La Paloma

palomajbmProposed By: Jonathan

Reviewed By: David

Paloma, La Paloma, the Dove or as one odd reference suggested Paloma Tequila. This is a cocktail I chose, in part, for its increasing popularity and many variations. It has those. What it needs is a name on which everyone can agree. For our purposes, and for history as you will read, I like La Paloma.

The link in the last blog post proposal takes you to a Feast Magazine write up that includes history for the cocktail and a couple of different recipes. That means readers should know the history, or does it? They write that the cocktail traces back to the town of Tequila in the Jalisco state. The bartender who can claim it was Don Javier Delgado Corona. Quibblers would want say that it is such a basic drink, essentially in the family of the Tom Collins, that there were probably many versions created in many places. Even the name is linked to questions about where it came from with the suggestion that it might be as old as an 1860’s folk song called “La Paloma.”

The recipes are fairly consistent with simple versions using grapefruit soda and others using fresh grapefruit juice.

2 ounces blanco tequila
.5 ounce fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
Grapefruit soda

Mix the first three ingredients, add soda (4-6 ounces) and ice. Garnish with lime, grapefruit or nothing.

2 ounces reposado tequila
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
.5 ounce fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon agave syrup or simple syrup
Club soda

Mix everything but the soda, then add that and ice. Garnish away.

There are recipes that say salt the rim of the glass instead of adding it to the drink. If you choose to use grapefruit soda expect lots of recommendations. The sodas list includes Fresca (it’s lighter but don’t do it), Jarritos (you’ll need a Mexican market), Squirt, Izze, or Whole Foods Italian grapefruit soda. Those are just some of the options.

There were lots of tasters so I made versions with blanco tequila, reposado tequila, Fresca (which is why I know not to use it), Squirt and Izze. A half ounce of lime didn’t seem like enough so there was probably more in each cocktail too. I didn’t make the fresh grapefruit version but if I was to make this a regular drink I think the combination of fresh juice and agave syrup could be just right. It would really be the Tom Collins of Jalisco then.

Here’s David’s Review:

palomadmWhen I mentioned to a friend that Jonathan and I were trying a Paloma for the next blog post, she said, “Isn’t that a sort of Margarita?” Certainly, some connections suggest so—tequila, for one, and also lime and salt. If you like your margaritas exotically flavored—prickly pear, anyone?—the grapefruit isn’t any serious adulteration. Blending grapefruit juice, agave syrup, lime, tequila, and ice with a machine… you might call that a margarita.

Yet, here’s a case where differences matter. I like margaritas, but I like this drink better. For one thing, preparing it does not require electricity. It’s shaken. Plus, though the Paloma has the sweet and sour (and salty) mix of a margarita, it doesn’t start, as many margaritas do, with a frozen mix that renders it an adult Icee. This cocktail did not seem nearly as sweet—grapefruit soda means you can skip the agave syrup—and, more tequila-forward, it presented itself as more than a way to hide spirit. A Paloma isn’t dessert. It feels… sophisticated.

Maybe this drink is the branch of the mixology tree margaritas ought to have followed.

In our experiment, we tried some variations Jonathan didn’t, choosing mezcal as the tequila and even substituting half the mezcal for gin in one version. Everything we tried was satisfying, but the mezcal added the most. Between sweet, sour, the salty, bitter, and smoky the Paloma seemed one of the most complex cocktails we’ve tried. The addition of botanical complexity of gin was perhaps a step too far, but why not test the envelop? The result was interesting, suggesting the range a basic recipe can cover when swaping one element for another.

Recently I wandered into a music review online. I don’t read them generally because they feature so many descriptors I barely understand. One I do understand, though, and one of my favorites, is the prefix “proto,” which I take to mean before what we have now, the more basic past some present relies upon. The Paloma felt like a proto-cocktail to me, a combination evolution can work with.

Jonathan’s take: You want summer? You deserve summer and this drink is it.

David’s Take: One of my favorites, in all its variations.

Next Time (Proposed By David):

Most cities likely have a cocktail column by now, a few paragraphs buried in the home section or weekly magazine. They can’t hide from me, and last week’s Chicago Tribune included an article that intrigued me—“Cocktails With Equal Parts Are Easy, Yet Sophisticated.” For next time, I’m inviting Jonathan to join me in inventing an equal portion cocktail. No specific ingredients, no history we’re beholden to, no famous and magical mixologist—just equal ingredients.

