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Ways To Celebrate Cinco de Mayo Sober

May 11, 2024
16 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
May 11, 2024
16 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
May 11, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
May 11, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
May 11, 2024
16 min read

Ready for a Sober de Mayo?

  • Cinco de Mayo has become synonymous with drinking due to the influence of alcohol beverage companies’ ads.
  • Understanding the origins of this holiday and finding ways to celebrate it soberly can help you participate in Cinco de Mayo more mindfully.
  • Ready to quit or cut back on alcohol for all the holidays? Reframe provides science-backed tools to curb alcohol cravings and encourage healthy habits.

You’re at home watching TV when a commercial suddenly comes on. It’s a Mexican beer ad cheering the imminent arrival of Cinco de Mayo! But why is this U.S.-based beverage company advertising a Mexican holiday? Let’s find out why, how the day came to be associated with alcohol, and how we can celebrate it soberly.

What Is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo (meaning “fifth of May”) began as a celebration of the May 5, 1862 Mexican victory over Napoleon III’s French Army when it invaded Puebla, ostensibly to collect debts. This military triumph is not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which falls on September 16 and marks Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Today Cinco de Mayo is celebrated much more in the United States than it is in Mexico. At first, it was a way to honor Mexican-American culture in the U.S., but then it took a sharp turn. Over the years, it has become synonymous with alcohol, particularly Mexican beer and tequila. How did this happen? Let’s find out.

Cinco de Mayo’s Connection With Alcohol

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What started as a Mexican victory celebration has become a massive drinking day in the United States. It also happens to be one of the alcohol beverage industries’ most heavily marketed days of the year. Is there a connection here? 

Of course! Cinco de Mayo never started out to be a drinking holiday anymore than St. Patrick’s Day did, but it was targeted and promoted by beer and tequila companies’ marketing campaigns to increase alcohol sales. Basically, the industry used Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to sell beer, giving consumers an excuse to buy it. According to the America’s Beer & Beverage Distributors association, Cinco de Mayo is among the top 10 days of the year with the most beer sales in the U.S., with Anheuser-Busch boasting the largest beer market share in the world in 2022. Anheuser-Busch is also the parent company of many brands of Mexican beer, and it just so happens to be the company that started sponsoring Cinco de Mayo in the first place.

If these marketing campaigns were able to create such a buzz around drinking and Cinco de Mayo, what does that mean for us? Are we really that susceptible to advertising? Let’s take a closer look.

Effect of Advertising on Alcohol Consumption

Countless studies have been conducted on our susceptibility to advertising. One study documents alcohol advertising — particularly brand-specific advertising — and how it corresponds to increased alcohol consumption. It found that participants were five times more likely to consume the brands advertised on TV, and 36% more likely to consume those advertised in magazines, as opposed to unadvertised brands. These statistics not only make clear just how much advertising influences us, but the numbers also explain Cinco de Mayo’s growing connection to alcohol.

A similar study looked at advertising’s impact on both drinkers and nondrinkers. This study showed that the nondrinkers were significantly more likely to start drinking after being exposed to alcohol advertisements than other types of ads, whereas the drinkers had little change in their likelihood to drink after seeing the ads.

While these studies do not account for certain variables such as family attitudes or peer pressure, they do shed light on how susceptible we are to advertising.

Effects of Cinco de Mayo Alcohol Consumption

We know alcohol itself is bad for our health, but what about Cinco de Mayo-themed beverages? Are they any more problematic? 

Physical Harm

Let’s take a look at some Cinco de Mayo drinks and what they do to us:

  • Beer. In addition to its alcohol and high caloric content, beer contains compounds that can elevate harmful cholesterol levels in the body.
  • Tequila. Tequila has a high alcohol content, and the body absorbs it rapidly, entering the bloodstream quickly. It also causes rapid temperature changes in the body.
  • Margaritas. You know that super sweet, processed margarita mix in the alcohol section at the grocery store? In addition to the alcohol, it contains sugar and salt, both of which have harmful effects on the body when consumed in excess.

Besides the physical effects of individual beverages, Cinco de Mayo has been associated with binge drinking, which poses even greater health hazards regardless of the type of alcoholic drink.

Ethical Dilemmas

Scholars of business ethics are also calling into question and criticizing the use of Cinco de Mayo as an occasion for marketing alcohol, saying that it’s morally problematic to exploit the Mexican culture as an excuse for promoting excessive drinking. That serves as a good reminder of what we’re celebrating and why so we can approach the holiday more mindfully.

