Want to host a Cinco de Mayo party that will have your guests talking the rest of the year? The owners of the Bayfront Marin House, an award-winning historic inn in St. Augustine Florida, have suggestions for a party that will have guests laughing, dancing, and having fun like there’s no manana.
“Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican heritage,” says Sandy Wieber, who–along with her husband, Mike–has hosted a daily happy hour at the bed and breakfast since 2010. “Everything should be a reflection of that sense of celebration and pride.”
Think about all the senses when planning the party, says Wieber. Table linens should be colorful–picture napkins in bright blue, yellow and orange. To take the color up to eye level, attach strings to the wall and drape additional napkins over them from corner to corner to create a banner made of colorful triangles.
“We always have cut flowers in our dining room,” says Wieber, “and they’re a great way to add color.” Consider using bold flowers in a single color per vase–yellow sunflowers in one vase, pink gerber daisies in another. The vases don’t need to be expensive–Wieber suggests using clean empty cans and jars from the Hispanic food aisles of the grocery store. “It’s a fun, cheerful way to upcycle the containers for another use.”
Sound. Match the music to your party theme–mariachi bands for a traditional theme, salsa for dancing. “There’s a wide variety of music that celebrates Hispanic heritage,” says Wieber. “Choose a playlist that will keep your guests feeling festive, without overpowering the party.” For even more excitement, hire a musician–St. Augustine has several amazing guitar players that would be happy to do a home event.
Touch. “I always think about texture when I have a party–having a variety of smooth and textured surfaces makes a table feel inviting and casual. For Cinco de Mayo, I like to layer Mexican blankets on the table, and combine them with the smooth cotton of napkins. Flowers add a softness, while the vases are sleek and hard,” says Wieber.
Smell. “Serve foods in small, bite sized pieces,” says Wieber, “to encourage eating with fingers. We feel more comfortable with salsa and guacamole because it doesn’t require silverware.” Other good choices are quesadillas cut into small pieces, and a taco bar where guests can mingle and create their own masterpiece. Have plenty of salsa, avocado and shredded lettuce to accommodate vegetarian guests.
Taste. Plan a yummy, spring-based drink for the party, like fruity red or white sangria. “Our St. Augustine bed and breakfast is well known for our two-hour happy hours,” says Wieber. “People especially love our signature sangria, Maringria. We’ve created a recipe that doesn’t require measuring, so it’s easy to make more when the first pitcher runs out. And trust me–this drink is so good that the first pitcher always runs out!”
Wieber estimates that they have made over 5000 pitchers of red and white Maringria since she and her husband bought the inn in 2010. She claims that she doesn’t have a favorite.
“Sangria is win-win,” she says. “Sometimes I want red, to balance heavier appetizers. But sometimes I like the white, because it’s so refreshing when it’s warm.” Wieber says many of the inn’s guests avoid the dilemma by mixing the two for a pink version that her employees call “pink chihauhaus.”
The Bayfront Marin House’s recipe for red and white Maringria can be found here: https://www.bayfrontmarinhouse.com/marin-house-sangria-recipes/.