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Entertaining
7 Best Cocktails to Celebrate Día de los Muertos

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La Día de los Muertos, or “the Day of the Dead,” is not a Mexican version of Halloween, as its so often misunderstood by the rest of the world. It’s a time for families and friends to come together to honor loved ones who have passed and help the deceased in their spiritual journey by presenting offerings of food, sweets and, best of all, alcohol. Far from somber, this holiday is all about celebrating the dead through colorful festivities, delicious food and a whole lot of mezcal and tequila. If you’re unable to make it south of the border to see the rituals performed in person, do the next best thing by celebrating with these festive Día de los Muertos-inspired cocktails instead.

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Despite being a fall favorite stateside in sweets like pumpkin pie, pumpkin is actually a year-round staple in Mexican cuisine, eaten in savory dishes like pumpkin seed mole. During Día de los Muertos, pumpkins are frequently used as offerings, or ofrendas, on the altars. This cocktail from Johnny Swet, owner of JIMMY at the James in NYC, pays tribute to that Mexican tradition by mixing rich pumpkin butter with smoky mezcal, lime and cinnamon syrup, for a more savory, less saccharine take on a pumpkin spice beverage.

The Essentials

Mezcal
Pumpkin Butter
Cinnamon Syrup
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While Día de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico, particularly in the central and southern regions, the heart of the festivities takes place in Oaxaca. Pay tribute to the Mexican state that gives us the majority of our mezcal with the Oaxacan Lemonade. Invented by Allison Evanow, creator of Square One Basil Vodka, this cocktail combines the herbal vodka with mezcal, lemon, agave and cilantro for a drink that’s sour, smoky and refreshing.

The Essentials

Vodka
Mezcal
Lemon Juice
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Contrary to common perception among Americans, the most popular drink in Mexico is not the Margarita, but the Paloma: a thirst-quenching classic made with tequila, grapefruit soda and lime. In this juicier variation, grapefruit soda is joined by fresh grapefruit juice, grapefruit beer and grapefruit oleo saccharum, for a triple dose of the bright pink, tangy fruit.

The Essentials

Fresh Grapefruit Juice
Grapefruit Syrup
Grapefruit Beer
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The only way to make creamy horchata more delicious is by adding booze to it. This cocktail from mezcal company Gem & Bolt spikes a homemade horchata with mezcal that’s uniquely distilled with damiana, an ancient Mexican herb often used as an aphrodisiac and a holistic antidepressant. Fresh lime, demerara syrup and pineapple give the drink a tropical edge, while a splash of China-China adds bitter citrusy notes that highlight the herbal flavors of the mezcal.

The Essentials

Gem & Bolt
Almond Horchata
China-China Amer
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Bright orange, vegetal carrots are found in countless dishes in Mexican cuisine, and this spicy, savory cocktail from Flinders Lane in NYC would pair with just about all of them. Chili-infused tequila, Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile liqueur and mezcal make up a potent boozy base, while fresh carrot juice and cardamom syrup give it an earthy, rich depth. The vibrant orange hue is also reminiscent of the eye-catching marigolds found throughout Mexico during Día de los Muertos.

The Essentials

chili-infused tequila
Mezcal
carrot juice
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This cocktail is so neon pink that you’d think it was artificially colored, but the shocking hue comes naturally from prickly pear, a dessert fruit grown in Mexico and the American Southwest that thrives during the fall season. Stones Throw in Houston serves the El Guapo with prickly pear syrup, reposado tequila, lime and ginger beer. It’s tart, zesty and as beautiful as the brightly colored flowers and altars found during Día de los Muertos.

The Essentials

Tequila
Pear Syrup
Ginger beer
Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Corn is one of the most common ingredients found throughout Día de los Muertos festivities, whether it’s in tortillas, elote or native drinks like atole. This tiki cocktail tastes exactly like sweet corn in the best way, thanks to cornsilk-infused coconut milk. Aged rum, banana liqueur and nutmeg make it taste like a sweet dessert, like the traditional Day of the Dead treats of sugar skulls and pan de muerto.

The Essentials

rum
coconut milk
banana liqueur

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