PSA: You don’t have to confine your fiesta-themed fêtes to Cinco de Mayo. In fact, we think that a Mexican-inspired get-together is perfect for any summer day. Later sunsets and warmer evenings invite everyone to linger outdoors, while make-ahead-friendly meals put guests in a laid-back mindset. Go beyond guacamole and margaritas with themes that’ll take friends on a virtual trip to one of Mexico’s hottest regions.
Modern Mexico City
This cultural capital seems to be on everyone’s travel bucket list, and we can understand why: It’s brimming with vibrant colors and eclectic street food. Translate that CDMX style to your backyard for a lively party full of fresh sips and out-of-the-box bites.
Sip: Cue up beer-based cocktails like a Michelada Cubana. Top it off with a splash of lime juice, and tack on sauces like Maggi, Worcestershire, or Clamato for more flavor. We like the idea of setting them all out for a DIY drink station. Mix salt with Tajin (a lime-chile seasoning) to coat the rims of glasses, then invite people to finish as they wish. Or keep it simple with a cooler of Tecate and limes on the side.
Eat: Street food fits right in at casual parties. It’s traditionally eaten on the go, so skip a full-fledged table setting. Take your friends and family on a mini food tour with a mix of tamales as well as tlayudas, a flatbread-style dish with a crispy tortilla as the base and layers of refried beans, lettuce, avocado, cheese and salsa on top.
Decorate: Riff off of Frida Kahlo’s abode with pops of cobalt: The artist’s Mexico City home and studio is decked out in deep blue. Use papel picado (banners of paper flags that have intricate, geometric cutouts) to add ambiance overhead. When you pair them with string lights, they’ll cast cool shadows as the sun goes down.
Listen: Turn up tunes that feels more mod than mariachi.
Cobblestones and courtyards are just part of this state’s historical appeal; the region also has a prolific creative community. Decorate with organic materials and traditional Mexican textiles, and serve drinks that are simple to mix and easy to sip.
Sip: Oaxaca is the mecca of mezcal (a.k.a, tequila’s smokier, more nuanced sister). We love it because you can easily serve it with a few basic supplies. Set out fresh, tart juices like pineapple or grapefruit, and soda for splashing on top. Keep an eye out for artisanal mezcals—the latest are imported by family-run makers in the region. We like Yola, which is run by Yola Jimenez, the owner of a popular Mexico City mezcal bar called La Clandistina, and Lykke Li (who can do more than sing, we learned). Seasoned sippers will be into El Jolgorio, a brand that makes mezcal using terroir-driven agave. They mark each bottle with the details of the batch (and the label is so pretty you’ll want to keep the bottle post-party).
Eat: Mole hails from Oaxaca, where you can find it in a full menu’s worth of flavors. Offer guests options for a colorful display: the savory, semi-sweet one you know from your favorite Mexican restaurant comes in other colors and flavor profiles, like a lighter, brighter take featuring tomatillos. Slice up squash blossom quesadillas for not-so-basic finger food.
Decorate: The region is known for having one of the best traditional arts and crafts scenes in Mexico. Pull in embroidered textiles, woven baskets, and natural-hued ceramics to mimic Oaxacan style.
Listen: Think easy-listening music with soft Spanish vocals.
If Baja calls to mind a piña colada-fueled party in Cabo, it’s time to revisit. The region is now giving Napa a run for its money as an on-the-rise destination for vinophiles seeking out natural wines, probably because it’s just an afternoon drive away from Los Angeles. Conjure up your own coastal vineyard and add a few cool touches.
Sip: The main wine region is Valle de Guadelupe, where many young producers are using organic and natural growing practices to create unusual blends. Uncork a bottle from Bichi or Vinícola Torres Alegre y Familia; you can find something delicious for those who favor red or white.
Eat: The Baja peninsula has coasts on the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, so pair seafood with those crisp pours. Keep things casual with Baja-style fried fish tacos topped with cabbage and chipotle crema, ceviche or grilled octopus.
Decorate: Go for a feel that’s simple and beachy. Use neutral linens and hurricane candle holders for an easy, breezy table-setting. Then add unique glasses and plates or bunches of sunset-hued flowers.
Listen: Play dreamy surf jams that’ll take everyone to the coast of Mexico.
Run with one of our ideas, or just use these as a jumping-off point. Part of the fiesta-party fun is that you can pull one together even with the most elemental ingredients (start with a warm, sunny day, and you’re halfway there). We love the concept of using any trip as fresh inspiration for your next get-together, so snap pictures and jot down notes of what you hear, eat, and experience when you hit the road this summer.
“Fiesta Frame” by Cheree Berry. “Hora de Cóctel” by Paperless Post. “Summer Snack List” by Sugar Paper.
Now that you have fresh fiesta inspiration, it’s time to head to your local Mexican market and set the tone with the invitation. For another Mexican-inspired party try our take on a Chilaquiles brunch and for more summer party ideas check out our guide to pool parties that make a splash.