Americans tend to observe Cinco de Mayo rather aggressively, tossing back tequila shots and downing margaritas with overzealous enthusiasm. But in Mexico, the holiday is a non-entity at best. We were curious what native Mexican chefs—with popular restaurants in New York—had to say about said holiday traditions, so we enlisted a panel of seasoned experts to weigh in.
Danny Mena, Hecho en Dumbo
Julian Medina, Toloache, Yerba Buena, Coppelia
Dario Wolos, Tacombi, Cafe El Presidente
Tequila on Cinco de Mayo: Do or don’t?
Julian Medina: Tequila is a must. We serve a Cinco de Mayo Spicy Shot made with Herradura Blanco, honey, mandarin juice and habanero salsa.
Danny Mena: Tequila was more of last year’s liquor of choice. Mezcal has had skyrocketed in Mexico and really is the spirit of the moment in there. I love it personally and think it has so much more character and nuance than tequila. Plus, it makes a killer margarita.
Dario Wolos: We prefer Mezcal straight up.
The best thing someone could bring to a Cinco de Mayo party is…
DW: More Mezcal.
DM: A nice bottle of Mezcal and a few veladoras for yourself and a few friends. A veladora is a small shot-sized glass for sipping.
What was the holiday like for you growing up?
JM: It’s not a big a celebration like it is in the States, but we always ate chiles rellenos to celebrate. It’s one of my father’s favorite dishes, and he would wake up early in the morning to prepare them for our family. They bring back memories of family time and food was at the center of it.
What’s the most memorable dish from your childhood?
DW: Tacos de Tuetano. Bone marrow tacos in a flour tortilla with homemade salsa cruda.
What would your ultimate Cinco de Mayo celebration consist of?
DM: A good meal with friends and family. It’s not really a holiday that’s celebrated much in Mexico, but we celebrate it at Hecho en Dumbo because it gives us a great audience to educate about contemporary Mexico and the real meaning of Cinco de Mayo.
JM: Having dinner prepared by Diana Kennedy, in Oaxaca, Mexico, at the Palenque of Pierde Almas, with all my family and friends. Wonderful food and great company is all that I could ask for!
DW: Probably on top of the Mexican volcano Popocatépetl, overlooking the city of Puebla where the “Battle of the 5th of May” took place. It would be cool to have a bunch of people dressed up in wrestling attire symbolizing the French Army and the Mexican Army, but instead make it a giant outdoor Mexican Wrestling Match. A whole crowd of people cheering them on to with Mariachis playing ’70s pop songs, Las Vegas style—champagne and tequila for everyone. Mexico vs. France. That would be perfect.
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