If your Zoom happy hours have gotten bit predictable these days, one way you can spice things up — perhaps literally — is by ditching your usual adult beverage du jour in favor of some classic Latin cocktails. And with Latinx Heritage Month winding down this week, you have even more reason to celebrate the community's rich culture and history with the flavorful punch of some signature drinks — or even a modern riff on them.
There are a plethora of reasons to sharpen your mixologist skills and expand your cocktail repertoire, including saving some cash, giving yourself an alternative to bars if social distancing, and add another tool to your hosting arsenal (there is arguably no better "party trick" than making a truly great drink). That said, if you've skipped over the treasure trove of options found in Mexican, Brazilian, Peruvian, and other Latin cultures, you might be doing yourself a disservice.
Of course, some Latin cocktails are already super familiar (looking at you, margaritas) but there are plenty of others that may not yet be on your radar. And according to top mixologists, even a lack of bartending experience shouldn't stop you from trying them — especially considering the fact that a couple classics only necessitate two ingredients. However, if you're already a drink-slinging pro, there are ways to switch up the standard recipe (like swapping in smoky mezcal for tequila) so you can still try something new without losing the Latin flair. Ahead, find six boozy beverages to try for Latinx Heritage Month and beyond, including ways to make them even more festive.
Latin Cocktail: Paloma
Love a good margarita but want to try a new tequila-spiked beverage instead? A classic Paloma is an easy swap. And if you want to make a quintessential version, follow the advice of Código 1530's head mixologist Collin DeLaval, who whips his up with 2 ounces fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, 2 ounces tequila blanco, 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, and 2 ounces club soda.
Already mastered the Paloma? Over at Tuscon's Westbound, the Silverbell makes for a perfect update, with a mix of one part mezcal to three parts blanco tequila and the addition of Cappelletti liqueur, lime juice, and ginger beer. "[The Silverbell] has the familiar Paloma flavor profile, and the mezcal and ginger beer really kick it up a notch," says beverage director Pat Butler. "Best enjoyed on a porch during a lazy afternoon!"
Latin Cocktail: Pisco Sour
To Lynnette Marrero, Co-Founder of female bartending competition Speed-Rack and Bar Director for Brooklyn's Llama Inn, it doesn't get much better — or more Latin — than the Peruvian Pisco Sour. Admittedly a more complex cocktail, the beverage experts explains that this one is all about the technique. "You want a nice frothy head and then kind of a silky body," she says. "I find using a blender or hand blender with a little bit of ice works best, but I also like to use 'gum' syrup, which you can buy that adds to the texture."
To create a classic version, Marrero gathers 2 ounces Pisco, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce Gumbo syrup (equal parts sugar cane syrup and gum syrup), 1/2 ounce egg white, and Angostura bitters as ingredients. Minus the bitters, she adds all of these to a mixing tin without ice and shakes until very frothy. Once you've achieved the desired foaminess, add ice and shake again until chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a dash of bitters.
As for a modernized version, Marrero looks to Nikkei influence. To create the La Tortuga, she adds matcha syrup, coconut liqueur, and white rum to the Pisco Sour's standard ingredient list.
Latin Cocktail: Caipirinha
If you love mojitos, this Brazilian staple will be familiar enough to your palette, but also introduce you to some new flavors. Made with the spirit Cachaça, which is derived from sugar cane, this stiff drink starts with plenty of fresh lime wedges muddled with sugar. You can top with crushed ice and then pour on the booze, or make a passionfruit-spiked version courtesy of Williams Sonoma by scooping in some of the tropical fruit's flesh, too.
Latin Cocktail: Cuba Libre
Technically a Cuba Libre is the Cuban version of rum and coke, but Marrero explains that the addition of a few subtle ingredients can make it so much more interesting. "The way to make this the best is by amplifying the 'cola'," she says. "I like to add grated nutmeg, lime juice, and lemongrass syrup." As for the booze, the mixologist opts for an aged or spiced rum to add even more nuance, and says that a splash of Amaro wouldn't hurt either.
Latin Cocktail: Michelada
There are about a million versions of this beer-and-tomato-juice based beverage (much like the Bloody Mary), but to make an authentically Mexican-style one (as featured in Bon Appétit), you'll need chilled Clamato, Mexican beer, lime juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Maggi seasoning. And no Michelada would be complete without rimming your glass with a mix of chili powder and salt.
Latin Cocktail: Margarita
Already got the basic margarita recipe memorized? Next time you make the cocktail, give it a little twist by adding in cucumber and mint flavors, like DeLaval does. Start by muddling the two new ingredients, then adding 2 ounces tequila, 1 ounce triple sec, 1/2 ounce agave nectar, and 1/2 ounce lime juice to a shaker filled with ice. Once thoroughly shaken, pour into a a salt-rimmed glass and enjoy.