Cinco de Mayo is less than a week away. Are you ready to worship at the alter of Tequila and all things ending with ‘rita or ‘mole or…’aco? I mean, this is what the Mexicans fought for, right??
According to just about every food and drink publication as of late, you’re either in the Margarita or the Paloma camp. At least this is what the booze bullies WANT us to think! Don’t make me choose between these two agave delights, mind police! You are not the boss of me, mainstream media!
The Margarita continues to be the most popular cocktail in the states; You can pretty much get one anywhere. It might be a technicolor monstrosity made with crappy sour mix and served with an upside down bottle of cheap tequila bobbing out of it, but you’re likely able to find a Margarita pretty much anywhere hard liquor is served. And when it is made correctly, it’s pretty much the perfect cocktail. I will defend the Margarita, people! The Paloma (Spanish for dove) on the other hand, while even simpler to make – tequila & grapefruit soda, maybe a squeeze of lime, has always been a little off the radar. But it’s been getting more popular all the time, hence the Paloma/Margarita battles we’ve been seeing so much of these days. And everyone loves an underdog. But you don’t have to give up one to love another. That’s what I keep telling myself. I may have commitment issues…
So, here we are: The Bitter Paloma, a little Italiano twist with the addition of bittersweet Campari and aromatic basil. This pink-hued refresher will have you dreaming of luxuriating in the coastal town of Veracruz, in the gulf of Mexico, where there happens to be a very large Italo-Mexican population. See what I did there? I think I made that work, right?
And because this is a special occasion with Cinco de Mayo and all, I wanted to use a very special tequila, Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia.
This limited edition bottle is something special, considered the world’s first extra-añejo tequila and the finest bottle coming from the Jose Cuervo family’s private collection.
Each bottle is handcrafted, numbered, dated and sealed in wax, and every year the Cuervo family commissions a different Mexican artist to design the new collectible box for Reserva de la Familia. The artwork on the box of this edition was created by Carlos Aguirre.
I had a chance to try Reserva de la Familia for the first time just last week at an event introducing this year’s limited edition bottle and the art inspired by the brand. This tequila is the real deal. As I mentioned on Instagram, it has an almost fine Cognac quality, definitely meant for sipping and savoring. So, why would I put this in a cocktail, you ask? I’m sure the purists out there are tsk tsking all over their computer screens right now. But, why WOULDN’T I want to try this in a cocktail?! It only makes a cocktail THAT much better to have a top-tier spirit added. With fresh squeezed Marsh White grapefruit juice and the brightest, greenest basil you ever did see from this week’s box from Quinciple, this is one top shelf Paloma, my amigos. You can recreate it using another tequila, but I strongly recommend going for quality.
The Bitter Paloma
1 1/2 oz Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 White Grapefruit (juiced)
1/2 oz Lime Juice (lime wedge for garnish)
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
3-4 leaves Basil
Combine the tequila, Campari, grapefruit and lime juice, agave nectar and 2 basil leaves in an ice-filled shaker. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a glass filled with ice, top with soda water, and garnish with lime wedge and basil leaves.