Adios, Margaritas: A Cinco de Mayo Cocktail



To try Derek's recipe for the Spicy Paloma, a riff on the traditional Margarita that incorporates grapefruit and jalapeño, click here.

I've always preferred a quiet bar on a Monday night to the raging antics of the weekend. So I decided my tradition is to skip Cinco de Mayo (aka Cinco de Drinko) and focus instead on the day before, or even the day after. You see, while Cinco de Mayo is a legitimate holiday, it's also become a celebration of drunkards and amateurs much like St. Patrick's Day.

Cinco de Mayo, also like St. Patrick's Day, is not necessarily a national holiday. Neither does it celebrate Mexico's independence. It commemorates the victory of the Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, over the French in 1862. This delayed the French occupation until 1863.

This year I decided to celebrate my new tradition at Mayahuel, a New York City bar where the entire cocktail menu is based on tequila and mezcal. Noted bartender Phil Ward created the menu. Mayahuel is named after a fertility goddess in Aztec mythology and personifies the maguey—an indigenous name for the agave plant. Our divine interlocutor was bartender Eryn Reese, who suggested I begin with their Spicy Paloma when I asked for a Margarita alternative. Good choice.

Now don't get me wrong—the Margarita is a fine cocktail and has earned its place as North America's favorite. The simple combination of real tequila, Curaçao, and fresh squeezed lime juice with a salted rim has a delicious, savory zing, but there are many other great tequila or mezcal drinks. It's a shame these get subsumed in a single drink. And La Paloma is one of the best.

La Paloma is a combination of tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda with an optional salted rim. Often the grapefruit soda is substituted with fresh grapefruit and soda water. Mayahuel's version infuses the tequila with jalapeño for a spicy twist. Although I often worry about over-spicing when it comes to jalapeños—as alcohol is an amazing solvent—this one was just spicy enough to express the pepper without tasting like burning.

Well, it was so delicious I forgot to ask for the recipe. (Kudos to Mayahuel and Eryn.) Therefore, I made my own recipe that you'll find below. So enjoy the holiday. Just make sure to celebrate it on any other day than Cinco de Mayo.

Recipe: Derek's Spicy Paloma

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Health

Just In