Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching, and us Americans love to passionately observe this oft misrepresented holiday, so we’re going to rejoice the only way I know how: by drinking Palomas. Before we get into that, let’s figure out exactly why we’re celebrating.
Many people erroneously believe Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s independence, but that date is reserved for September 16th. Instead, the date commemorates a victory by ill-equipped Mexican forces against Napoleon III’s army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It turns out European leaders do not take kindly to other countries defaulting on their debt, a fact that became all too clear to then-Mexican President Benito Juárez when Britain, Spain, and France showed up on his doorstep.
Britain and Spain came to an agreement with Mexico, but France wanted Mexico as their new North American stomping ground and declared war on the financially ruined country. The 5th of May, 1862 was when a small makeshift group of Mexican loyalists held off an army three times their size under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. Cinco de Mayo was honored not because it was the day the war ended, but rather the day an idea came to life: The Mexicans proved they could withstand this superior military. It seems that Cinco de Mayo spurred Mexicans living in California to fight harder for their abolitionist beliefs, and also bolstered the morale of Union troops to fighting in the Civil War. Even though Cinco de Mayo marked the beginning of Puebla’s troubles (the town was later put to siege and overtaken by French forces before finally being retaken by Mexican Brigadier General Porfirio Díaz in 1867), it was the turning point in Mexican hearts and minds, and the battle of May 5, 1862 fueled the fight against French oppression and unimaginable odds.
Now that we’ve done our homework we can go outside and play: meet the Paloma. Spanish for “dove,” the Paloma is a refreshing cocktail that has been around nearly as long as Cinco de Mayo itself. There is no clear-cut origin story for this delicious libation, but that won’t stop us from having our own tales of its glory after we kick back a few next Thursday. The simplest recipe calls for a pour of blanco tequila over ice with the addition of grapefruit soda (such as Fresca, Squirt, or my personal favorite, Jarritos), served in a salted highball glass and garnished with a lime wedge. For my version, I prefer to use mezcal instead of blanco tequila because it adds a smoky layer that rounds out the sweetness of the drink. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a quick and delicious summertime drink no matter how you mix it, but I like to make mine with a little extra love:
When Doves Cry*
- 1½ Oz. Mezcal
- ¾ Oz. Grapefruit Juice (fresh squeezed, not soda)
- ¾ Oz. Simple Syrup
- ½ Oz. Lime Juice
- 3 Dashes Crème de Violette
- Club Soda
- Lime Wedge
- Kosher Salt
Grab a Collins glass and rub the lime wedge around the rim until moist; dust the rim evenly with a small amount of kosher salt and fill it with fresh ice. Build all of the ingredients except Crème de Violette and club soda in a shaker tin. Add ice to the tin and shake for 10–15 seconds, then double strain with your Hawthorne and tea strainers into your prepared glass. Top with soda and a few dashes of crème de Violette. Enjoy your Purple Rain inspired Paloma (Rest in Peace, Prince) and try to remember the real reason we’re all celebrating this week. Salud!
Andre Gziryan is a former barman who still loves a great drink and an interesting story.
Image: Giulian Frisoni, CC