By Tommy Werner
Updated May 02, 2014
Credit: © Tina Rupp

First thing’s first: Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican day of independence. It recognizes a symbolic but not game-changing ‪battle ‪during the Franco-Mexican War, and is mostly celebrated with pitchers of watery margs and piles of stale chips at bars throughout the US.

As we’ve all heard, a nationwide shortage has led to limes as small as Ping-Pong balls and prices higher than Cardón cacti, so this is a great time to try drinking something new for the holiday. ‪Here, six fun Cinco de Mayo spots across the country and their best Mexican cocktail ideas, from strawberry-basil (and tequila) wine-tails to simple and smoky mezcal-and-Cokes.

They're celebrating all weekend at Copita. The May 4 special at this modern Mexican spot is a Hot Lips margarita with chile árbol tincture, lemon juice, Cointreau and blanco tequila. They recommend it with spicy duck carnitas tacos.

On Monday, this new multitasking restaurant (cafe/juice bar/tortilla factory) ‪will invite guests to dress up as soldiers from the French or the Mexican armies and drinks lots of grapefruit-based Palomas and mezcal–heavy Smoked Cokes.

‪La Belleza margarita at this vegan and organic Mexican restaurant blends rosé wine, Highland Tequila Blanco and a strawberry-basil shrub (tangy, concentrated mixers)

Chef Jason McClure came up with the fizzy Kombucharita, which he calls his “Country-Farm-Blue-Ribbon-Winner:” Mango-ginger kombucha, shaken with lemon juice, Cointreau and tequila, served up in a lowball rocks glass. (If trying this at home, keep in mind that kombucha can be explosive, so keep paper towels handy.)

‪Chef Josef Centeno and general manager Genevieve Hardison collaborated on the Juan Collins, a smoky send-up of the Tom Collins using mezcal, lemon, soda and agave.

Stephen Starr’s modern Mexican cantinas serve mezcal martinis, with Dolin Blanc vermouth and Fidencio Unico mezcal. The recipe uses grapefruit bitters for citrusy punch.