|The Fumoir bar at London's Claridge's hotel|
Last month I gave myself a birthday treat and sloped by the Fumoir Bar in Claridge’s hotel. Claridge’s itself is an Art Deco feast, but the Fumoir is a little-known treasure within a treasure. There is another main bar, but the Fumoir, which used to be a smoking room back in the days when you could smoke indoors, is off the main drag through an inconspicuous door. Within its compact dimensions (it can only seat 36 and you can’t book) are a wealth of decorative period details along with vintage photos of famous people smoking. There are no windows, so it has an intimate late night feel, even during the day.
|Your correspondent, roughing it in the Fumoir|
I am reliably told that the Paloma, a mixture of tequila and grapefruit soda, is the most common way that tequila is drunk in Mexico. The preferred brands are Squirt, Jarritos or Fresca, none of which is available here in the UK, that I have seen; I’ve tried making the drink using Ting but I was underwhelmed. So recipes often involve some actual grapefruit juice, sometimes dispensing with the grapefruit soda altogether; often they will specify a salt rim to the glass and some lime juice (in turn balanced with sugar or agave syrup) or a lime garnish.
Intrigued, I later experimented at home. I essentially stuck to just three ingredients, tequila, grapefruit juice and Champagne, and I definitely think it works. (Even Mrs H. who is frankly not much bothered about cocktails in general, confessed it was pretty interesting and actually quite nice).
But a lot of it lies in the balance. I was using KAR tequila, which has more overt character than some mainstream brands, and a commercial fresh (not from concentrate) grapefruit juice, courtesy of Tropicana. I eventually decided these proportions worked best:
40ml grapefruit juice
(Optional: 5ml lime juice and 5ml agave syrup)
Shake everything but the Champagne with ice, add to a Champagne flute or coupe and top with chilled Champagne, stirring gently to blend.
(Or you can save time by chilling all the ingredients and simply blending in a—preferably chilled—glass.)
The earthiness of the tequila comes through clearly; I started with equal amounts of spirit and juice, but I think this elevated level of grapefruit is necessary to get the balance and a bit of sweetness. As with all these things you could add lime juice and syrup for some conventional sweet/sour density (as I've indicated, a teaspoon of each is acceptable to me),* but I always think that if you’re going to use Champagne in a cocktail you should be able to taste it, so I preferred to leave it at this—not austere but delicate.
* And I have seen some recipes that add elderflower liqueur—which certainly has a natural affinity with tequila. I’ve also noticed in the past that tequila and ginger go well, so I must try adding something like the King’s Ginger liqueur to see how that works…