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What is more authentically Mexican than a margarita? Well, as it turns out, a lot of things!
You’d be forgiven for going to Mexico and expecting to see nothing but margaritas and daiquiris. Mexican chain restaurants in North America would have us believe that a vacation to Mexico would have us tripping over these alcoholic concoctions at every turn.
However, the margarita might not even be Mexican!
There is a lot of debate about where the first margarita originated, and most theories put its place of origin somewhere along the US-Mexico border, some in Mexico and some in Texas or California.
So while a margarita might, in fact, be the perfect way to celebrate the hybrid holiday that is Cinco de Mayo, if you want more authentic Mexican drinks or if you are visiting Mexico, check out one of these!
Like Bloody Mary’s with a beer chaser? You’d probably like micheladas. An ice-cold lager beer with some extra spice, it’s the “day drink” of choice for many Mexicans. There are many different variations, but they usually include lime juice, salt, and some kind of hot sauce or chiles. In some places tomato juice or chamoy is added. A gomichela is a michelada with gummy bears on top!
The mangonada (or chamoyada or chamango, depending on where you are) is popular with both kids and adults. Fresh mango is blended with ice and then covered with chamoy sauce that is spicy, sweet, and sour. The spice will burn your tongue and the frozen mango will cool it down. You may need to work on your spice tolerance before enjoying this one, but it’s a great summer treat! To make it yourself, order the chamoy sauce and candy tamarind sticks here
Mezcal is the umbrella term for any spirit from the agave plant. Tequila, for example, is a mezcal, so it’s not surprising that mezcal is the national spirit of Mexico. Mezcal, unlike tequila, is usually made by roasting agave hearts in an in-ground pit, which gives the mezcal its signature smoky flavor. There are many places in central Mexico were you can see palenqueros in action making this traditional spirit and taste it afterwards. In the U.S., Mezcal can be found in most full-service liquor stores, as it has become more popular in the last few years.
If mezcal is Mexico’s national spirit, the paloma can be considered Mexico’s quintessential cocktail. A cocktail-quality paloma includes fresh grapefruit juice and lime juice with tequila or mezcal. If you have fresh grapefruit you can try this recipe. If not, you can do what Mexican college students do: mix mezcal with a grapefruit soda like Squirt. It makes a refreshing drink for hot weather! When I was traveling in Mexico, this is what our guide brought us to enjoy when we were relaxing on a boat in Xochimilco and we definitely weren’t the only ones drinking it!
Once seen as a type of farmer’s moonshine, pulque has recently become trendy. What was once the drink of Aztec nobles is being celebrated by Mexicans as a way to get back to their roots, as hip pulquerías are springing up all over Mexico City.
This milky, sweet drink is made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant. Pulque is best drunk fresh, so it’s almost impossible to find outside of central Mexico, but that is all the more reason for you to try it when you’re in Mexico!
Mexican hot chocolate
Mexican-style hot chocolate involves a bit more work than your typical hot chocolate. Milk is heated with a solid chocolate tablet and a special tool called a molinillo is used to mash and whisk the chocolate. You hold the handle and roll it between your palms to turn the molinillo and make a very frothy hot chocolate. Special types of chocolate with cinnamon or chiles are often used to spice up the flavor. Get the ingredientes to make this at home below!
Atole and Champurrado
Atole is traditionally made with a brown sugar cone called a panela, cinnamon, milk, water, and toasted corn flour (masa) all heated and melted together. The masa makes for a thick, almost porridge-like consistency. It is usually served hot but can also be drunk cold.
Champurrado is very similar but adds chocolate. There is some discrepancy about what is considered chocolate atole and what is considered champurrado, depending on the type of flour used, but what is certain is that both will warm you up on a cold winter’s night!
Horchata is a sweet rice milk made with cinnamon. Rice is soaked in water and then strained before adding cinnamon, vanilla and sugar. It is served cold on ice and is a refreshing summer drink. Here is a typical recipe to try at home. Or, if you want an alcoholic version, you can do a dirty horchata that has coffee and dark rum or Kahlúa.
Read more about Mexican food with this post about eating insects in Oaxaca.
What other drinks have you had in Mexico? Leave me a comment and let me know what else to add!