Alcohol plays a big role in Mexican music: devil, amigo, killer, savior. Its ubiquity is such that you can create a bangin’ playlist based off of nearly every Mexican alcohol imaginable.
So we did! Here’s a Best of Borrachos soundtrack that spans genres, eras and themes. Many are classics covered by ranchera greats for decades; a few are rarities that still deserve a stream. And sorry, fans of micheladas, pajaretes, Kahlua and palomas: No one has written the definitive tune for your tipple … yet.
You can listen to the full playlist on Spotify here:
Highlighted booze: Tequila
“La Tequilera” (“The Lady Tequila Drinker”) was made famous in the 1930s by ranchera pioneer Lucha Reyes. It sounds like a joyous romp, complete with hiccuped stanzas, but it’s a warning: The national drink is only good to deal with pain. “Drunk on tequila is how I always keep my soul,” the lyrics sigh. “To see if this cruel melancholy gets better.”
“Copitas de Mezcal”
Highlighted booze: Mezcal
In this tale about a heartbroken poor boy spurned by a rich girl, tequila’s smokier country cousin is cast as a happy muse that can exorcise life’s ills. “May they serve the other shots of mezcal!” the chorus commands. “We don't win anything by crying.” Sounds like an outtake from the Mexican version of “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
“Dos Coronas a Mi Madre”
Highlighted booze: Corona beer
The original pour-a-40-for-the-homie weeper, except the homie in question is your mom. Sure, the coronas in this accordion-driven dirge by conjunto norteño icons Los Cadetes de Linares are flower wreaths, but that hasn’t deterred listeners from bringing bottles of the so-so cerveza to their mami’s tombs ever since.
“Parrandera, Rebelde y Atrevida”
Highlighted booze: Tecate beer
Translated as “Partier, Rebel and a Rude Girl,” this was one of the signature canciones of the late Jenni Rivera. Over a hard-charging banda sinaloense, the Long Beach native makes no apologies for her lifestyle, ridicules the nice girls who trash-talk her and wields the Tecate beer as proof of her working-class roots. “Bitter-tasting champagne is for stuck-up hags,” Rivera roars. “Give me Tecate with lime and salt!”
Highlighted booze: Bohemia, Carta Blanca beer
Eulalio “El Piporro” Gonzalez was the “Weird Al” Yankovic of ranchera, and he took this Pedro Infante ode to running up a tab (the title roughly translates as “The Gurgling”) as a way to praise these northern Mexican beers. El Piporro buys four Bohemias for himself and four Cartas for a sad guy in the corner. And then he skedaddles before the bill comes. “If my money finishes,” he reasons, “the house isn’t gonna break.”
Highlighted booze: Pulque
Mainstream Mexican society has historically stereotyped pulque (made from fermented agave sap) as little better than rotgut, and this ditty, which translates to “The Poncho,” is no different. Underrated chanteuse Beatriz Adriana croons that the gabán (overcoat) her love left behind reminds her of him because “it smells of pulque … and that’s why I ran you out.” No chill.
Highlighted booze: Sotol
As the title hints, there’s one giant party across el Norte of Mexico — and what better way to celebrate than with a bottle of sotol? The mellow spirit, made by distilling the sotol plant, comes from Chihuahua and is so beloved across the North that the opening line — “Come on boys, there’s sotol!” — is repeated four times. If you ever taste some, you’d probably sing it too.
Highlighted booze: Bacanora
This pick belongs to a genre of Mexican music that sings the various virtues of a state. So little surprise that there’s a name-drop to bacanora, a musky mezcal from Sonora, which I started seeing it in L.A.’s better bars last year. Bacanora, according to the singers, “ignites passion” — which anyone who has sipped it can attest to.
Highlighted booze: Charanda
The titular subject is a mythical Mexican Revolution-era valiente (tough guy) who brags about going from town to town to win over the women and scare off the hombres. John the Red is proudly from Michoacán, so he asks for “charanda to toast,” referring to the sugar cane-based, rum-like drink native to that state. It’s not commercially available in the United States, but you can buy mini bottles of it in Tijuana.
Highlighted booze: Botella de Caña
No one sang pretend-drunk better than Antonio Aguilar — hell, he covered most of the entries on this list. But his one mention of the potent botella de caña — think Everclear, but made from sugar cane — came almost as an aside in a corrido (narrative song) for a same-named movie about a boozer from Guerrero who, inspired by the caña in his hand, shouts “Viva Zapata!” The movie proved so popular that Aguilar made three sequels — hey, film franchises have been launched on less.
“Canción del Mariachi”
Highlighted booze: Aguardiente
The rum-like beverage made with sugar and anise has inspired hundreds of odes in Colombia. In Mexico? Few. The flamenco-esque opener for the 1995 movie “Desperado” by Los Lobos gives it its most prominent plug with the boast “aguardiente is the best” — but then undercuts its assertion by also praising tequila blanco. We’ll side with the former.
“San Luis Potosí”
Highlighted booze: Colonche
This is deep-track stuff here. Colonche is made from fermented tunas (prickly pears) and made only in the central Mexican states of Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas. Yet it pops up in the first verse of a mambo by tropical giants La Sonora Santanera that includes the line “tunas y colonche are a part of me,” confounding any Mexican not from that state because it’s that rare.
“100 Botellas de Bukanas”
Highlighted booze: Buchanan’s