A song for nearly every Mexican liquor, from tequila to … Buchanan’s?

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:

“La Tequilera”

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 exorcize 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”

Mexican American singer and reality TV star Jenni Rivera.
Mexican American singer and reality TV star Jenni Rivera. (Reed Saxon / AP)

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!”

“El Gorgoreyo”

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.”

“Tu Gabán”

Highlighted booze: Pulque

Pulque and strawberry drink.
Pulque and strawberry drink. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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.

“Fiesta Norteña”

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.

“Sonora Querida”

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.

“Juan Colorado”

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 sugarcane-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.

“Gabino Barrera”

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”

Buknas de Culiacan in Shaul Schwarz's movie "Narco Cultura."
Buknas de Culiacan in Shaul Schwarz’s movie “Narco Cultura.” (Shaul Schwarz / Cinedigm)

Highlighted booze: Buchanan’s

Like Hennessey is to hip-hop heads, Buchanan’s blended Scotch whiskey has become the de facto drink for younger Mexican Americans, especially those who listen to the movimientoalterado, the rollicking music that wraps brass, drums, and accordions around love letters to the narco lifestyle. Buchanan’s is such a status symbol that fans created their own pronunciation and spelling for it: bukanas. Bands shout it out again and again in movimientoalterado songs. And there’s a group called Buknas de Culiacán that recorded “100 Botellas de Bukanas” (100 Bottles of Buchanan’s), which tells of the merriment that happens after the marijuana harvest. Man, imagine what artists will write when Mexicans discover Macallan …

Gustavo ArellanoGustavo Arellano is a features writer for the Los Angeles Times, covering Southern California everything and a bunch of the West and beyond. He previously worked at OC Weekly, where he was an investigative reporter for 15 years and editor for six, wrote a column called ¡Ask a Mexican! and is the author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” He’s the child of two Mexican immigrants, one whom came to this country in the trunk of a Chevy.
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