Celebrate Day Of The Dead With This Sage-Smoked Paloma

Mexico is steeped in many traditions. As lost loved ones are celebrated each year on the Day of the Dead, why not also pay homage to the tradition of sharing tequila in sizable quantities? Perhaps one of the best ways to utilize your tequila of choice is by whipping up what could be thought of as the margarita's bitter cousin, the grapefruit-driven Paloma.

While elements of smoke, earth and herbs are not often associated with this drink, barman and agave specialist Brennan Adams seems to channel the volcanic terroir of southern Mexico to take this classic in a new direction with his El Incendio, or Fire, cocktail. Starting with Santera Tequila, a notably rich and unctuous blanco, Adams stretches the Paloma's distinct bitter notes to include not only grapefruit but also lemon and Campari, all of which are tempered by a waft of dried-sage smoke rimming the glass.

The result is perhaps less abrasive than most would expect from the bite of a good Paloma, and in turn, it allows the aromatics of fruit and herb from the spirit and agave to shine through. As for the burning sage, there's no mysticism required, though this bitter incense has long been used ceremonially for healing and cleansing. Just make sure that if anyone asks, you're burning it to honor the tequila. Enjoy.

Paloma Cocktail

Servings: 1 cocktail


2 ounces blanco tequila

1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce agave syrup


  • Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker and whip with a few cubes of ice for several seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled collins glass and top with soda. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
  • El Incendio Cocktail

    Servings: 1 cocktail


    1 1/2 ounces Santera Blanco Tequila

    1/2 ounce Campari

    1/2 ounce fresh grapefruit juice

    1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

    3/4 ounce sage simple syrup*

    Dried sage


  • Smoke-treat a chilled rocks glass by lightly burning dried sage and putting the glass facedown over the smoke.
  • In a shaker with ice, combine ingredients except Campari. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube.
  • Float Campari on top and garnish with a small bunch of dried sage.
  • *Sage simple syrup directions:

  • Take 2 bunches fresh sage, 2 pints water and 1 pint raw sugar.
  • Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and reduce to a simmer.
  • Add sage and steep on simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Strain the sage and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1 pint.
  • Remove from heat and add sugar. Stir to dissolve and chill the syrup.
  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes

    Difficulty: Moderate