The Mexican revolution rippled across the Pacific about a decade ago. Since then, Australians have fallen hard for Mexican food and culture. As well as our insatiable appetite for everything from tacos spiked with chilli to top-shelf tequila, we’ve embraced the tradition of Mexican fiestas as the ultimate way to entertain.
Whether you’re celebrating a low-key Sunday afternoon with friends or want to channel Martha Stewart and style your kitchen into a kitsch cantina, here are our top tips on how to throw a Mexican party.
Keep it bright
You don’t need to break out the maracas, oversized sombreros and cactus candlesticks. Walk down any street in Mexico and you’ll find houses painted in bright tangerine, crimson and mint green. Use these clashing colours for inspiration: introduce additional splashes of colour with traditional textiles, vibrant earthenware, mismatched ceramics, bowls piled with bright red chillies and bunches of flowers. You can also festoon the walls or ceiling with hot pink bunting, fairy lights and dried chillies.
Dazzle your guests with a drinks list that reflects the hippy-chic bars in Mexico’s San Blas or a plaza near la playa (a square by the beach) in Puerto Escondido. The lick-sip-suck tradition of slamming tequila is not Mexican – but it is a fun way to drink the liquor made from the agave plant. Alternatively, sip and savour top-shelf tequilas and mescal and offer ready-to-pour pitchers of margarita. Impress your beer-nerd friends with a selection of cervezas like Bohemia pilsners and Dos Equis.
Set the scene
If you’re not up to making a piñata, you can order one from Fireworks Foods (fireworksfoods.com.au). This Mexican wholesaler also sells everything from wrestling masks to paper flowers, tortilla presses and kitsch drink trays. You can set the scene with a framed portrait of renowned artist Frida Kahlo, bottles of spicy sauces, neon-bright napkins and cutouts of dancing calacas (skeletons). Keep the lights low and fill the house with candles, marigolds and painted skulls inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead tradition.
Tastes and tacos
A DIY taco buffet is a lot of fun. Guests can construct their own taco by choosing any combination from an array of toppings and fillings. Invite your friends to gather at the table, start with a taco or tortilla, slather on guacamole, add rice, beans, meat, cheese, onion or whatever takes their fancy, roll them up and wolf them down. Fireworks Foods sells authentic ingredients such as cans of tomatillos (Mexican husk tomatoes) and pickled jalapenos. When you’ve used the ingredients, “upcycle” the can as a vase for paper flowers.
Add extra flavour
The key to nailing Mexican food is to spike it with one or more of five key ingredients: coriander, onions, garlic, lime and chilli. Do as the Mexican street vendors do: add chilli powder to slices of watermelon and mango; chargrill corn and add lime juice, chilli and finely grated feta; serve kingfish ceviche swimming in lime; tailor tortillas to accompany salsas and present guacamole on tostadas, which double as edible tableware. Use a Mexican fiesta playlist on Spotify and esto es todo (that’s it!).