Brandon Reynolds Ristaino mixes up a drink behind the bar at Del Monte Speakeasy. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Cinco de Mayo is, like its brethren St. Patrick's Day, a day originally meant to celebrate another country's history. But then America turned it into an amateur-hour drinking holiday.
Ah well, at least this historical revisionism comes with a side of tequila cocktails. Here are a few of the best Southland bar specials, live shows and culinary feasts to celebrate the occasion — whether it's the actual Mexican army's defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla, or your purchase of a new frozen-drink mixer.
Cinco, 7241 W. Manchester Ave., L.A. http://www.cincola.com.
It's an auspicious holiday for the new upscale cantina, which opened a month ago but has been ramping up ever since. The owners had their hands in Copa D'Oro and Michael's, so you know the barbacoa platter will be long-simmered and the gardenia cocktail (Honey Jimador, grapefruit, blackberry, lime and cucumber) will ease you into summer.
Hyperion Public, 2538 Hyperion Ave., L.A. http://www.hyperionpublic.com.
The tiny and easy-to-drive-past Silver Lake tavern goes big with cheap margarita and shot combos, but the Chiles en Nogada special (poblano chiles with beef drizzled in walnut cream and pomegranate sauce) sounds even better.
Del Monte Speakeasy, 52 Windward Ave., Venice. http://www.townhousevenice.com.
Venice's best neo-jazz spot keeps the proceedings classy with tequila and mezcal flights, and horchata, jamaica and agua fresca highballs to complement a full day of live music. If you want to get started early (the party begins at noon), it'll have homemade Bloody Marias with mescal or tequila.
Casa Vega, 13301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. http://www.casavega.com.
If only we too could spend a day drinking tequila in the ambient company of George Clooney. The heartthrob's tequila imprint Casamigos (with old friends Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman) has teamed up with this venerable, six-decades-old Valley haunt for classic Mexican fare and Clooney-endorsed cocktails and margaritas.
Border Grill, various locations. http://www.bordergrill.com.
The bustling downtown outpost of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's restaurant turns even more populist with $5 beers, margaritas and a $25 all-you-can-eat small plates special. The Santa Monica location will rouse your palate with Peruvian ceviche tostada specials, then wallop it with $3 bartender's choice shots all weekend.
The Satellite, 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., L.A. http://www.thesatellitela.com.
The Silver Lake indie venue's festivities lean more toward psychedelic rock than the typical Cinco trappings. But "Cinco de Messo" — a lineup presented by local label Near Mess Records — has a fine bill of acts including Cotillion, the Dead Ships and the fast-rising spooky noise trio VUM. The music starts at 4 p.m. and comes with barbecue and a whole mess of drink specials.
Yxta, 601 S. Central Ave., L.A. http://www.yxta.net.
The adventurous and ambitious Mexican eatery has overcome its off-the-grid downtown location to become a local staple. It'll return the favor on Sunday with a full day of $6 taco and tamale specials and a roundup of beers and Partida tequila shots.