Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching and while everyone else may be thinking tacos and churros, I’m over here thinking about the salty, sour, and tart perfection of the Classic Margarita. As many of us gear up to celebrate, we often find ourselves focusing on the food and not the drinks. And it’s hard to fault that game plan, as the food is the star. This year however, I wanted to change things up and focus on the drinks for once. Because let’s face it, what’s a good party without a good cocktail? But then again, why settle for just one. While I love a classic lime margarita, I also love the versatility of it. There are so many variations on that drink it can make your head spin. But how to pull off multiple different flavors and combinations and still stay on theme?
Easy…enter the Margarita Bar.
Behind every tasty and delicious margarita is good tequila and fresh ingredients. Like I said before, there are a TON of different flavor combinations that you can make, some of the ones that I came up with are featured in the pictures throughout this post. I went with 5, but you if you go with just 3 flavors you’re still headed in the directions of an amazing Cinco de Mayo party!
Here’s the low-down on how to make a margarita bar for Cinco de Mayo:
This is where you’re getting the sweetness in the drink from, especially in drinks that are highly acidic (like a classical margarita), and the simple syrup helps balance the sweet and tart/sour flavors. To make simple syrup you just need equal parts water and granulated sugar. Place in a pot on medium heat and simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool before using.
Whatever flavor combinations you decide on, this part is key to making a tasty margarita. If you’re just using juices and herbs you’re all set to throw everything in your shaker, shake, strain into a glass over ice and enjoy. If you’re using fruit, like the Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita then you can muddle the strawberries, jalapeno and mint together or blend everything into a puree like I did. This will give you a slightly thicker margarita, but nevertheless delicious.
This to me, is what makes a margarita a margarita. I prefer to use silver tequila in my drinks, especially for a classic margarita or the Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita so I get the drink color I’m looking for.
Is your drink still really tart from all the lime juice? Grand Marnier will help cut that too with some add sweetness. Triple sec or any other orange liquor will work, so go with your preference. Not all margaritas call for it, so it’s really up to you if you want to include it in your drink, but I’d really suggest making the trip to the liquor store if you don’t have it on hand as it can make a world of difference in the outcome of your cocktail.
Once all your ingredients are a go, it’s time to figure what you are going to serve. You can premix a large batch or have all the ingredients ready to guest can make their own drinks. Whichever direction you decide to go in, here’s a list of some of the essentials you’ll need on your Margarita Bar.
Pitches/Wine Carafes/Drink Dispensers:
Whether you’re going with large batches or single serve, you’re going to need a few of these for the beverage table. Premix large batches with all the liquid ingredients (the Lemon Basil Margarita is perfect for this) and serve in a large drink dispenser for guests to pour their own. If you want your bar a little more interactive, use full or half carafes to fill with different juice flavors for guest to choice from.
Give everyone a change to be a bartender for a night! If you’re doing a serve yourself bar, litter your beverage bar with drink shakers for guest to use. Have one on hand just in case if you’re premixing, you never know if you might need it and it’s good to have on hand.
Ice Bucket & Scoops:
These are a must have. Even if you decide to go with drink dispensers, don’t risk pre-icing your drinks and watering that flavor down. Have ice available for guest to add to their cup before pouring themselves a drink. If you’re going for a self-serve make your own drink kind of bar than you can’t pull that off without a lot of ice. Not only do party goers need it for their drinks, but for the drink shakers as well. Be sure to have a bag of ice on hand just in case your ice dispenser can’t keep up too, you’ll thank me later.
You are going to need lots and lots of glasses! If you’re anything like me, than I doubt that you have a secret stash for tons of margarita glasses lying around. No worries though, I used all kinds of different glasses. I think it adds to the charm of a Margarita Bar, plus you don’t have to dish out any money to buy all new glasses just for the party. Pilsner and rocks glass, as well as some mason jars worked perfectly for me!
Little Plates/Shallow Rimmed Bowls:
You can not have a margarita without salt. Okay, you actually can. But you definitely can’t ditch the salt when hosting a Margarita Bar so little plates or shallow rimmed bowls are perfect for this. You can use ones that go with your theme colors or just stick with white like I did. Be sure to have one out for each margarita flavor you are going with or just a couple if you’re sticking with just one salt for all the flavors (kosher salt worked for me, but you can buy margarita salt too). The salt that you’re rimming your glass with is just another area where you get to impart different flavorings and put a spin on your margaritas to kick them up a notch (like the cayenne salt for the Mango Orange Margarita), so get creative if you want.
You’re going to want bowls of various sizes. This is perfect for garnishes if your serving out of drink dispensers and a must have to serve lime wedges needed to rim your glass with before dipping into the salt. If you’re going with a make your own bar, then little bowls are just right for all the herbs and various fruits you might be using.
Festive straws that match your theme are a great thing to have on the bar, as well as plenty of cocktail napkins. Little chalkboard signs are a great way to label the different drinks if your serving out of drink dispensers. If you can nab some larger chalkboard signs, write out the recipe for the single serving drinks that are available so party goers can make their own.
Once you have all the essentials gathered, it’s only a matter of displaying the bar in a way that is uniquely you. Keep it casual in the kitchen or set up a whole beverage bar station that is sure to be a talking point. Whatever you do, when throwing a Margarita Bar, have fun…and enjoy!