One of the most dangerous aspects of the connection between Cinco de Mayo and drinking is the misleading concept that it’s “okay” to drink because it’s a “normal activity” on that day. One study on event-specific drinking norms demonstrated that college students were far more likely to drink if they thought it was the “normal” thing to do regardless of their personal motivations. That appears to be the goal of Cinco de Mayo ads: make the consumer believe the only way to celebrate this special occasion is to drink — and buy more beer.

Bottom line: it’s never a good idea to risk your health because an ad for alcohol promotes drinking.

“Sober de Mayo”: How To Celebrate Without Alcohol

Despite what commercials tell you, you can still enjoy Cinco de Mayo without alcohol: call it “Sober de Mayo” and celebrate your journey to better health at the same time. 

To start, you need a few alcoholic drink substitutes so you have something to sip throughout the fiestas. Here are some fun Cinco de Mayo non-alcoholic drinks:

  • Non-alcoholic beer. While it still contains trace amounts of alcohol, non-alcoholic beer can be a viable alternative to regular beer. 
  • Alcohol-free margarita. There are many ways to enjoy a margarita alcohol-free. Try a tasty avocado margarita or a non-alcoholic blend of your choice, and you’ll be able to celebrate the holiday without a morning-after hangover.
  • Alcohol-free michelada. A popular Mexican drink, micheladas typically combine beer with Clamato juice and other ingredients. They’re great for those who like savory beverages. Try this non-alcoholic michelada recipe and see how refreshed you feel.
  • Paloma. Typically associated with tequila, this cocktail can easily be made non-alcoholic by combining grapefruit juice, lime, sweetener, and club soda.
  • Agua fresca. Meaning “fresh water,” agua frescas are refreshing, non-alcoholic beverages made from fruit, water, lime juice, and sweetener. Gather some friends and make a pitcher of this easy beverage for a thirst-quenching alternative.
  • Horchata. This traditional milky drink is made from rice and cinnamon and is great for anyone who wants something a little sweet. Try out an easy recipe at home.
  • Mexican hot chocolate. If cold drinks aren’t your thing, try some hot chocolate with a little chili or cinnamon. Mexican chocolate is known for being dark and less sweet than American chocolate, so it mixes well with some spices and aromatics.
Celebrating the Cultural Origins of Cinco de Mayo

Besides the beverages, there are other ways to celebrate and appreciate the cultural origins of Cinco de Mayo:

  • Eat some traditional Mexican food. Mexican cuisine goes far beyond the Americanized tacos and nachos we see on so many menus. Have some friends over for a Mexican cook-off, and if you’re feeling adventurous, try making an authentic mole sauce with homemade flour tortillas. It’s a great way to bring friends together and enjoy delicious food!
  • Learn some Spanish phrases. Remember that vocab from your 5th-grade Spanish class? Well, Cinco de Mayo is the perfect time to brush up. There are many free resources out there for language learning. Plus, quitting alcohol and learning new languages both boost your brain health! ¡Qué guay!
  • Try some Mexican crafts. The arts and crafts scene in Mexico is huge. The Mexican state of Oaxaca alone has over a dozen different cultural groups, each with its own artistic traditions, from textiles to ceramics. Try some easy-to-make-at-home crafts such as colorful paper garlands to hang in your home.

Any combination of these will guarantee you a festive, memorable holiday and your own victory over alcohol culture. What better way to celebrate!

Food for Thought

Cinco de Mayo has become popular in the United States, yet many people who celebrate it don’t know what it is or why they do so. Learning about holiday traditions and how they’ve evolved help us make more mindful decisions about how to participate in them. Not only that, but not buying into the advertising campaigns of alcohol beverage companies and choosing to celebrate soberly benefits both our body and mind.

Summary FAQs

1. What is the Cinco de Mayo drinking connection?

The tradition of drinking on Cinco de Mayo began with the advertising campaigns of alcohol beverage companies to increase sales and market share.

2. How can I celebrate Cinco de Mayo without drinking?

Some ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo soberly include learning more about Mexican culture and heritage, cooking and eating Mexican food, and trying your hand at traditional Mexican arts and crafts.

3. What are some non-alcoholic drinks for Cinco de Mayo?

Try a non-alcoholic margarita, michelada, or an agua fresca, all of which are traditional Mexican beverages.

4. Are margaritas bad for you?

Yes, as they contain tequila, sugar, and salt. Tequila alone has many negative effects on our health because your body absorbs it so quickly.

5. Is Cinco de Mayo the same as Mexican Independence Day?

No. Mexican Independence Day is on September 16, whereas Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Ready for a Sober de Mayo? Try Reframe!

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