Inspiration comes from many places. But for Jarah Retana, a bartender at Sydney tequila joint du jour, El Primo Sanchez, his take on the Paloma comes courtesy of a couple places: Okinawa, the Japanese idea of ikigai — one’s life purpose — and the community to be found in the bar world.
Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, Jarah tells us about the inspiration for the drink, the unique citrus that forms a critical element of the drink, and why El Primo Sanchez has been such a rewarding experience.
Sam Bygrave: What’s it like working at El Primo Sanchez?
Jarah Retana: Honestly, I feel at home. I think every time I’m working there, I don’t feel like I’m somewhere else. It’s just very nice to see this crazy community of people from different places, but somehow everybody feels like family. I think that’s the best thing about El Primo Sanchez.
Congratulations on making the top 10 for Patrón Perfectionists. Can you tell us, what’s the name of your drink and what’s the idea behind it? How’d it come together?
I made a Paloma inspired by the city of Okinawa in Japan. It’s sort of a long story, but basically two years ago during the pandemic I found this book called Ikigai that talks about this thing that for Japanese people is like sort of reason or motivation to live, and I thought that was really amazing.
Even though I was quite sad at home, you know, it was a hard time. Then this cocktail, I think, represents this journey that I had to find this thing that I feel very passionate about, which is the bar industry, cocktails, all the people. And yeah, it’s my way of showing this passion that I have.
That’s wonderful. Now tell us, how do you pull the drink together?
The ingredients are of course, Patrón Reposado. And then I found this native ingredient from Okinawa called shikuwasa, which is a sort of lime, a bit like yuzu, super aromatic, but a little bit bitter. It is a super special and unique flavour. I’m also using grapefruit for sure — it is a Paloma.
And then I tried to make a sustainable cocktail, so I decided I created this grapefruit leather that is edible. And also I’m using the juice, just I clarify it with shikuwasa and it gives these interesting notes. Also grapefruit oleo, so I don’t waste any grapefruit at all. And koji, which brings this saltiness into the drink that it reminds me the Palomas I used to have in Mexico that are a little bit like citric but salty.
You’re from Mexico. How do people drink the Paloma in Mexico? Is it a big drink?
Honestly for me, the Paloma reminds me of weddings in Mexico. There is not a wedding in Mexico without a bottle of tequila in the centre of the table and then grapefruit soda around. If you’re lucky, you’ll find salt. It’s just like tequila with mixer. And it just works perfectly. It is amazing. It brings people together. So for me, it is a drink that represents this community, you know? This time to celebrate and people get together.
That’s great. Why do you do what you do? What is it about bartending that you enjoy?
Well, I love ingredients, I love flavours. It is a big part of my own story. Of course, my background and everything was always full of fresh ingredients and spices and all of these things. I feel really connected with the cocktail making process. But at the same time, it is a big pleasure to share with this community. I mean, sorry for repeating myself, but not only the hospitality industry, but the bar industry around the world, I think is super nice. Everybody supports each other. I have a lot of mentors and at the end of the day, they became more like my family than only coworkers. And I think what I love is, I don’t feel I am working anymore.
- 50ml Patrón Reposado
- 80ml Japanese citrus cordial
- 60ml soda water
Garnish with grapefruit leather.
For the grapefruit leather:
250 gr grapefruit pulp
100 gr blanched and caramelised grapefruit peels
200 gr sugar
20 gr pectine
50 ml water
Blanch grapefruit peels by passing them through boiling water and cold water three times simultaneously. Then boil the peels with 1 part of sugar for 3 parts of water for 1 hour.
Put all the ingredients in thermomix except for pectine and sugar. Blend it at 40 degrees for 5 minutes at 10 speed, after that add pectine and sugar and take it to 90 desgres for 5 minutes. Once the mix is done, spread the mix on baking paper while is warm and put it in a drier machine for 3 hours at 45 degrees. When the leather has the right texture, cut coins with a circle mold and store it.”
For the Japanese citrus cordial:
Japanese Citrus Cordial recipe
Cordial recipe per serve:
74 ml shikuwasa and grapefruit clarified juice
4 ml liquid koji
12 gr sugar
2 ml grapefruit oleo
Mix all ingredients together until sugar dissolves.
Clarified grapefruit and Shikuwasa juice recipe (5 serves):
325 ml grapefruit juice
100 ml shikuwasa (Citrus Depressa)
1.5 gr agar
20 ml water
Mix the juices in a container, then boil the water and add agar to activate it. Then mix it all together and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes, after that filter it with a coffee filter making sure liquid is clear.
Grapefruit oleo recipe:
100 gr grapefruit peels
100 gr sugar
Mix them together in a seal bag until sugars dissolves.