A celebration of the lives led by departed loved ones, Dia de los Muertos (the Mexican Day of the Dead), is a bright, festive holiday observed as October gives way to November. (This year it falls on November 2 and November 3).
It’s during this time that the spirits of our ancestors are allowed to travel from the afterlife to visit with living relatives and friends. Their presences are felt by the living, and they are honored with food and parties and family bonding.
Ahead of the holiday and in the spirit of my wife’s Mexican-American heritage, my family constructs an informal altar honoring our departed ancestors. The set up is assembled from a table and a serape that has been in our family for decades, images of my wife’s grandparents — Jesús and Charlotte Salcedo and Jay and Janet Johnson — as well as my grandfathers — Ramón Ralat and José Antonio Maldonado. Jesús’ photo shows him in his Korean War U.S. Marines dress uniform. Ramón’s photo shows him in his WWII U.S. Air Force uniform.
We also have a photo of our first dog, Bob, a Bichon Frise we adopted from a shelter and who passed away several years back.
Mementos important to our deceased family members — and Bob — are placed among the images. As a brief example: Bob’s old collar and his toy plush bear lean against a photo of the white fluff ball who was well-behaved and loving and endearingly dumber than dirt. Candles and flowers have their own places.
Food is important as well. We place pan de muerto, calaveras (sugar skulls), and favorite sweets or other snacks on the altar.
The posh Rosewood San Miguel de Allende resort created a special cocktail for Dia de los Muertos. The tequila-based Clase Moka, with its dynamic combo of coffee, orange, and traditional Mexican chocolate, is inspired by the rich flavors and traditions of Mexico. It’s super easy to make at home and will ensure guests keep the celebration going throughout the weekend.
1 ounce Clase Azul Añejo tequila
½ ounce Pernod
2 ounces cold-brewed coffee, canned or bottled is fine
Dash agave honey
Abuelita chocolate shavings (or preferred Mexican chocolate), for garnish
Orange zest, for garnish
Mix tequila, Pernod, and cold-brewed coffee and pour over ice in a traditional coffee mug. Sweeten the drink with a dash of agave honey. Garnish with chocolate shavings and orange zest.