Drink of the Week pre-5/5 Special, Part 1: La Paloma

La Paloma This week brought us a special dilemma here at Drink of the Week central. Tomorrow, you see, is May 5 and that translates into the Mexican but mostly American holiday of Cinco de Mayo, one of the most beloved yearly excuses to drink that exists in all of los Estados Unidos. Tomorrow is also, however, the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, which is also the only major sporting event I can think of to have it’s own official cocktail. The only truly fair solution, as far as I could figure, was a special pre-May 5, 2012 cocktail double bill where each drink would get it’s own properly timed place/post in the sun.

So, we lead off with a salute to the great nation of Mexico which, precisely 150 years tomorrow, defeated invading French forces — insert Franco-phobe snickers here — at the Battle of Puebla. Of course, most of the revelers of all ethnicities who will be drinking way too many way too blended margaritas tomorrow night in bars from Los Angeles and San Antonio to New York City and Chicago will have no idea about the holiday’s historic underpinnings, or the fact that the Mexicans’ unexpected victory over the forces of Napoleon III might have indirectly paved the way for the Union victory in the U.S.’s Civil War. That’s inevitable, but at least Cinco de Mayo celebrants should a decent alternative to a boozy Slurpee at the ready.

We’ve already covered the correct way to make a margarita, so that’s one outstanding option should you find a bartender classic cocktail knowledgeable enough or open-minded enough to make the drink sans blender. Drinkers who will really want to imbibe they way they do in actual Mexican and Mexican-American climes, however, may want to check out the simple, sweet and also kind of tart highball variation named, for some reason, for the lowly pigeon and the more esteemed dove. It might read like a simple variation on your basic booze and sugary soda combo, but it drinks more like a gin and tonic — a solid hot weather libation and un poco sofisticado.

La Paloma

2 ounces white/silver tequila
Jarritos Grapefruit Soda or Squirt
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch of salt

Combine tequila, lime juice and salt in a highball/Tom Collins glass. Stir. Add ice and top off with soda. If you want, instead of adding the salt to drink, you can rim the top of the glass with it margarita-style. Stir once more and sip, saluting the brave folks who struck a blow for indigenous rule and freedom throughout the Americas under General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín all those years ago.

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Today’s DOTW is brought to us very largely by Peligroso Tequila, which is celebrating its third anniversary tomorrow with a series of events in California and Hawaii and which we last encountered while making a perfectly fabulous version (up, with fresh OJ) of the Tequila Sunrise back in early March. Once again, I can say from personal experience that making a la Paloma with this toddler of a booze brand is definitely just a little bit better than using the better known mass market tequila I also happen to have on hand at the moment. While my sources within the tequila-drinking community agree it’s a very nice drink indeed when made with Peligroso Silver, some actually¬† prefer that theirs be made with Squirt — which is, indeed, grapefruit based. I, however, think my bird flies slightly higher with Jarritos Toronja.

And now we leave you with who else but Los Lobos and a bit of music appropriate to the spirit of all great drinking holidays such as Cinco de Mayo. Just remember, if you do get loaded on La Palomas, Tequila Sunrises, or a bottle of anything, tomorrow, keep very far away from a steering wheel. There’s nothing festive about a drunken encounter with la policia after a car accident.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Tequila Sunrise

It's another Tequila SunriseMade in the usual way, on the rocks in a Tom Collins glass, the Tequila Sunrise is bit like the very well known Eagles song. A quintessential expression of 1970s culture, a bit over sweet and self-indulgent, but it goes down easily enough.

Still, as revealed to me by cocktail guru David Wondrich, there is a way to make this drink that makes it a thing of beauty and as pure and sweet as anything by East L.A.’s favorite sons, Los Lobos. It’s even better with an interesting tequila, but more about that in a bit.

Below is my simplified and, if I must say so myself, absolutely marvelous version of Wondrich’s take on this latter day cocktail classic.

The Tequila Sunrise

1 1/2 ounces white tequila
3 ounces orange juice (very preferably fresh squeezed)
1 teaspoon grenadine

Combine tequila and OJ in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail/martini glass. Add 1 teaspoon grenadine directly to glass. Let it sink to the bottom of the drink. If you’ve squeezed the OJ yourself from really good oranges, prepare for some ambrosial goodness in a pretty glass.

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This week’s DOTW is very much brought to us by a brand new upstart variation on Mexico’s national liquor. If you remember your high school Spanish, you’ll know that’s calling Peligroso “the dangerous tequila” is as redundant, bilingually speaking, as talking about the La Brea Tar Pits. (I’m fond of noting that since “La Brea” means “the tar,” “The La Brea Tar Pits” translates as “The The Tar Tar Pits.”)

Even so, I really do quite like the free booze I received from the new chicos on the tequila block. With only two percent more alcohol than standard tequilas, this dangerous tequila isn’t really all that terribly peligroso at 84 proof in a world of 90+ proof gins and 100 proofs bourbons and vodkas. Nevertheless, the extra bit of alcohol does make for a livelier flavor that definitely compliments this version of a tequila sunrise, cutting through the sweetness of the orange juice and grenadine. In my tequila sunrises, it was definitely more than a cut above the cheaper, well known brand X agave spirit I also made it with.

That being said, even more than upgrading the tequila, the biggest favor you can do for this drink is to squeeze the oranges yourself. Even though I now own a hand juicer, I have to admit that it’s fairly labor intensive. This was especially true the first time I made this as I was actually making two drinks and juice oranges are currently out of season. Fortunately, the current crop of navel oranges available down here in Southern California are delightfully sweet and juicy enough for our purposes — though this drink will be easier to make when the Valencias return.

I also tried my version of a Tequila Sunrise with some store bought “not from concentrate” juice. Unlike Wondrich, I found it produced a very respectable result, though admittedly a few steps down from the stuff I squeezed my own self.

For me, the more garden variety on-the-rocks highball glass version of the drink is a let down even with fresh squeezed juice. However, if you insist on making it that way, use the same proportions as listed above. Just be sure to stir your orange juice and tequila together before adding the grenadine to create your sunrise effect.

And now I leave you with my kind of musical accompaniment to a Tequila Sunrise.

  

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