Yes, it may resemble Halloween in some ways – costumes, association with spirits and death, eating sweets. But it is not about getting candy and scaring people.
The Day of the Dead is a little deeper than that. (If you are looking for Halloween cocktails, look here.)
While Halloween confronts the fear of what goes bump in the night with jokes and candy, the Day of the Dead takes a more mature approach. For Latinx cultures, this holiday is about the celebration of loved ones who have died, and honoring ones who came before with food (and, yes, drink).
Looking to trade in the cauldron of sugar for a more distilled experience? We’ve got you covered with the five best cocktails to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
Think back. Way back.
The Day of the Dead has been around in some form since the beginning of recorded history. In fact, for over 3,000 years the ancient Aztecs and other South and Central American indigenous peoples celebrated similar religious festivals annually. These eventually evolved into the contemporary Mexican celebration we know and love.
After Spanish colonization, it was associated with Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. October 31 - November 2 became the three-day period in which families came together and remembered their ancestors. This act keeps loved ones alive, even when they have passed away.
What does that look like?
It varies between cultures and countries. However, common Day of the Dead traditions focus on honoring the deceased by decorating their graves. People also set up “altars” to them in homes and cemeteries. These altars are not meant for worship. Rather, they serve as a place where friends and family can place gifts or offerings to their dead ancestors.
Many times, especially in Mexico, people leave flowers, specifically marigold flowers known as cempazúchitl. They also leave the family member’s favorite foods and beverages, or anything else that they loved during life.
It is a celebration in which the living participate as well. They give gifts to living friends, share meals, and tell stories to remember the deceased.
Often the Day of the Dead is thought of as a time of mourning and sadness. This could not be further from the truth. The Day of the Dead is a joyful celebration, not a time of mourning.
And what do people do when they celebrate? They drink.
Actually, Mezcal plays a hugely important role in most Day of the Dead celebrations. Remember, Mezcal and Tequila are two different spirits. Mezcal is completely intertwined with Central and South American culture. Celebrating the Day of the Dead without it would be considered rude – not only to the living, but to the dead.
Bottles of the dead’s favorite alcohol, be it tequila or beer, are gifted on altars or in front of burial sites. And the alcohol favored by the dead is used to toast their memory. For many, drinking is a gesture of remembrance. It honors the ancestors, which is the point of the festival.
Want to remember those you’ve loved and lost this Day of the Dead? Here are five of the best Day of the Dead cocktails to get you in the spirit.
This is an easy sipper with a bite. Lime, vodka, and ginger beer come together to make a fizzy and tangy cocktail.
There you go--all the drinks you need to celebrate the Day of the Dead right. Kick back, raise your glass, and remember to celebrate your beloved, both living and dead.
What other traditions do you observe for the Day of the Dead? Leave us a comment below.