Franlin & Sons

Franklin & Sons reports back from its Paloma Showdown.

The Paloma – even in its simplest combination of nothing more than tequila, lime juice and grapefruit soda – is a glorious drink, greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also particularly amenable to being adapted and modified, with even the most minor of tweaks having a big impact.

In short, it’s a cocktail worth celebrating, and worth revisiting. With this in mind, premium mixer brand Franklin & Sons recently launched the Paloma Showdown, in both Manchester and London, as part of its commitment to championing the latest drinks trends, and to empower and give back to hospitality professionals. Multiple bars in each city were given the task of creating their own spin on this classic using Franklin & Sons Pink Grapefruit Soda, and were encouraged to create something that was a reflection of their bar and their approach to cocktails.

Those purchasing a Paloma in participating bars were asked to vote via a QR code, entering them into a draw to win a trip to the home of the Paloma, Mexico, worth £5,000. The winning bar from each city, meanwhile, would stand to win not only a Franklin & Sons and agave hamper worth £300, but an exclusive industry party too.

We hit the streets of London with Franklin & Sons UK brand ambassador Tommaso Cicala to visit a few of the participating bars, starting with Cafe Pacifico in Covent Garden, which fittingly presented the Paloma in its most timeless, traditional form. ‘The classic Paloma is already an amazing drink,’ said Cicala. ‘It’s sweet, salty, bubbly… it has it all.’

Next stop was Wacky Wombat, where the team brought their expertise in distillation to bear, creating an in-house habanero distillate that removed much of the chilli’s heat, while accentuating its flavour. This shone when mixed with tequila, lime juice, an in-house passion fruit syrup, a touch of Campari, saline solution and, of course, Franklin & Sons Pink Grapefruit Soda. As Wacky Wombat’s Kevin Price Houghton described it: ‘Tropical, spicy, and Latina through and through.’

At The Royal Cocktail Exchange, the team had taken inspiration from ‘the gorgeous combination of melon and parma ham’, in the words of the bar’s Rory Sorrell. Their take on the classic incorporated melon and manzanilla sherry, both complementing the drink’s grapefruit notes. While the initial idea was to garnish with charcuterie, the final drink featured a more inclusive ‘vegan prosciutto’ rim. ‘All of the flavour, with none of the animal product,’ said Sorrell.

The final stop of the night was Silverleaf, which kept true to the bar’s practice of pairing commonplace ingredients with uncommon ones, as well as its commitment to clarification. ‘We wanted to keep as close to the original as possible, retaining that massive grapefruit flavour – it’s about elevating rather than reinventing the wheel,’ explained Jacob Drew. ‘We used pomelo, from the same family as grapefruit, and paired it with cassia, bringing warming spice notes, and made those two into a cordial.’

Cicala agreed that each bar had succeeded in reflecting their own style, while showcasing the versatility of the Paloma, and its ability to act as a springboard for riffs and variations. ‘The results from the bars have been amazing. They’ve all been unique, and all represent their bars really well – they’ve all put their stamp on it,’ he said.

Other London bars taking part in the Paloma Showdown include Disrepute, Savage Garden and Boundary London, while in Manchester participating bars include Red Light, Salt Dogs and more.

The winners - one from each city - were Red Light in Manchester and Boundary Shoreditch in London.