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Well Cinco de Mayo is actually not Mexican Independence Day. Did you think it was? Most people you ask believe so. It's celebrated primarily in the USA in truth. In Mexico it's actually a local holiday celebrated in the State of Puebla marking the defeat of the French by Mexico in a battle. What were the French doing in Mexico? Trying to get a real foothold that's what. Mexico had been financially bled dry by: 1) Fighting the USA from 1846-48 during which time the US took California and the southwest from Mexico. 2) the Mexican Civil War in 1858 and 3) The Reform War of 1860.

You'll note all these Mexican wars happened just prior to the USA's Civil War. Mexico owed Britain, Spain and France a lot of money after all this warring. All three countries sent their navy to Mexico to get their country's financial due. Britain and Spain negotiated and settled with Mexico, then went back home. France saw a golden opportunity. Their navy stayed and planned on taking Mexico in order for France to establish a French presence in Latin America.

The French landed their army of 8000 troops and were not having much resistance as they marched toward Mexico City until they encountered 4,500 Mexican troops in the State of Puebla. They were defeated which was considered nearly a miracle as France was considered to have the strongest army in the world at that time. This emboldened the Mexican Army, and after several more battles they got the French to leave. So you can see why folks mistake this as Mexico's Independence Day which is about gaining Independence from Spain and celebrated on September 16th.


Cinco de Mayo, however, was invented in the American southwest in Mexican-American areas to commemorate freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, which started just five years after Mexico's Civil War. So it was a celebration of the freedom blending that concept from both the Mexican and American Civil wars. Today, of course, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican heritage.

OK, that's what we say it's about, but we know its become just an excuse to party and get drunk. We aren't kidding ourselves here. It's become a holiday celebrating tequila and guacamole.  

Let's look at the calendar for holidays that are really about getting drunk. It all starts on Dec. 31st/Jan. 1st. There isn't another until March 17th. Then there is the floating one for Fat Tuesday. That one can move around by as much as five whole weeks per year! After that we have Cinco de Mayo, followed by Memorial Day. Then we have to wait until July 4th. Next up is Labor Day. Finally we have the triad of holidays you can drink booze at the end of October (31st), November (25th) and December (25th).

As you can see, Cinco de Mayo fits in a blank spot for booze-themed holidays. Plus its a favorite of college students due to the weather getting warmer and the fact it's between Spring Break and finals week. Partying too much on Memorial Day just doesn't cut it for serious students.

And that's the point of tonight's Kitchen Table Kibitzing. How to make a perfect margarita.

This isn't complicated. But you simply have to do it right. Do NOT use margarita mix. That stuff is made of battery acid I believe. It doesn't taste right and rots your gut and esophagus. You'll need pepto bismol for sure.

You need five ingredients to make the perfect margarita: tequila, triple sec, lime juice, sugar and water, plus some salt if you like that on the rim of the glass.

The worst thing in my opinion is mushing all ingredients into a blender. What you get is a margarita-tasting slushie. It will give you cold-head-cramps like you get if you eat ice cream too fast. It's just wrong for so many reasons. One of the main reasons is it's typically a way to really water down a margarita plus the flavor totally gets lost in all the slush.

The best margarita is over ice cubes in a tumbler. This is a sipping drink and for that reason it needs to be done right. The tequila you use should be a good one, not something like Cuervo which is made from cane sugar. You want real tequila made from agave. The way you know it's real tequila is it will have a NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) number on the bottle which proves it is an authentic and regulated tequila.

OK. You next need to decide on blanco vs. oro (clear vs. gold). Clear tequila is either 100% agave or close to it. Gold tequila is a mix of a minimum of 51% agave and 49% alcohol made from something else, typically cane sugar with the color coming from caramel. But this difference in color is just the starting point because cheap tequila is not aged and can be either white or gold for reasons I just explained.

Aged tequila is also either clear or gold and is either reposado or anejo which are distinctions in how long the tequila has been aged. Reposado is aged between 2-11 months in oak barrels. Anejo has been aged longer, at least a year, but not more than three years. Extra anejo has been aged for more than 3 years. As with most aged alcohols, the longer it's aged the better and smoother the taste. Reposado is just fine for margaritas.

There is also another difference between reposado and anejo. Reposado is aged in large oak barrels as large as 20,000 gallons. Anejo is aged in smaller oak barrels that can be no larger than 600 gallons. Also, typically anejo is aged in oak barrels that have previously been used for reposado or other alcohols. Old Jack Daniels whiskey barrels are said to be a popular choice. Interesting, no?

I'll tell you my favorite tequila right now for sipping straight. It's Don Julio gold. Some folks prefer Patron. In Mexico Don Julio is the most preferred. It's pricey, but not as pricey as Patron. I would not waste either of these making margaritas. El Presidente comes in third in popularity in Mexico. I'll admit I'm a tequila snob in that I only want tequilas that are made from 100% agave.

Once you've got your tequila, you need some triple sec. Snobs will tell you it must be Cointreau, which is a brand name. It actually doesn't have to be really expensive Cointreau, however you don't want some crappy fake flavored triple sec either. Any real triple sec will do. If you need to be really impressive for some reason, I suppose you'll need to pony up and get Cointreau.

You'll need lime juice. Fresh squeezed limes are the best way to go. There is a lime shortage right now so the price of limes is sky high, if you can find them. Buying pure bottled lime juice will do just fine for making margaritas, but only if you can't get fresh limes.

You'll also need to sweeten your margarita. The best way is to make a "syrup" of table sugar and water which is very simple to make. Just use 1 part water to 2 parts sugar.

Now you need to mix the ingredients in proper amounts. It's simple: 1 part triple sec; 1 part syrup; 2 parts lime juice and 3 parts tequila. Mix in a shaker if you have one. Fill a tumbler 2/3rds full of ice and pour your drink. It couldn't be simpler.

Do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate. Readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.

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