in partnership
Paloma Nueva at Bourbon Steak.JPG
Paloma Nueva at Bourbon Steak (Photo: Bourbon Steak)

This Cinco de Mayo, skip the margarita and drink a paloma

We love a good Margarita, but it can feel a little played out, especially around this time of year when everyone seems to be hawking endless variations for Cinco de Mayo. The antidote? The Paloma. This cousin of the Margarita (whose name means “dove” in Spanish) also has its base in Tequila (or mezcal), along with grapefruit and usually some kind of effervescence. It’s endlessly riff-able and a perfect way to toast Mexico's victory against Napoleon III's army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Here are some top versions around town, complete with recipes for your own fiestas.

Taco Bamba

At Victor Albisu's Vienna casual Mexican joint, beverage manager Amin Seddiq eschews the more traditional Tequila for mezcal in his Flama Blanca Paloma ($12). “The appeal of a Paloma is that it’s so refreshing and can be enjoyed during any season,” he touts. “It’s a simple but flavorful cocktail that allows the agave spirit to shine.” Other ways to make it even more delicious, he says, are grilling the grapefruit to lend a smokier taste to the drink, topping it with Cava or tonic, adding in herbs like mint or cilantro, and rimming the glass with differents salts or spices.

Flama Blanca Paloma
Recipe courtesy of Amin Seddiq, beverage manager, Taco Bamba

  • 1 1/2 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
  • 1/2 oz. agave nectar
  • 2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 2 oz. chilled Jarritos Grapefruit Soda
  • Grapefruit wedge and salt, for rimming the glass

Rub the grapefruit wedge along half of the outside of a Collins glass, tap the wet area against a plate filled with salt to rim, and set aside. Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until chilled. Pour into the ice-filled prepared Collins glass, top with grapefruit soda and stir gently.

Lupo Verde

Managing partner Antonio Matarazzo put an Italian spin on the Paloma on the menu--with locally-produced Don Ciccio & Figli Fico d’India Prickly Pear and Italian orange soda--as a joke, but it’s caught on. “People really like it and they said it is like it has an accent.” The Palometta ($12) also uses both Tequila and mezcal, and fresh grapefruit juice as well as soda water.

Recipe courtesy of Antonio Matarazzo, managing partner, Lupo Verde

  • 1 oz. blanco Tequila
  • 1/4 oz. mezcal
  • 1 oz. Don Ciccio & Figli Fico d’India Prickly Pear
  • 2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • Soda, to top
  • Grapefruit twist, for garnish

Build the drink in a Collins glass. Add ice, top with soda and stir. Garnish with the grapefruit twist.

Bourbon Steak

Head bartender Torrence Swain created the Paloma Nueva ($19), a refreshing tipple with Casa Noble Joven Tequila, lime, pamplemousse liqueur, cucumber water, agave and soda, served tall with gorgeously clear Kold Draft ice cubes and garnished with grapefruit zest. "Palomas are refreshing drinks with a lot of appeal for people who enjoy grapefruit,” Swain explains. “Our take has elements of a classic Margarita but with a bit of that soothing spa water essence."

Paloma Nueva
Recipe courtesy of Torrence Swain, head bartender, Bourbon Steak

  • 1 1/2 oz. Casa Noble Joven Tequila
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh cucumber water
  • 1/2 oz. pamplemousse liqueur
  • Dash agave syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • Grapefruit zest, for garnish

Add the first five ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice and garnish with grapefruit zest.

All Set Restaurant & Bar

At the New England-inspired casual spot in Silver Spring, The T ($12)--which also happens to be the nickname for Boston’s mode of public transportation--mixes Tequila with muddled grapefruit, lime, agave and Aperol, that brightly hued Italian liqueur with notes of bittersweet orange. “Palomas are refreshing and slammable, making them the perfect twist on a Margarita for the spring/summer season,” notes assistant general manager Molly Horn. “The addition and/or substitution of grapefruit helps balance out the harsh lime and salt notes you get from straight Tequila, which also makes this drink a great introduction to the often unappreciated spirit.”

The T
Recipe courtesy of Molly Horn, assistant general manager, All Set Restaurant & Bar

  • 1 quarter of a grapefruit (with peel)
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. Aperol
  • 3/4 oz. agave nectar
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 oz. Tequila

Add grapefruit and lime juice to shaker tin and muddle. Add the rest of the ingredients, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Pour the drink into a double Old Fashioned glass and top with fresh ice.

Hank’s Cocktail Bar

At the Petworth cocktail den, head bartender Jessica Weinstein’s 41 Wallaby Way, Sydney ($11) mixes Avion Silver Tequila with St. Germain, grapefruit juice and St. Germain that’s been infused with kiwi. "This is an herbaceous, floral, tropical play on a Paloma,” she says. “It has fresh flavors with floral elements, making it the perfect cocktail for springtime."

42 Wallaby Way, Sydney
Recipe courtesy of Jessica Weinstein, beverage director, Hank’s Cocktail Bar

  • 1 3/4 oz. Avion Silver Tequila
  • 1/2 oz. St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 1/2 oz. kiwi-infused yellow Chartreuse (see Note)
  • 1/2 grapefruit, juiced
  • Salt and grapefruit wedge, for rimming
  • Kiwi flower, for garnish

Rub half of the outside of a coupe glass with the grapefruit wedge, then rim with the salt. Add the other ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into the prepared coupe, and garnish with the kiwi flower.

For the kiwi-infused yellow Chartreuse:
Combine 1 cup yellow Chartreuse and 2 peeled, sliced kiwis in a container with a tightly fitting lid. Place in a cool dark place for a day or two, shaking once or twice a day. When desired flavor is reached, strain out solids.

Red’s Table

At the rustic American restaurant overlooking Lake Thoreau in Reston, co-owner Ryan Tracy’s Paloma, Floating on the Lake ($10), is topped with a scoop of housemade grapefruit-lime sorbet and rimmed with a combination of sugar and Himalayan salt. “With patience the cocktail will evolve before your eyes as the sorbet rises to the top of the glass and melts into the glass,’ he says.

Floating on the Lake
Recipe courtesy of Ryan Tracy, co-owner, Red’s Table, Reston, VA

  • 1 scoop grapefruit-lime sorbet
  • 1 1/2 oz. Cazadores Tequila
  • 1/2 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water, stirred to combine)
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice.
  • Grapefruit wedge and Himalayan salt / sugar mixture, for rimming
  • Grapefruit twist, for garnish

Rub the grapefruit wedge on half of the outside of a Champagne float, then coat with the salt and sugar mixture. Add the Tequila, honey syrup and grapefruit juice to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into the prepared Champagne flute, top with the sorbet and garnish with the grapefruit twist.