Day of the Dead Cocktails

Let’s get one thing clear up front: the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is not Halloween.

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.

A Brief History of the Day of the Dead

Mexican Day of the Dead Altar

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.

Wait. If this is a religious festival, why am I drinking?

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.

Raise a Glass and Remember

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.

1. Blood Orange Margarita


Blood Orange Margarita

  • 1 1/2 oz. tequila (not sure what kind? Check out this article to find out.)
  • 3/4 oz. blood orange puree
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz. fresh orange juice
  • Kosher salt for rim (optional)


  1. Rub a cut lime around the outer edge of a glass and roll the edge in the salt to coat (optional).
  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine all the ingredients with ice.
  3. Shake until cold.
  4. Pour into salt-rimmed glass.


2. Pomegranate Margarita

Pomegranate Margarita


  • 4 oz. reposado tequila
  • 4 oz. pomegranate juice
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. agave nectar
  • Kosher salt


  1. Rub a cut lime around the outer edge of two glasses and roll the edge in the salt to coat (optional).
  2. Pour all ingredients into a shaker over ice.
  3. Shake until cold.
  4. Fill glasses with ice.
  5. Strain contents of shaker over the ice and serve.


3. Blackberry Vodka Sangria

This is an easy sipper with a bite. Lime, vodka, and ginger beer come together to make a fizzy and tangy cocktail.

Blackberry Vodka Sangria


  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 bottle sweet red wine
  • 1/2 cup blackberry vodka
  • orange slices, lime slices, and/or fresh blackberries


  1. Place 1 cup blackberries, water, and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 10-15 minutes or until blackberries are very soft.
  2. Strain liquid several times and discard the fruit. Pour into pitcher.
  3. To the pitcher, add wine and blackberry vodka. Stir to combine.
  4. Add orange slices, lime slices, and blackberries as desired.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (but 12 hours is optimal).
  6. Pour over ice and garnish with additional fruit. Serve cold.


4. Rest Thy Spirit

Rest Thy Spirit - Cocktail with Blueberry juice


  • 1 ½ oz. blueberry juice
  • ¼ oz. Demerara syrup
  • 5 dashes lavender bitters
  • 1 dash Fee’s lemon bitters
  • 3 oz. sparkling wine


  1. Pour all ingredients except sparkling wine into a shaker.
  2. Shake contents until cold.
  3. Strain into a coupe glass and top with sparkling wine.
  4. Garnish with blackberries and dried lavender.


5. Mexican Zombie

Mexican Zombie Cockltail


  • 2 oz. Tequila
  • ½ oz. Mezcal
  • ½ oz. Velvet Falernum
  • ½ oz. passion fruit juice
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • 4 dashes Absinthe


  1. Add ingredients to a shaker over ice.
  2. Shake contents until cold.
  3. Strain into glass over crushed ice.
  4. Add a lime wheel and cinnamon stick for garnish.

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.