As you’re making your music festival rounds this Summer, including Governors Ball this weekend, keep your eyes peeled for Road Soda Bar, an aluminum Airstream converted into a mobile bar. When you do spot the shiny antique travel trailer, by all means, get in line immediately for its distinct drinks. With the slogan “craft on draft,” the traveling bar dispenses its creative cocktails via draft to simultaneously aerate the beverages and to serve large, thirsty crowds quickly. What’s truly remarkable about Road Soda Bar is that the menu changes for every event to showcase fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the alcoholic delights are usually garnished with something weird and wonderful, like a gummy candy.
Though some of the combos may make you scratch your head (Campari and tequila, for instance), go ahead and indulge your curiosity, because we can attest that each of the drinks on the ever-rotating menu deserves two thumbs up. We met up with the man behind all the cocktail recipes, co-founder Ben Scorah, who shared this spicy paloma cocktail recipe with us that his team served up behind Williams Sonoma’s Culinary Stage at BottleRock in Napa over Memorial Weekend. Scorah called the beverage “whimsical and fun”; it features homemade grapefruit cordial and just a tad of spice from jalapeño juice. After sipping on these all weekend long, we can vouch it will easily become your daytime drink for the summer; the chili heat keeps it slow sipping, while the citrus and soda make it refreshing on scorching days.
Before we jump into the recipe, Scorah told us some very helpful tips about which types of tequila you should be using in your cocktails. For palomas, margaritas, and other cocktails that rely on citrus juice and fresh, dry ingredients, use a blanco tequila, which is clear and unaged and therefore has a brighter, cleaner taste. When it comes to cocktails that feature sweeter, richer flavors (for instance, strawberries, ginger, St Germain, or lavender), consider a six-month-oak-barrel-aged reposado tequila as it tends to have a vanilla-y taste that complements those ingredients.
For purists who prefer slow-sipping something neat, go for an añejo (aged one year) or extra añejo (aged two to three years). Those will have the smoothest taste. Fun side fact: Scorah told us tequila really can’t be aged more than three years, otherwise it turns vinegar-y. Tequila makers have to taste the extra añejo every day to make sure it’s just right before bottling. Tough job!
(Makes 1 cocktail)
Grapefruit Cordial (Makes 2 1/2 cups):
- 1 cup sugar
- zest of 3 grapefruits
- 1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- 1/2 cup lime
- 1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila, like Don Julio
- 1 ounce grapefruit cordial
- dash fresh jalapeño juice
- soda water, to top
- hot chili gummy candy, for garnish
1. To make grapefruit cordial: In a glass jar, layer zest in with the sugar, and let it sit for as long as you can, from several days to a week. The oil from the zest will infuse into the sugar. Once the mixture liquidates some and becomes oily, mix in grapefruit and lime. Strain into a mason jar, seal, and keep refrigerated for one to two days.
2. To make cocktail: In a shaker filled with ice, combine tequila, grapefruit cordial, and jalapeño juice. Strain into a glass and top with soda. Garnish with a hot chili gummy.
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BottleRock Napa and Williams Sonoma provided media passes for the purpose of this article.
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(Photos via Anna Monette Roberts / Brit + Co and Kassie Borreson / Williams Sonoma)