonful of chia seed into the drink, breaking apart the mass of seeds as you stir.
Float .5 ounce of Pimm's #1 liqueur on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Mexican street corn paired with The Tepito
Remove husks from fresh corn (you can fold these down to make little handles), brush with melted butter, grill on all sides. Add lime juice to mayonnaise and brush a thick layer onto the warm corn. Roll the mayo-covered corn in queso fresco and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. You can add Sriracha to the mayo and use feta instead of queso fresco for a saltier, spicier version.
Recipe from Anvil’s upcoming Cinco de Mayo event.
1.25 oz. Sotol Blanco
.5 oz. Pierde Almas Puritita Verda
.5 oz. Suze
.25 oz. Tanqueray Malacca
1 barspoon simple syrup
Muddle coin with syrup; build and stir Old-Fashioned style. Serve in a rocks glass.
Last but not least, a fun dessert idea is fresas con crema. Whip heavy cream with a few drops of vanilla and a few tablespoons of condensed milk, to taste. Combine with strawberries macerated in brandy, rum or sherry.