Nashville bartenders share Cinco de Mayo cocktails that aren't margaritas

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

Cinco de Mayo is, of course, on May 5. The day, which marks the anniversary of Mexico's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, is celebrated in Mexico with military parades. In the United States, however, people often use it as an excuse to drink margaritas. 

Margaritas are classic for a reason; a good margarita is about as satisfying as it gets. But if you'd like to take your cocktail game to the next level, here's a collection of some excellent alternative tequila- and mezcal-based drinks crafted by bartenders at a few great Nashville-area watering holes.

Many of the recipes call for demerara syrup. That's simply one part demerara sugar dissolved into one part hot water in a saucepan over low heat. 

Casa Robles

The Casa Robles is bitter, with a subtle sweetness.

On the lobby level of the JW Marriott, the Cumberland Bar offers craft cocktails, local and regional draft beer and a big tequila, bourbon and whiskey selection. The Casa Robles, developed by beverage director William Scyphers, features Casamigos Reposado, Giffard Créme de Banane, Amaro Montenegro, demerara syrup and fresh-squeezed lime juice. 

Ingredients

2 ounces Casamigos Reposado

1/2 ounce Crème De Banana

1/2 ounce Amaro Montenegro

1/2 ounce demerara syrup

3/4 ounce lime juice

Instructions

Add all ingredients into a Boston shaker, top with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a dried lime wheel.

The Smoky Mountain Sour is tart, smoky and sweet.

Smoky Mountain Sour

Scyphers is also behind the recipe for Smoky Mountain Sour, made with Vida Mezcal, cinnamon syrup, apple cider, fresh-squeezed lime juice and egg white for a smoky-tart drink with a silky mouthfeel. 

Ingredients

2 ounces Vida Mezcal

3/4 ounce lime juice

1 ounce apple cider

1 ounce cinnamon syrup

2 dashes cinnamon

1/2 ounce Egg Whites

Instructions

Add ingredients into a Boston shaker, add ice, shake vigorously. Strain over ice in rocks glass. Garnish with cinnamon.

This "rebellious" Old Fashioned is anything but old-fashioned.

“Rebellious” Old Fashioned

Craft cocktails, thoughtful design and killer views are a few of the hallmarks of Bourbon Sky Rooftop Bar, located on the 34th floor of the JW Marriott. Ryan Pendergast and the bar staff at Bourbon Sky have crafted a menu that juxtaposes traditional cocktails with “rebellious” counterparts, like this riff on an Old Fashioned featuring Codigo Reposado Tequila and cherry and chocolate bitters.  

Ingredients

1 ounce Codigo Reposado

1 ounce Vida Mezcal

1/2 ounce demerara syrup

1/4 ounce allspice dram

5 dashes cherry bitters

1/2 dash chocolate bitters

Instructions

Stir with ice, and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

Big Trouble in Little Tromba

Big Trouble in Little Tromba, as served at The Dutch.

Big Trouble in Little Tromba comes from The Dutch, Andrew Carmellini's modern American spot in Nashville. Made with ingredients like Tromba blanco, reposado tequila, pineapple, lime, house grenadine and Benedictine, this unexpected and unpretentious drink gets served in a painted skull with glowing ice at the bar. The recipe was developed by Reuben Santos, Head Bartender at The Dutch NYC.

Ingredients

1 1/4 ounce Tromba blanco tequila

1 1/4 ounce Tromba reposado tequila

1/4 ounce Benedictine

1 ounce Taylor's Velvet Falernum

1 ounce pineapple juice (if fresh is not available, we strongly recommend a good, shelf-stable brand such as Lakewood — try to avoid syrupy sweet juices with corn syrup)

1/2 ounce housemade grenadine (1:1 Pomegranate juice and sugar)

1/2 ounce lime juice

3 Amarena cherries (per cocktail)

Instructions

Build all ingredients in a shaker tin and shake briefly. Add crushed ice to your serving glass of choice.

Strain over crushed ice and top with more fresh crushed ice. Garnish with a skewer of brandied or Fabbri Amarena cherries, parasol drink umbrella and pineapple fronds if you happen to have some on hand.

A Day in the Sun gets finished with fresh cucumber, cucumber bitters and salt.

Day in the Sun

Located in the Historic L&C Tower, Deacon’s New South is a modern culinary concept with a Southern slant, offering a menu that nods to historic Nashville culinary traditions and the city's new epicurean influences.  

Salty, citrusy and refreshing, Day in the Sun is made with Patron Silver, lime, agave, fresh cucumber, cucumber bitters and salt, and created by beverage director Jenn McCarthy and lead bartender Austin Hamilton. 

Ingredients

2 ounces Patrón Silver

1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 ounce agave syrup

1/4 diced cucumber

A few heavy dashes of The Bitter Truth Cucumber Bitters

Instructions

Shake ingredients heavily with plenty of ice. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with a cucumber ribbon.

For a fun summer twist, add jalapeño or cilantro as you shake for a spicy or herbal summer libation.

Sour Señor 

The Sour Senor was created by Jordy Sadler, assistant general manager of Scout’s Pub in Franklin.

In Franklin, the neighborhood favorite Scout’s Pub recently unveiled a spring menu of punchy and refreshing cocktails, including the Sour Señor, a mix of tequila, lime, dry Curaçao, orgeat and egg white. Here's how to make it at home

Ingredients

1/12 ounce Dulce Vida Blanco

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce Dry Curacao

1/4 ounce Orgeat

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1 egg white

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin and dry shake (no ice) until you can tell the egg white is frothy. Add ice to the shaker and shake again to chill the cocktail. Fill a Collins glass with ice and strain the cocktail over the fresh ice.

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Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com