3 festive cocktails and vegan Mexican recipes for Cinco de Mayo

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Don Julio and local Toronto chef Matthew Ravenscroft have the perfect plant-based bites to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo in ultimate style

Commemorating the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo celebrations in North America are typically observed with plenty of Mexican food, drinks, and in non-pandemic times, parades and parties. Although we’ll have to take a rain cheque on the latter, it’s still possible to ring in the day with good cheer and delicious flavours.

Whether you’re celebrating at home or safely with friends and family in a virtual gathering, count on Don Julio to liven up your fête.

A staple for tequila lovers worldwide, the best-selling brand is recognized by its distinctive short bottles which were originally designed by founder Don Julio Gonzalez so that the presence of the bottle on the table would not impede guests conversation at the dinner table. Don Julio’s exceptional tequilas only use fully matured blue agave grown in the richer soils of Atotonilco, on the highlands of Jalisco.

Employing their own all-natural yeast strain to ferment piñas (heart of the blue agave) that have been hand cut and steam cooked in traditional masonry ovens for three days, the double-distilled spirit has fresh flavours that are captured in Don Julio Blanco. Hinting of citrus with a slight peppery finish, the light, crisp spirit can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks with citrus zest or incorporated into cocktails.

Placing the same attention on the execution of flavours, Chef Matthew Ravenscroft coaxes the most out of the plant-based cuisine he serves. While transitioning into comfort classics for the time being, he digs into his repertoire to share a quartet of fun and tasty recipes that will be a grand slam hit for even the pickiest of palates.

With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, Don Julio and Ravenscroft have got you covered with these recipes to ring in a delicious plant-based fiesta!

citrus salad and don julio
Photo by Jim Norton

Dish: Citrus salad with Ontario pear, fennel, bitter greens + walnut vinaigrette 

Tequila pairing: Don Julio Blanco and Soda

Just in time for spring, this refreshing combo finds the fresh, crisp citrus profile of the palate awakening salad echoed in the simple, palate-whetting tequila soda. 

Citrus salad with Ontario pear, fennel, bitter greens + walnut vinaigrette 

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 clementine
  • 1 pear, semi-ripe, shaved
  • 1 cup shaved fennel
  • 1 head chicory, washed and chopped (frisée, radicchio or endive will do)
  • 1/2 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 5 leaves of mint, chopped
  • ¼ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • Walnut vinaigrette*

Preparation:

  1. Remove skin and pith from citrus fruits and clean so it’s just fleshy rounds of sunshine. Slice in ½-inch rounds and place in a medium sized mixing bowl with salt and some olive oil.
  2. In a bowl combine shaved fennel, mint, chicory & diced shallot with salt, walnut vinaigrette and any leftover citrus juice from your cutting board. 
  3. Spread oranges evenly across the plate. Add sliced pear on top of citrus and drizzle with left over citrus juices. Cover with crushed walnuts and place fennel salad in the centre of the plate, stacked high. Garnish with finishing salt and cracked black pepper and an extra splash of vinaigrette.

Walnut vinaigrette

Ingredients: 

  • 3 tbsp grainy or Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar (or similar)
  • ¼ cup sunflower or canola oil
  • ½ cup walnut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Add mustard and vinegar to your blender (you could also do this by hand) and blend with some salt and pepper (feel free to add any additional flavour bombs into this). 
  2. Combine both oil in a pitcher, bowl or measuring cup and set blender on to high with mustard and vinegar. Slowly stream in oil to emulsify vinaigrette until all the oil is added into the blender.
  3. Adjust seasoning to your preferences. If your vinaigrette breaks, don’t sweat it! Just shake it up right before you are ready to serve and try again next time.

Don Julio Blanco and Soda   

Ingredients: 

  • 1½ oz Don Julio Blanco tequila 
  • 7 oz soda water 
  • 2 lime wedges 

Preparation:

  1. Drop a lime wedge into the bottom of a glass and top with ice 
  2. Add Don Julio Blanco tequila 
  3. Top with soda and an additional lime wedge 
Buffalo cauliflower with nutritional yeast
Photo by Jim Norton

Dish: Buffalo cauliflower with nutritional yeast, dill cashew cream + giardiniera 

Tequila pairing: Don Julio Margarita

A fun and flavourful duo that nod to festive times spent sharing flavourful bar bites in the company of friends, on a patio or beach down south. Classic margarita is perfect any time of the day, but is an excellent match with buffalo cauliflower’s punchy heat. Here, the plate’s star gets a bright zingy lift from the pickled vegetables and body from unctuous cashew cream. Enjoy al fresco, but let’s be honest, the combo is a pick-me-up any season. 

Buffalo cauliflower with nutritional yeast, dill cashew cream + giardiniera 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of cauliflower, cut into large florets (thumb-sized)
  • 1 cup hot sauce of your choice
  • ¼ cup agave
  • 3 tbsp (vegan) butter
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup dill cashew cream*
  • 2 tbsp oil (sunflower, coconut, canola or grapeseed work well)

Preparation: 

  1. In a small pot, add hot sauce, agave, vegan butter and lemon zest, and bring to a gentle simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt to your preference and let simmer for 5 minutes, it should thicken in consistency.
  2. In a heavy skillet, heat oil and sear cauliflower (try not to crowd the pan) on high heat. Season with salt and toss until tender but with a bit of crunch. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Pour half the buffalo sauce over the cauliflower and toss in the pan until evenly coated and sticky. Remove from heat and add to a bowl with the remaining buffalo sauce. Stir together and adjust season to your preference.
  4. To plate, pile cauliflower on plate, and top with nutritional yeast. Add generous dollops of dill cashew cream, followed by crushed cashew, giardiniera and picked dill.

