Cinco De Mayo is right around the corner. And you can be certain that American drinkers are thirsting for endless amounts of margaritas. The semi-sweet arrangement is already the most popular tequila cocktail in the US regardless of the date. But every 5th day of May, it accounts for an estimated 47% of all mixed drink sales in bars and restaurants across the country. That’s insane! It’s also a phenomenon you won’t ever observe in the eponymous birthplace of the spirit.
Travel to the actual town of Tequila, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and you’ll hardly hear anyone even mentioning margaritas. Unless, of course, they’re trying to attract the tourists. As for the locals, they prefer to cool down with a Batanga. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a drink as easy to prepare as it is refreshing—essentially a salt-rimmed Cuba Libre with tequila subbing in for rum. It’s also a cocktail that eschews mysticism and mythology for a clear and concise origin story.
The Batanga was born in La Capilla, just two blocks south of the central square. Its easy to miss with its modest facade, but make no mistake: this is a world class watering hole, and among the oldest continuously operated bars in town. Back in 1961, its original owner Don Javier Delgado Corona conceived the cocktail as a way to express the native spirit in a manner that was at once elementary and effervescent. It earned him celebrity status throughout Jalisco, and he would continue serving the concoction until right before his death in early 2020 at the age of 95.
Don Javier’s memory lives on, however. Not just through his loving family, operating the bar in his absence, but in each and every sip of the Batanga. His nephew, Aaron Mercado Aguas shares some thoughts below, followed by the only way to properly prepare this modern classic.
“I have been in La Capilla my whole life because I would always visit my uncle and help him with some of the tasks, so I’ve always known about the Batanga. On a busy night we serve as many as 2500 Batanga Cocktails. It is by far the most popular drink at La Capilla. They do make Batangas in other bars but we are most well known in the town since the drink was created by my uncle here.
“[In our preparation] we only use El Tequileño Blanco. My uncle originally chose that brand because he loved the taste so much. It’s a great tequila and very popular here in the town of Tequila. We have always used El Tequileño Blanco, and we know the Salles family very well.
“My uncle showed me the trick to making the perfect Batanga. First you must rim the glass with salt, then add freshly squeezed lime juice, then fill with lots of cubed ice and a large measure of [blanco tequila]. Then we top it with cola and we always stir it with the same knife that we use to cut the limes.”
Official recipe of The Batanga from La Capilla, in Tequila, Mexico:
- 2 oz El Tequileño Blanco
- 1 whole freshly squeezed lime
- Mexican cola
- Glass: Highball
- Garnish: Lime wedge
- Method: Build over ice in a salt rimmed highball glass. Top with Mexican cola and stir with a knife to honor the drink’s creator, Don Javier of the world-famous La Capilla Cantina.
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