Cinco de Mayo is a very fun holiday, and though it may not be an official day of celebration on the civic calendar, it is celebrated with great vigor across California. Of course, there's more to it than just getting totally blitzed on tequila, as Bill Esparza points out: The day has historical and cultural significance. With that in mind, here are six Cinco de Mayo celebrations that are more thoughtful than average. No “Mexican Firing Squad” drink specials here.
The legendary downtown dive bar La Cita will be celebrating the Mexican state of Jalisco this Friday — mostly by offering drinks made with Cazadores, which is made there. Still, it's a lovely thought, reminding United Statesians that Mexico isn't a cultural monolith. In addition to being the purported birthplace of tequila, Jalisco is known for its mariachi music. Accordingly, this will be a music-heavy event, with bands and DJs. (And a photo booth.)
Over on the deep Westside, Santa Monica's Copa d'Oro will offer specials in celebration of the day. Seven-dollar margaritas and Palomas are the specials — and if you haven't had a Paloma, you simply must, both because it's a delicious drink and because it's more popular in Mexico than margaritas. Try something new! The bar will also offer tacos for your al pastor needs.
Salazar, one of the hottest restaurants to make the scene in the past year, has good food and an even better patio. Well, the entire restaurant is a patio, and it's so charming you can barely even tell it's practically atop a freeway. There's always a happy hour crowd here, so plan accordingly — but definitely get one of the aguas frescas the bar is mixing up. A spiked one, of course. Probably the passion fruit variety.
Starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, Manuela will host a Cinco de Mayo party both inside the restaurant and out on the charming patio. This is a ticketed party, $35 a pop, which includes food and a cocktail. There will be live music — and there's definitely space for dancing among the picnic tables.
Big Bar is whipping up a huge batch of what the staff is calling the “Largest Margarita in Los Feliz (or, la magarita mas grande en Los Feliz)” as a punch for Cinco de Mayo. It will contain mezcal instead of tequila. In fact, the bar is really doing a deep dive into mezcal; it will also offer a mezcal and sangrita special, a shot of mezcal and a chaser of sangrita, a spicy fruit juice.
Downtown’s Las Perlas — which calls itself the nation’s first mezcal bar — will celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a day of festivities starting at noon. That's an earlier start than normal, the better to get the office workers in for a leisurely lunch. Eating tacos, drinking beer and listening to live music … no better way to celebrate your freedom.