No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day and, apparently, more popular here than in Mexico. And ever since some ex-patriot Mexicans living in California decided to turn it into a holiday to celebrate the French getting their asses kicked by the Mexicans in the Battle of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo has become (for better or worse) synonymous with consuming copious quantities of beer, tequila, and Mexican food…all in the name of embracing Mexican culture. So, with that in mind, I’d like to suggest a few movies to watch while you’re raising a glass (or three) in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. While they aren’t all cinematic gems per se, just be glad Gary Marshall hasn’t decided to put his spin on Cinco de Mayo…yet.
Yeah, I know this is quintessential Hollywood popcorn fare with two of the lead characters played by a couple of Welsh. But it does feature Antonio Banderas in all his sexiness as the entertaining, swashbuckling Zorro. Need I say more.
This indie shoot ’em up thriller put director Robert Rodriguez on the map and is the first in a trilogy of films featuring the badass El Mariachi. If you’ve got enough libations, watch Desperado (1995) and Once Upon A Time in Mexico (2003), both featuring the muy caliente Senior Banderas and Salma Hayek.
This gorgeous example of magic realism is one of my all-time favorite food films. Based on the award-winning novel by Laura Esquivel (another one of my favorite books), it’s a beautiful love story that will leave you crying for chocolate.
This engaging coming of age tale about two teenage boys (Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna) embarking on a cross-country road trip with an sexy older woman (Maribel Verdú) takes a smart, funny, insightful, and honest look at sexuality and human desire. Alfonso Cuaròn’s artful, seamless direction elevates the raunchy teen farce to something for more meaningful.
Okay, this last movie is really just for the shits and giggles–our guilty pleasure so to speak. It’s silly and fun…and is in no way an authentic representation of Mexican culture–sort of like the way Taco Bell interprets Mexican food. I mean come on, it stars Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short as The Three Amigos (hey, I did warn you not all my suggestions were cinematic gems). However, if you’re looking for a screwball comedy to go with your beer and nachos, this one’s for you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a few recipes in honor of this most festive of “drinking holidays.” I’ve come up with two cocktails, both tequila-based, and a ridiculously easy dessert that you can make in the microwave–just set your DVD player on pause for two minutes!
Key Lime Pie Margarita
- 4 oz. Tequila Reposado
- 1 oz. Tripe Sec or Orange Liqueur
- 3 oz. Lime Syrup*
- 2 oz. Key Lime Juice
- 4 oz. Sweetened Condensed “Cookie” Milk**
- 2 Graham Crackers or Digestive Biscuits, crushed
- lime slices and fresh mint for garnish
*To make the lime syrup, combine 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar and the zest and juice of 2 limes in a small pot and bring to a boil. Strain and cool the syrup before using.
**To make the “cookie” milk, warm up 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk and 3 Tbsp. whole milk in the microwave. Add 2 crushed graham crackers or digestive biscuits and let the crumbs soak in the warmed mixture for about 10 mins, then strain out. Chill until ready to use.
Moisten the rim of two martini glasses with lime, then dip the rims into the crushed cracker crumbs. Pour the tequila, triple sec, lime syrup, lime juice and cookie milk into a cocktail shaker with 3-4 ice cubes and shake to blend. Strain the chilled liquid into the prepared glasses and garnish with lime slice and mint sprig.
Spiced Mexican Chocolate Martini
- 4 oz. Tequila Reposado
- 2 oz. Creme de Cacao
- 1 oz. Triple Sec or Orange Liqueur
- 2 oz. Chocolate Syrup
- 2 oz. Guajillo Chili Syrup
- 2 oz. Half & Half
- 3-4 dashes Aztec Chocolate Bitters
- ground cinnamon and fresh mint for garnish
*To make the guajillo chili syrup, combine 1 cup water, 2/3 cup sugar, 3-4 dried guajillo chili peppers (seeds and stem removed) in a small pot and simmer for about 10 mins. Strain out the peppers and reserve them for later use. Transfer the syrup into a clean glass jar and add a small cinnamon stick. Cool syrup completely before using. Puree the reserved peppers and strain out the skin. Use chili paste to add a sweet spice to any chocolate dessert.
Pour the tequila, creme de cacao, triple sec, chocolate syrup, chili syrup, half & half, and bitters into a cocktail shaker with 3-4 ice cubes and shake to blend. Strain the chilled liquor into two chilled martini glasses, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and garnish with a fresh mint sprig.
Hot Mexican Chocolate Cake in a Mug
Makes One Large Mug or 2 Smaller Mugs
- 3 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
- 3 Tbsp. Sugar
- 1 tsp. Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
- pinch of Sea or Kosher Salt
- 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- 1 Egg
- 3 Tbsp. Whole Milk
- 3 Tbsp. Oil
- 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 Tbsp. Sweet Guajillo Chili Paste*
- 2 Tbsp. Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Whisk together the dry ingredients just to combine, then whisk in everything except the chocolate chips. Stir in the chocolate chips at the end. Transfer the mixture into one large microwave-safe mug, lightly greased with non-stick spray (or two smaller mugs). Microwave on high for about 90 seconds. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.