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The Tom Collins

Proposed by: DavidTom

Reviewed by: Jonathan

I’ve reached the conclusion—duh—mixology is subtle. My brother and I encounter some exotic ingredients, but many drinks vary themes. We revisit the staples—juice, simple syrup, the major spirit and the minor one, maybe some stretcher like soda or tonic of ginger ale, and perhaps an element like bitters to challenge an untrained palate. The Tom Collins contains essentials and is even more basic than the archetypical cocktails’ constellation of ingredients. With just four parts, it’s simple.

Yet, our cocktailian adventures tell me every variation deserves a story. To me, it’s a wonder someone playing with these ingredients wouldn’t discover a Tom Collins, but disputation is more interesting, and, of course, there’s an argument.

Who invented the Tom Collins and how does the name arise? A cocktail called John Collins hits the historical record in London around 1860 as part of a song of the time. The name change, apparently, comes from “Professor” Jerry Thomas, the famous American mixologist whose description in 1876 gave the Tom Collins a name and place in bar lore.

But wait a minute. The name change may actually arise from London and the addition of Old Tom Gin, a slightly sweet version of Gin.

But wait a minute again. It turns out that the Tom Collins was also a hoax popular in New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in 1874. People would approach someone they knew and say, “Do you know Tom Collins?” and then regale their listener with outrageous stories of the aspersions Tom had been casting about them in a nearby bar. Once the perpetrator had sufficiently riled the victim, the hoaxed person stormed into the bar and shouted, “Where is Tom Collins!?” The other patrons would roar with laughter, happy to discover (and I hope welcome) another snipe hunter.

No one really knows whether a Tom Collins is British or American—though plenty of people, apparently, fight half-heartedly over it. By 1878, it’s a popular drink in bars in New York and London, busily proliferating as people tinker with alternative spirits and other ingredients.

When it comes to provenance, cocktails soar to baffling complexity. You can’t know how hard I fought against making up my own story about the Tom Collins, including obscure German philosophers, time travel, an expedition to Africa, and some mighty angry hippos.

Instead, I’ll just give you the recipe:

Here’s Jonathan’s Review:

OTomIt’s funny how even with the classics, like the Tom Collins, there is something to learn and the opportunity for a new liquor to be acquired. We’ve tried a lot of gin recipes and as a result learned quite a bit about gin. Even with that, I hadn’t read much about Old Tom gin or had a reason to use it. But if a drink is named after the gin type, and I lean towards the story that the drink’s first name comes from the liquor, I had to add to the gin collection with some Old Tom.

Another given is that there needs to be some variation of the classic to try along with the basic recipe. We subscribe to a CSA (community supported agriculture) where we pay a seasonal fee and get a bag of fresh produce each week. One of the benefits of this CSA is that we get fruit along with the vegetables plus a small amount of local maple syrup. You read that right—tapped and collected from maple trees in central North Carolina.

This year the farmer has added a quart of sorghum syrup too. Sorghum is one of the early sources for a sweetener that went out of style as sugar cane took over. A quick Google search will show that it is regaining popularity, and I thought it would be interesting to substitute a simple syrup made from sorghum syrup and water in place of the standard simple syrup.

This part is simple—the classic was better. Clear and sparkling, it is a great summer drink. Not sure I could tell a difference in the Old Tom versus another gin, but we can pretend. I expected that the sorghum version would add an extra subtle bitterness that is characteristic of the sorghum extract, but there really wasn’t any notable difference in taste. The color was the main change, and the golden brown, while pretty, wasn’t as appealing as the light color of the original. It was worth the try though.

Jonathan’s take:  It may be boring, but I’m not sure you can beat this classic for simplicity and taste.

David’s Take: Like most classics, this drink does little to offend. I’m not sure whether that’s a recommendation, but it’s certainly an affirmation.

Next Week (proposed by Jonathan):

Time for something different. I’ve been intrigued by types of tequila, and particularly mezcal. There are few cocktails made with mezcal in large part because of the assertiveness that results from the roasting and smoking of the agave. The drink that I am proposing is called the Old Oaxacan and it includes lime, mint and champagne to soothe the savage liquor. At least that’s what I hope.