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Clash of the drinking holidays

Gear up for Cinco de Derby

(Tribune File photo )
May 02, 2012|By RedEye Staff

There's been a string of perfect-storm holidays this year: a SaturdayNew Year's Eve, followed by a balmy Saturday St. Pat's.

This weekend is no different—Saturday is shaping up to be a showdown of drinking holiday heavyweights. In one corner, Cinco de Mayo: Origin aside (go ahead and Google it if you're still confusing it with Mexican Independence Day), this celebration of all things south of the border has been co-opted by Americans knocking back Corona and queso. In the opposite corner, the Kentucky Derby: Once an excuse for Southern ladies to wear big hats, now everyone seems to be learning to mix a traditional mint julep. Which holiday has a better chance of drawing crowds this weekend? We break down the brewing battle.

Superior cocktail: mint julep or margarita?

Pro-julep: What's a margarita? A 24-ounce salt-rimmed acid bomb served in a hurricane glass at Chili's.

The mint julep? A glorious silver chalice filled with bourbon, simple syrup, mint and a load of ice that you sip from a metallic straw, all while deciding what horse deserves a chunk of your kids' college fund at the racetrack.

Sweet, sweet mint juleps: Making the margarita-drinking masses jealous since 1875. –Mick Swasko

Pro-marg: This weekend, I'll be toasting Cinco with a 'rita instead of watching the Derby with a mint julep in hand.

It's not that I don't like bourbon—it's my faithful sidekick on most nights out—but when it's in a mint julep, something about it just tastes wrong,like I'm drinking some kind of mojito gone wrong.

That mound of crushed ice piled on top is messy, not to mention that the traditional metal cup threatens to freeze your fingers off. With a margarita, you can't beat the taste bud-tingling balance of zingy citrus in a salt-rimmed glass. And so I say … olé! –Lisa Arnett


Better entertainment: The Derby or Cinco de Mayo?

Derby: Let's get this straight: Bars serving discounted beers with Spanish names do not equal entertainment.

However, with a few bucks and a little luck, the Derby can be the best 2 minutes of your sports year (provided you stick to legal wagering outfits, of course). Or even if you don't bet a dime, you can't help but get swept up in everyone else's emotions as the ponies sprint for home. So pick a horse, throw back a few mint juleps (as opposed to watered-down margaritas) and say it with me: "Go, baby, go!" –Chris Sosa

vs.

Cinco de Mayo: The Kentucky Derby is what would happen if really bad sex and Nascar had a child.

You dress up, drink a ton and then you wait and wait for the actual thrill ... which lasts all of 15 seconds. Cinco de Mayo is the best of the "booze holidays." Why? Mexican food = amazing. Mariachi bands > Dixieland trio. Also, unless you're actually at Churchill Downs, who cares? Save that big hat noise for your granny, we're all about that sombrero life over here. –Ernest Wilkins


The debate rages on...

The food

Cinco: It's gonna be a free-chips-and-salsa bonanza at many spots this weekend. Even bars that normally focus on standard American fare will be serving up Mexican-inspired dishes—think plenty of guacamole, tacos, tortas and more.

Derby: To soak up all that bourbon, why not add more booze? Derby pie features a mix of pecans, chocolate chips and bourbon. No sweet tooth? Try a southern dip such as Benedictine spread (cream cheese and cucumbers) or pimento cheese (blend of cheddar cheese, mayo, pimentos and spices).

The wardrobe

Derby: Your spring church best (complete with elaborate sun hats for the ladies) is what's traditionally seen at the racetrack, but unless there's a prize for best outfit at a bar party, it's unlikely that you'll see many folks around here dressing up.

Cinco: If you're seeing a lot of frat dudes in sombreros, you're probably in the wrong place.

The parties

Cinco:

Cinco de Mayo Festival

26th & Kostner in Little Village

Head to this annual weekend-long fest celebrating the holiday's true origin: commemorating the Mexican defeating the French during the Battle of Puebla. It runs from 6-11 p.m Friday as well as 2-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and features live music and plenty of traditional food.

Cantina Laredo

508 N. State St. 312-955-0014

This River North restaurant plans to party from 11 a.m. through midnight with live music, salsa dance instructors and a margarita made with five different tequilas for $5.

Derby:

The Southern

1840 W. North Ave. 773-342-1840)

This Wicker Park bar serves mint juleps made with Woodford Reserve bourbon for $10, along with $3 Tecate bottles and shots of Heaven Hill bourbon and prizes for the best-dressed race-watchers. The main event is from 3-6 p.m., but you'll need to grab a general admission ticket ($5 and going fast) online at thesouthern.ticketleap.com.

Derby

1224 W. Webster Ave. 773-248-0900

Go all out at the most derby-centric bar in the city. The party starts at 2 p.m. with a $75 package that includes mint juleps, beer, vodka drinks, mimosas, bloody marys and a lunch buffet, plus giveaways and a contest for best hat.

Combo:

The Anthem

1725 W. Division St. 773-697-4804

Can't bear to choose? Head to this sports bar's "Derby Sanchez" party, where both mint juleps and margaritas will be on hand for $8. You can down $4 Kentucky hot brown sliders or opt for a bucket of Tecate bottles, accompanied by free house-made Doritos. Specials run all day. –Emily Van Zandt


You make the call!

Which drinking holiday do you favor, Cinco de Mayo or Kentucky Derby? Vote in the poll to the left!


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