In theory, it’d be great to go all out with a Mexican dinner for Cinco de Mayo, with from-scratch short rib tacos, an assortment of homemade salsas and homemade cocktails. But let’s face it: Reality is a different beast. The week has probably somehow escaped most of us, there’s nothing in the kitchen that’s party-ready, and it feels like there’s no time to get everything in order.
If you think this means you have to give up hopes of enjoying a little Cinco de Mayo celebration, stop right there! We’ve got a super-easy last-minute plan laid out for you, and it’s specifically designed with eleventh-hour gatherings in mind—even when they happen midweek. Keep reading for snacks to serve, cocktail ideas and more.
What to Serve
Cinco de Mayo cocktails are a no-brainer: It isn’t the fifth of May without margaritas. If you decide make your own, keep things simple by following Tommy’s three-ingredient margarita recipe. You won’t be able to have just one, so be prepared to squeeze some serious lime juice. While a citrus press will make things significantly easier, don’t be afraid to recruit friends and guests to join in on the juicing.
Take an even faster track to margarita land by loading up on some of our favorite margarita mixes. For a perfect frozen margarita, all you need is a blender, a bowl of ice, your favorite tequila and a few festive margarita glasses (these are shatter-resistant, just in case you drink one too many). To keep the vibe relaxed, throw a few longneck Mexican beers on ice, too.
To soak up all that alcohol, you’re going to need some food. With friends on their way over, there’s no time to grill tomatoes and onions for from-scratch salsa de árbol, so you’re better off relying on a quick 4-ingredient salsa to kick your salsa making into high gear.
If you can track down fresh corn, toss together an easy Corn & Black Bean Salad (in a pinch, defrosted frozen corn will work, too, as long as you drain it). And, of course, there should be plenty of cool, creamy guacamole—which is best as fresh as possible, but thankfully incredibly speedy to make—to go around. Make it even faster with Gaby Dalkin’s Spicy Guacamole Starter (just add avocados!) and our avocado tools. You can even pull together your very own DIY guacamole bar in minutes by adding in some chopped mango, sun-dried tomatoes or roasted corn.
If you want to offer pals something sweet to nibble on, pass out pieces of stone-ground, Mexican-style chocolate.
How to Bring It All Together at the Last Minute
There’s not a lot of prep work involved—you should be able to pull this all together in an hour or so!—but it helps if you can duck out of the office at a reasonable hour.
- On your way back to the house, stop into your local store to pick up bottles of margarita mix, salsa and margarita glasses, if you want them.
- After that, run into the supermarket to collect other staples, like tortilla chips, ice, beer and avocados for the guacamole. If you have the budget, pick up an affordable bundle of flowers.
- Once you get home, throw the beers on ice in a festive pail or tub. Pop one open for yourself! Transfer the salsas into bowls, and put them out with chips. While you wait for people to arrive, prepare the Corn & Black Bean Salad.
- As friends start to trickle in, assign them to help you mash avocados (for guacamole) or help measure out margarita ingredients.
Decorate the tables with short votive candles and little jars filled with flowers, if you bought them. Pump up the party with a playlist that boasts some strong beats. And don’t forget to keep your phone nearby so you and your friends can snap a few photos!