Jose Cuervo and I go way back, we may have met at a Cinco de Mayo party. Jose and I have had our ups and we’ve had our downs. We had a major breakup that caused me to stop associating with him for a while. But, in the end we slowly worked our way back to getting along. I was introduced to Jose in college and really it was our mutual friend Rita that brought us together. Therefore, I have held many parties in honor of her.
In all seriousness, when I was in college, and of legal drinking age, my drink of choice was a margarita. (Ok, so that hasn’t changed since college) Oh how my friends and I loved to go to Rio Bravo during our college years in Nashville. We loved Rio’s chips, salsa, margaritas, and the steak quesadillas! So when Rio shut down their parking lot on May 5 for Cinco de Mayo we were there to listen to the music, have some food and, of course, drink some margaritas!
I thought this was fabulous! Some of my friends weren’t old enough to go to this event so I would do a little pre party at my apartment. I had a pan, flour tortillas, chicken meat and all the fixings for quesadillas and I cooked up everyone’s order. In other words, I turned into a short order cook. It was so much fun! Then, when it got later in the day, those of us who could, would head over to Rio for the party.
The Party Wasn’t Over!
Once I graduated and moved back to IL I no longer had that same type of hangout to celebrate and I decided to host my own Cinco de Mayo fiestas. I quickly remembered how different the weather could be on May 5 in IL vs. May 5 in Nashville! I tried hosting a Cinco de Mayo party the first weekend of May, but year after year we were either rained on or were freezing and the party had to be moved inside. I then decided to start hosting a Margarita Party later in May. We had better results and I wasn’t competing with the KY Derby! (Many times we drank Margaritas as we watched the horses run!)
Even though I moved my annual party from May 5 to later in the month the theme, music, food and drinks all remained the same. I also came to learn that Cinco de Mayo wasn’t a big celebration in Mexico. Here in the states give us a reason to eat Mexican food, shoot tequila (Jose and I never got back to being that close after our breakup) drink Mexican beer and margaritas of every flavor and we hop on board and celebrate!
My Cinco de Mayo parties were full of lots of food, drinks galore and lots and lots of colors! Let me get you started so you too can have a Cinco de Mayo party at your house in early May or turn it into a Margarita Party you can host any time of the year!
Cinco de Mayo Party Invitation
For a Cinco de Mayo party or a Margarita Party, the theme is already built in, which makes it easy to create an invite. I often used Evite for my invitation for my Cinco parties. It was easy to create the invitation since Evite has so many themes. Then I would write up my invitation and put it through a translation website to rewrite it in Spanish. Of course I would put the English translation below. But years later, when I was talking with a friend from Spain who was invited to the party, he told me that the translation was a complete mess! Oh well, I tried. After that, I have left the invitation in English only.
Ask for Help
When you create the invite, you can ask people to bring something to share, either food, a bottle of tequila, or some beer. Here is a lesson I learned early on since I wasn’t clear the first year, tell them YOU will provide the chips. Otherwise, 90% of the guests will arrive with a big bag of tortilla chips. Now, I do LOVE nachos but when having a party you only need a few bags of chips. If you don’t want 10 bags of chips in your house AFTER the guests leave, be the one who buys the chips or delegate it to only 1-2 specific guests. Be clear on this and be more specific about what people can bring to share.
If you’re not sure what to have guests bring, think about what you want to serve at the party but maybe what you don’t have time to make it or buy and put that on your request list. Some of my friends make amazing guacamole. I have never even tried to make guacamole, therefore, when they offer to bring a big bowl of guac I gladly say “Yes please!” I am not going to experiment making my own guacamole for this party. If your friends are going to drink margaritas all day long, and they offer to bring tequila, say “YES, thank you!!” This is going to save you some money. You should have tequila on hand too, but any additional bottles are great! And the day of the party when someone calls last minute and asks what they should bring, suggest ice. You’re going to need it!
