What Time Is It? It's (Red) Wine (Paloma) O'Clock!

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Red wine paloma by Matthew Hooper

Hello, Wonketteers. I'm Hooper, your bartender. Did you ever go online to find a drink recipe and in order to make the thing you needed to scroll through how the author found the cocktail in some lovely cafe in San Jose, and how cute their date was, and how wonderful the drink was, and why they chose every single ingredient, and oh look at all these ads you have to skip or scroll past to get to the actual freaking recipe? Didn't it just annoy the piss-willies out of you?

Yeah, me too. Here's the recipe. Done. Keep reading if you want to know about me and how the drink works, or just go drink this. You'll love it, especially if like Yr Editrix you're a sangria fan.

Red Wine Paloma

2 oz. blanco tequila

.75 oz fresh lime juice, or juice of ½ large lime

.75 oz simple syrup

½ cup grapefruit juice

2 oz red wine blend




Shake all ingredients except for the red wine for 8-10 seconds. Strain into a highball glass with ice. Invert a bar spoon over the glass and gently float the red wine on top of the drink. Garnish with a lime wedge. Stir before drinking.

Still with me? Cool. So, I'm a professional bartender from Cleveland; I decided after 10 fruitless years in sales and marketing that I wanted to do something fun with my life. I got hired at an upscale country club the day before Mike DeWine closed all the bars due to COVID-19. It's been … a stressful year. I survived, I took a boring old cocktail menu and made it awesome, I've never been happier to go to work ever.

This cocktail got added to my summer menu along with a cucumber martini, some killer tiki drinks, and an awesome strawberry smash. Palomas are a terrific tequila cocktail, even better than a margarita (there, I said it, fight me). In Latin America, it's just tequila and grapefruit jarros or Ting soda – basically a Latin American rum and coke. This version uses fresh grapefruit juice and skips the fizzy in favor of some red wine, which makes for a sangria-ish cocktail that uses a lot fewer ingredients, looks amazing, and tastes terrific. Here's a breakdown on all the ingredients and the techniques you need to use to build the drink.

Tequila: The first rule for buying tequila: Make sure it says "100% pure agave" on the label. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. If it doesn't say "100% agave," that means it's "mixito" — 51% agave, 49% cheap nasty corn syrup. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, JOSE CUERVO. If you've gotten a vile headache after a night of tequila shots, here's why. Drink the real stuff. Blanco (clear) tequila is the best for a paloma. Blanco tequila has all the important notes – smokey, sweet, funky – that I demand from tequila as a bartender, and it's less likely to have something goofy added to it to make it "better" (don't get me started). I decided to go organic for this recipe and used Tres Agaves Organic Tequila; it's really good all on its own and sings in this cocktail.

Lime Juice: Use fresh limes. Don't squeeze something out of a plastic lime or a bottle into this drink. The jarred stuff has citric acid and other preservatives in it. You'll thank me later.

Simple Syrup: This is the easiest thing you could ever possibly make in a kitchen, and it's in so many cocktails that it's nutty. The sugar makes the drink sweeter, but also smoother and thicker. It's a must. Dump 1 part sugar and 1 part water in a saucepan. Stir. Heat until the sugar's melted. Ta-da. Simple syrup. Or don't bother heating it – on a busy night at the bar I've tossed sugar and water into a squeeze bottle, given it a good shake, left it alone for an hour, and had simple syrup ready to go. Seriously, you have to put major effort into screwing this up.

Grapefruit Juice: I'm usually not picky – behind the bar I grab a tiny can of grapefruit juice, shake it, and dump it in. Want to juice a grapefruit and use fresh ingredients? Go for it. Fresh is always better. Lazy and just want to dump in some Ocean Spray from the drugstore? I won't judge. (Just make sure it's "100% grapefruit juice," not a wacky blend of something or another.) For this one I used Lakewood Organic Pure Pink Grapefruit Juice, because I wanted to go all-organic for my first Wonkette cocktail recipe ever, no I'm not nervous why did you ask.

Red Wine Blend: Use whatever wine you like. I wouldn't use a cabernet sauvignon, but if you've got a half-empty bottle of cheap red lurking on the kitchen counter slowly turning into vinegar this is a great place to use it. At the bar I'll use whatever house merlot or pinot noir I've got available. I'm using Casa Santos Red Blend Portugal today; it's stupid cheap for the value. Portuguese wines are making a big push to become major players in the American wine market for 2021, and as result you're going to see some really tasty reds out there for great prices. Snap it up before the cool kids find it.

"Float The Red Wine": This is the tricky bit of assembling the cocktail, but it looks awesome. Specific gravity is cool. What I'm trying to tell you here is that you want to flip a spoon upside down, convex side up, and hold it over the glass. Pour the red wine very, very slowly over the spoon, so that the wine doesn't splash into the cocktail. You'll get this pretty red layer on top of the pink grapefruit and look like a cocktail superstar. Or just pour the wine in and stir it up if you're by yourself and don't care about looks. Either way's fine.

Lime Wedge Garnish: Don't skip this. I know it's easy to ignore, but without a garnish a cocktail is just a drink. The scent of the citrus oil, and the option of adding just a little more fresh lime juice, is worth it.

Questions? Comments? I'm here. Comment below, or e-mail me at msrlapin@gmail.com – I'm happy to be your consulting bartender. Looking forward to helping y'all get through 2021, please let it be better than 2020 my liver can't take another year like last one.

In summary and conclusion: Drink well, drink often, drink with a friend.

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Matthew Hooper
Matthew Hooper, aka Samurai Grog, turned 50 in 2021 and decided to have a midlife crisis by leaving a boring sales and marketing job to tend bar at the local country club. He's never been happier. He's also a fencer, a dad, a husband, and a punk music fan. Overall, he's way cooler than he ever thought he could be when he was 16.
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