Pink elephants and Palomas at Los Chingones

The name Los Chingones -- "The Badasses," more or less -- suggests that Troy Guard's new restaurant is populated with tequila-slamming roughnecks. Yet its paloma, a tequila drink made with pink grapefruit and soda, is not exactly chingón, shall we say.

The gentle yet addictive paloma has single-handedly caused my recent craving for tequila. What makes this drink -- simpler and usually fresher than a margarita -- so popular these days? Simple. Every one of the modern taquerias/hipster feeding grounds that have cropped up in the past few years has to have one on its menu. See also: Absinthe madness at Z Cuisine's A Cote Bar

Without offering proof, this Washington Post article from 2008 says the original paloma, made with grapefruit soda, is more popular than the margarita in its native country of Mexico. But given that soda in Mexico is currently more popular than eggs, beans and tortillas, that Mexicans like to mix their two national beverages should be no surprise.

A lot of the palomas in Colorado, such as the tasty versions at Centro Latin Kitchen and Pinche Taqueria, sub the soda for grapefruit juice, and add a dash of agave nectar for sweetness. The Distritio Paloma ($11) at Los Chingones splits the difference, adding grapefruit Jarritos to fresh-squeezed ruby red juice and a squeeze of lime.

With this drink, Los Chingones invites you to "pick a side in the Denver tequila battle" between Milagro, Espolón and Corralejo. All fine mid-range tequilas, but the real Denver tequila battle is being fought between local distillers like Roundhouse Spirits and Peach Street Distillers, which distill versions of the stuff in-state, and brands like Boulder-based Suerte, which distributes Mexican-made tequila. Unfortunately, only what's made south of the border can be called "tequila," and the name "fermented agave beverage" doesn't exactly send bottles flying off shelves.

Taken with Milagro blanco, the Distrito Paloma -- which my rusty Spanish tells me means "dove district" -- surprised me by being a bit on the strong side. A lot of palomas aren't all that far from the creepily-named Pink Panty Dropper, minus the Natty Light and shame.

Let's take a cue from Los Chingones and stir up a paloma with an equal amount of high class and sugar high. Temper the tang of DRY Blood Orange soda with a little bit of High Fructose Corn Syrup goodness -- now, that's badass.

La Paloma Chida Ingredients:

2 parts tequila 1.5 parts DRY Blood Orange Soda 1.5 parts Squirt 1.5 parts fresh red grapefruit juice Twist of lime Salt (optional)

Scale up or down depending on occasion. Combine liquids with ice in a highball glass with a salted rim and stir with squeeze of lime. Be struck with the brilliant idea to open a gourmet taqueria in LoHi with a robust cocktail program.

With every installment of Coming of Age with 21 Drinks, I'll be featuring a cocktail recipe cooked up by me or the bar itself. Have a suggestion for a place I should visit? Post it below.

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Chris Utterback
Contact: Chris Utterback