Cinco de Mayo Party Menu
Menu planning may be difficult, if you are anything like me, and love pretty much every kind of Mexican food! There are so many delicious foods to choose from, how do you narrow it down? Here are a few suggestions to help you start brainstorming ideas:
- Choose a dish you are already good at making
- Make a dish that will feed a crowd
- Decide on a dish that can be cooked in a Crock-Pot
- Make-Ahead dishes help ease the stress on the day of the party
- Consider creating a taco bar so guests can prepare their own food
I loved making quesadillas for my sorority sisters at those celebrations in college, but it was a smaller group and we were all in one room hanging out. You don’t want to be stuck being a short order cook at your party when you have to entertain, keep an eye on the bar and refill the chips and salsa bowls.
These days, I make dishes that can stay warm in a crockpot and people can serve themselves at any time. Unless I’m doing a sit down dinner or bbq I usually structure my party menu this way. It makes it much easier for me to have things made before the party begins. And the guests can eat whenever they are hungry.
Nachos – I seriously love nachos. We had them last night for dinner. I think I could live off of nachos if given the opportunity and they weren’t so unhealthy!
Shredded Salsa Crockpot Chicken – this recipe can’t get much easier and it feeds a crowd. Check it out. You can also make it with Verde sauce to change up the flavor. This is a great meat for nachos, quesadillas or tacos.
Taco Stew – I have served this many times at my parties. People love it and it is so versatile. I have put bowls next to it and people top it with taco toppings and I have put it over nacho chips.
Taco meat – this is a super easy dish you can make the day before your party. We used to feed a large church crowd with taco meat. Cook up ground beef and use your favorite taco seasoning packet for each pound of meat you are cooking. Then, to give it more bulk, add in a can or two of black beans. This helps it go further and gives it great flavor. I’ll cook it the day before then reheat it and serve it in a crockpot. You can set the taco meat out with chips and taco shells. Set up your taco toppings next to it and people can build their own nachos or tacos.
Best Taco Toppings
- Shredded lettuce – (you can buy it already shredded in a bag – timesaver!)
- *Chopped tomatoes
- *Chopped onions
- Sliced black olives (canned)
- Sliced jalapeño peppers (can or jar)
- Salsa (jar)
- Pico de Gallo (the deli counter at our grocery store make this and it’s awesome)
- Sour cream
- *Shredded cheese
- Liquid nacho cheese
*You can prepare all of these items the day before your party. If you are not buying shredded cheese, you can shred the cheese a day or 2 before the party.
Since I don’t want the full containers of all these refrigerated items sitting out during the whole party, I put the food into bowls so that once it has been depleted or has been sitting out too long I get a new bowl and put out fresh ingredients. You don’t ever want warm sour cream or warm shredded cheese.
These toppings will make any taco bar a success.
It’s a Cinco de Mayo party, people are going to expect margaritas. You have to be ready! So, if you don’t like to make margaritas from scratch, you’ll need to find a mix that you like and can serve to your guests.
I know many people love frozen margaritas, so you’ll need to decide if you are going to offer those. After a couple of years of trying to keep everyone’s glass full with frozen margaritas and listening to the blender nonstop, I decided not to offer frozen margaritas at my parties. I’ve noticed people who drink frozen are usually drinking fruit flavored margaritas. This is based on my group of friends, and may not be true of your friends. If you’re looking for fruity margaritas you can find them in premixed bottles and you just need to refrigerate and pour. There are many on the market now.
If you want to offer frozen drinks you may want to consider buying a smoothie maker that will allow you to make a big batch and it has a spout for guests to be able to pour their own refill.
For my regular, on the rocks drinkers, I always fill up my Jose Cuervo margarita ball. I found this years ago in our grocery store and bought one. It was such a hit and so helpful to keep everyone’s drinks full, I bought a second one the following year. It is a time saver! I can’t seem to find a place to purchase more these days, so I recommend purchasing a beverage dispenser. You can pour your premixed margarita into this, fill it with reusable plastic ice cubes (don’t water down your guests drinks with ice cubes in the dispenser) and serve. Guests can help themselves easily to refills.