Dill cashew cream  

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp dill, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup cold water (as needed)

Preparation: 

  1. Blend cashews and lemon juice together on high, stream in water and blend on high until creamy consistency reached (you may need to blend longer than expected).
  2. Add in dill and blend quickly on high. Adjust seasoning accordingly.

Giardiniera + pickling liquid

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced (or less depending on spice level)
  • 1 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • ¼ tsp crushed peppercorn
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds 
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ cup salt

Pickling liquid

  • 1 cup vinegar (cider, white or wine)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt

Preparation: 

  1. Combine vegetables in a large metal bowl, add ¼ cup of salt over vegetables and pour cold water over just enough to cover them. Let sit in the fridge for 6 hours (overnight is better if possible). Rinse and drain vegetables.
  2. Add aromatics to container and add vegetables. Bring pickling liquid to a boil and pour directly over vegetables. Cool in fridge before sealing with lid.

Don Julio Tommy’s Margarita

Ingredients: 

  • 1½ oz Don Julio Blanco tequila
  • ¾ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz simple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 lime wedge 

Preparation: 

  1. Combine Don Julio Blanco, fresh lime juice, simple syrup or agave nectar into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. 
  3. Garnish with lime wedge.
roasted sweet potato dish
Photo by Jim Norton

Dish: Roasted sweet potato with charred Ontario corn, pickled pearl onions, pumpkin seeds + edamame puree 

Tequila pairing: Don Julio Paloma

Share-friendly and delightful, the Paloma is like a margarita but made with grapefruit. The fantastic sipper can be savoured by itself, or paired with slightly sweeter dishes, including fully-dressed roasted sweet potato wedges or an incredible chocolate avocado I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan cake embellished with a lush coconut milk and Don Julio Reposado tequila caramel.

Roasted sweet potato with charred Ontario corn, pickled pearl onions, pumpkin seeds + edamame puree 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, washed
  • 1 ear of Ontario corn
  • 5 red pearl onions, peeled and cut in half
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tbsp cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 cup edamame puree*

Preparation: 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°F. Cut potato in half lengthwise, then cut into 1-inch wedges and season with oil and salt
  2. Evenly space on baking tray and place in oven once heated for 15-20 minutes until tender (you should be able to poke a fork in without resistance).
  3. Char corn in skillet or over and open flame, remove kernels from cob and season with lemon juice and salt.
  4. In a small pot, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil; pour pickling liquid over onion halves and cool in fridge.
  5. To plate, place edamame puree on the bottom of the plate, followed by sweet potato wedges lined up on the plate. Garnish with charred corn, crushed pumpkin seeds and pickled pearl onions.

Edamame puree

Ingredients: 

  • ½ jalapeño, seeded
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup edamame, peeled
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Preparation: 

  1. Bring small pot of water to a boil with salt and baking powder. Add in a clove of garlic, jalapeño and pumpkin seeds for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add edamame into the pot and blanche for 2 minutes until tender and blend all ingredients together until smooth. Add a bit of extra water to get a smoother consistency. 
  3. Cool in a wide bowl and adjust seasoning with some lemon zest, some juice and salt. 

Don Julio Paloma

Ingredients: 

  • 1½ oz Don Julio Blanco tequila
  • ½ oz grapefruit juice 
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz sugar syrup
  • 0.5 oz soda water 

Preparation: 

  1. Fill a tall glass with ice. 
  2. Pour Don Julio Blanco tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and simple sugar into the glass
  3. Top with soda water. 
  4. Garnish with a wedge of lime. 
Chocolate avocado cake with tequila caramel
Photo by Jim Norton

Dish: Chocolate avocado cake with tequila caramel, vanilla butter cream + orange

Tequila pairing: Don Julio Paloma

Chocolate avocado cake with tequila caramel, vanilla butter cream and orange 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cup coconut (or cane) sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 can coconut milk (or any milk)
  • ½ avocado

Garnish: 

  • Vanilla buttercream 
  • Tequila caramel *
  • 1 orange (for the zest)

Preparation: 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F, line cake pan with oil thoroughly.
  2. Sift flour and cocoa powder into a bowl; combine with sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix together
  3. Combine all wet ingredients including the avocado in a blender, and blend on high until smooth. If it seems a bit thick, like a batter, add a splash of water.
  4. Combine wet to dry and gently fold mixture together; a few small lumps are okay. 
  5. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes (you should be able to put a skewer or fork in the center and see it come out clean); remove from oven and let cool fully before cutting.
  6. To plate, place piece of cake on bottom of plate, pour tequila caramel beside cake slice, add a small layer of buttercream on top and zest from an orange. Add some seasonal berries on top to jazz it up a bit!

Vegan Vanilla Buttercream  

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup softened vegan butter (not melted)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk

Preparation: 

  1. Combine butter and vanilla in a bowl. Use an electric hand mixer or blender to cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Add sifted powdered sugar and almond milk and continue mixing until fluffy (about a minute).

Tequila Caramel

Ingredients: 

  • 1 oz Don Julio Reposado 
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup vegan butter
  • 2 tsp orange juice

Preparation: 

  1. Combine brown sugar and coconut milk and bring to a simmer until it starts to thicken, stir continuously. 
  2. Remove from heat temporarily and add in orange juice and butter (be careful, the sugar will be hot and will rise with the addition of butter into the pair). Return to medium heat and whisk together in butter. 
  3. Add tequila into the pot and whisk continually to cook out the alcohol. Reduce to desired texture and keep on low heat until serving.