The recent California heat wave has kept me reaching for cold beverages, especially one of my favorite summer cocktails — the Paloma.
A great variation is served at a local upscale Mexican restaurant called Nopalito (a place Kasey and Matt have featured a few times here on Turntable Kitchen, including a killer totopos recipe and inclusion in their “Ultimate Food and Music Guide to SF”). They add a hint of Cynar, an artichoke liqueur, that adds a vegetal note to the mix.
I’m such a big fan of the Paloma that I added it to the list of select cocktails at my recent wedding party. After a recent meal at Nopalito, I wondered if another digestif would play nicely with the same ingredients. So, I set off to explore my cabinet of amaros. For some strange reason, Fernet Branca has been a go-to with my group of friends lately, so when I saw the bottle I became inspired.
My first attempt at adding Fernet to the Paloma made the drink a bit too dry on the palate, so I decided to add a small amount of agave syrup to increase the viscosity. If you’ve never heard the word used in regards to drinking before, this is the weight of the drink… remember how long that cough syrup seemed to rest on your tongue as a child? That meant it was extremely viscous!
2 oz mezcal (I recommend Fidencio. Not a fan of mezcal? Just use blanco tequila)
.5 oz lime juice
Top off with grapefruit soda (I recommend Sanpelligrino Pompelmo; alternatively use fresh grapefruit juice and club soda)
.25 oz agave syrup (or to taste depending on your choice of grapefruit soda)
.25 oz Fernet Branca
Lime wheel garnish is traditional, but grapefruit zest works here as well. (Want to get fancy with garnish? Give this citrus rose a shot.)
Fill the glass with ice and add the first two ingredients. Then pour in the soda, almost filling it to the top. Stir for 5-10 seconds to combine and chill the drink. Combine agave syrup and Fernet in your jigger and then pour it into the glass. It will drop to the bottom of your drink, creating a layered effect. Add garnish.
Photography and styling by Hannah Levy.