Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 5, 2011

Cinco De Mayo – Drink a Paloma!

My latest post at provides a suggestion for an alternative cocktail to the Margarita while celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated every year to commemorate the Mexican army’s victory in the Battle of Puebla. Mostly, though, it’s just a celebration of Mexican heritage here in the US. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Cinco de Mayo like everyone else: with house Margaritas and Mexican lagers. After all, the Margarita is the single most popular cocktail in America and most bars have at least some refreshing Mexican beer, like Tecate, Dos Equis, Sol and even Corona. But I recommend elevating your Mexican cocktail game, with the spirit Mexico is best known for. Tequila pairs incredibly well with some flavors that you’d expect (lime, orange) and others that you might not (cassis, chocolate). My personal favorite, though, is grapefruit. The combination of vegetal agave spice with the crisp tartness of grapefruit sets my taste buds on fire and lets me break out of the mold when enjoying a tequila-based cocktail.

While there are plenty of great tequila cocktails, I’m always happy when I order a Paloma. It’ll cool you down on a hot day and do it while bringing a fine balance between sweet and sour, with bitter and salty notes adding to its complexity. Legendary cocktail historian Dave Wondrich has a great recipe for La Paloma:

Paloma (Wondrich version)

  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 0.5 oz fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Grapefruit soda

Combine tequila, lime juice and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top with grapefruit soda, and stir.

My favorite grapefruit soda is made by the Jarritos and is available in some supermarkets and Mexican specialty stores. But if you can’t find grapefruit soda, I recommend this alternative version by Phil Ward, head bartender at Mayahuel, New York’s best tequila and mezcal cocktail bar.

Paloma (Ward version)

  • 2 oz blanco tequila
  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 0.75 oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • Salt
  • Soda water

Rim a highball glass with salt. Combine tequila, grapefruit, lime and simple syrup in an ice filled shaker tin. Shake and strain into the ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water and garnish with a lime wedge.

Ward’s version is slightly more complicated, but is a great way to still enjoy a Paloma if you can’t find grapefruit soda.

If you’re looking for a good reposado tequila for the Wondrich Paloma, my personal favorite is Partida Reposado, though it’s a bit pricey. El Espolon Reposado is a great bottling for under $30. As far as blancos go, El Jimador Blanco and Pueblo Viejo Blanco are both affordable and delicious.


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