The history behind Cinco de Mayo tends to be forgotten in a flurry of margaritas and mariachi music. Raise a glass to the holiday’s French connection with cocktails at five très chic Chicago hangouts.
May 5 commemorates the Mexican Army's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, a win that temporarily derailed French attempts at invasion. These days, the holiday has evolved into a broad celebration of Mexican culture. But it's not a festive occasion for everyone. Here's a barhopping itinerary for the ghosts of the 17th-century Frenchmen who lost and whoever wants to go drinking with them.
Maude's Liquor Bar
| West Town
The cocktail list at this West Town bar is divided into four sections: shaken, stirred, sparkling, and smashed. Take a sip of the Mezcal Corpse Reviver
—a mixture of Del Maguey Vida mescal, lillet, lemon, and absinthe.
Bavette's Bar & Boeuf
| Near North Side
There's plenty of scotch, bourbon, and whiskey behind the bar at this French-themed steak house, but no tequila—unless you slip the bartender a sombrero filled with all your piñata winnings. Get patriotic with the French 75 cocktail
—a simple marriage of Martin Miller's gin and lemon.
Brood on France’s defeat while nursing the gloomily named Nevermore
, a libation that contains Journeyman Ravenswood rye; Bittermens Hiver Amer, a bitter orange cinnamon liqueur; brown-sugar simple syrup; orange; and cinnamon-brandied cherries.
Here, French flavors meet with those of another south-of-the-border nation. The France Brasil cocktail
combines sparkling wine, lemon juice, and triple sec with Cachaça 51, a Brazilian cane-juice spirit.
| Lincoln Square
If you're wavering between celebration for Mexico and sorrow for France, or if you’re just hungry, hit up French-Mexican restaurant Dorado for fusion dishes, such as crabmeat-encrusted Atlantic salmon with chipotle peppers and citrus beurre blanc. The establishment is BYOB, so bring two bottles—one of champagne, one of tequila—and pair your meal with alternating swigs.