Another option is the Beer Rita. I was drinking Beer Ritas LOOOOOONG before it was a thing at restaurants to have a Corona tilted in your margarita glass. I was introduced to the Beer Rita many many years ago and absolutely loved it. And I don’t drink beer. This is a great recipe. My friends loved it so much I couldn’t keep the pitchers full!! I also couldn’t get away from the kitchen to mingle because I kept having to make more. After my first year making these, I taught all my guests how to make them so if they saw an empty pitcher they just threw it together and filled up their glass. After a couple years of making these, people started to bring the ingredients to the party because they knew how fast these drinks were gone.
Pick your favorite Mexican beer and have it in the fridge or cooler. Your guests can easily help themselves. If you don’t drink beer, like me, pick up what you know your friends will like to drink. At this time of year, you’re going to see many types of Mexican beer on sale.
This isn’t your typical drink at a Cinco de Mayo party, but it has gone over well for me. Since some of my friends are the fruity margarita drinkers and I don’t offer frozen margaritas anymore I offerer sangria. I like to use a fruit wine, add in more fruit, then top it off with a Mexican lemon lime soda. I have also used other citrus flavored Mexican soda. You can usually find these in the Hispanic food aisle at the grocery store.
Set the Mood for your Cinco de Mayo Party
Decorating for Cinco de Mayo is a lot of fun. You just need lots of colors throughout your party. I start to incorporate colors with my serving pieces and dinnerware. For example.
- Table cloth – aqua blue (I use plastic for this party)
- Small paper plates – orange
- Large paper plates – red
- Drink size paper napkins – yellow
- Dinner size paper napkins – green
- Forks (plastic) – blue
- Spoons (plastic) – yellow
- Knives (plastic) purple
That alone give the table a lot of color. And as people walk around with their food there is eye popping color everywhere.
Then I add a few extra touches for more decor. Over the years, I have bought items that I pack up each year and continue to use year after year. I like to recycle my decorations. I don’t always add something new, but when I find something that will be great for my party I do buy it. In my Cinco de Mayo containers I have the following items:
- Leftover unused paper plates and plasticware. (If I don’t use it all up one year, I seal it in a plastic bag then store it for a future use. In the future I usually buy a different color so that there is even more of a mix of colors on the table.)
- 2 sombreros – I got these for free when I celebrated my birthday at a Mexican restaurant. You can easily buy them too.
- 2 Jose Cuervo margaritas balls
- An Aztec style blanket – I lay this over the couch some years and other years I have used it to cover the bar or a small table
- A piñata that has never been filled with candy. He is just decoration
- Plastic shot glasses
- Cactus margarita glasses
- Colorful serving platters (I’ve picked these up over the years from party stores and dollar stores)
We have all been to a Mexican restaurant with a Mariachi band playing at every table. While this feels very authentic at a restaurant, it doesn’t work well at a house. Well, at least not at my house. If you can have a band playing in your backyard more power to you! For the rest of us, find a station on your radio or whatever music streaming program you use and select the most upbeat Mexican music.
These simple ideas will make your party more festive and it won’t break your bank. You want to spend your party budget on food and drinks. You want people to remember it was a festive party with a lot of great food and drink. Not it was a well decorated party with fun music but we didn’t have much to eat or drink. Believe me, these little touches of color and music just makes your party pop!
It’s time to put your invitation together and invite your guests over for your Cinco de Mayo or Margarita party! You ARE ready to host your fiesta! You have menu ideas and drink options. I have also provided you with some easy and cheap decorating and music ideas that will pull the whole party together and make it more festive. Fill your plate and glass and enjoy!
Be sure to check out my Party Cleaning 101 post to get your house ready quickly for your guests.