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5 Spring Break-Inspired Cocktails That Are The Next Best Thing To Being In Mexico

You don’t have to take your top off on South Padre Island to find that spring break feeling again. Here are five bartender-recommended cocktails paying homage to the mid-term academia tradition of fleeing to Mexico. Vive le youth.

Kevin Burke, Beverage Director, Colt & Gray and Ste. Ellie

Denver, CO

His favorite spring break or Mexico memory: “Recently, I’ve had lovely experiences getting lost in the corners of Guadalajara, drinking beers and tequila with the locals getting by on what could be best described as ‘pidgin Spanish.’”

The wildest thing he’s seen a patron do: “Doctors have patient confidentiality, priests maintain the sanctity of a confessional, bartenders don’t kiss and tell. I like to think that I have seen people as their best selves, and occasionally at their worst and it’s always a privilege to be both a host and confidant.”

His ideal location for imbibing this cocktail: “The beauty of these recipes is that they lend themselves toward whipping up a batch of them, throwing them on ice and heading down to the pool on a Sunday afternoon with friends.”

Pennies from Heaven

Photo by Erin James

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 1 ½ ounces tequila
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce pamplemousse liqueur
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar, to taste
  • 1-2 ounce of dry sparkling wine
  • Garnish: ½ salted rim, grapefruit chunk

Method: In a mixing tin combine tequila, lime, pamplemousse liqueur, sugar if necessary. Add ice and shake briskly for 15 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and gently float 1-2 ounce of sparkling wine on the drink.

Mattie Beason, Owner, Black Twig Cider House & Mattie B’s Public House

Durham, NC

His favorite spring break or Mexico memory: “I’m going to be boring on this one and say when I was 8, my parents took me to Isla Mujeres and told me I was going to have twin sisters. A magical trip with some of the best news I have ever gotten. I wasn’t drinking but I’m sure my dad was!”

The wildest thing he’s seen a patron do: “Put a pitcher of margarita in a porron [a Spanish wine pitcher with a spout] and then attempt to consume it.”

His ideal location for imbibing this cocktail: “Anywhere with sand and saltwater.”

Sean Penn

Photo by Erin James

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 1 ½ ounces blanco tequila
  • ¾ ounce Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce lime juice
  • 1 ¼ ounces Blake’s Hard Cider El Chavo, or another pepper-infused cider
  • Garnish: lime strip

Method: Mix all but the cider and shake. Strain and serve in a wine glass. Garnish with lime swathe. Top with the El Chavo.

David Shenaut, Bar Manager, Raven & Rose

Portland, OR

His favorite spring break or Mexico memory: “Oaxaca is my favorite city in Mexico. The market there is absolutely amazing; visit shops and taste through mezcals, chocolates, chilies and fresh cheeses. This is a place to stay all day, just eating and drinking all of the foreign fare.”

The wildest thing he’s seen a patron do: “I once saw a young man snort salt and squeeze lime into his eye as part of a new ritual around drinking tequila. Stupid.”

His ideal location for imbibing this cocktail: “This is a Pacific Northwest rainy day sipper that should inspire you to book a trip to sunny Mexico so you can wear something besides a hoody. At first sip, you are forced remember to take your time and enjoy your surroundings and not to be in a hurry.”

Caroline’s Fancy

Photo by Raven & Rose PDX

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces reposado tequila
  • ½ ounce dry curaçao
  • ¼ ounce demerara syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
  • 2 dashes Scrappy’s Bitters cardamom bitters
  • Garnish: large orange peel

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice then pour over fresh ice, one big cube is best here to slow things down. Garnish with a big peel of orange.

Casey Robison, Spirits Director, Heavy Restaurant Group

Seattle, WA

His favorite spring break or Mexico memory: “In 2014, my wife and I got married in Oaxaca [and] the night before, we held our welcome reception at a restaurant in downtown Oaxaca called Los Danzantes. After the reception, my wife and I, with 40 of our friends, went up to the rooftop bar… We ordered four cases of beer and four bottles of Mezcal to share. We stayed up until almost 5 a.m., and it was an amazing scene, watching a bunch of restaurant workers, lawyers, bankers and business people all party down until the sun came up.”

The wildest thing he’s seen a patron do: “After 14 years of bartending, I’ve seen a bit. Twenty person brawls, dancing on the bar top, projectile vomit. About 10-years-ago, I was asked to tend bar at a private residence. It turned out that I was tending bar at a swinger’s party. That was… eye-opening, to say the least.”

His ideal location for imbibing this cocktail: “The ideal place to drink this cocktail will, of course, be at our new taqueria in [Seattle] opening this summer! Other than that, go to Mexico and order a Paloma.”

The Modern Paloma

Photo by Casey Robison

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 1 ½ ounces blanco tequila
  • ½ ounce Campari
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2-3 ounces Jarritos guava soda
  • Garish: lime wedge

Method: Add ingredients in a shaker tin, shake and strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass. Fill with Jarritos guava soda. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Still want more? Bartender Beth Herron of Rosebud American Kitchen + Bar in Somerville, Massachusetts, offers up this simple sipper to transport you to sunnier times.

La Casa Azul

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces grilled pineapple syrup
  • ½ ounce Genepy des Alpes
  • ½ ounce citric acid syrup
  • Garnish: large orange peel

Stir ingredients with ice, strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a large orange peel.


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