The Paloma cocktail is a wonderfully easy classic cocktail. While traditionally made with grapefruit soda, an alternative and increasingly popular way is with fresh grapefruit juice which gives it a bright, fresh flavor profile. It's the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors, and wonderful to sip on.
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While many people think of margaritas when they think of Mexican cocktials, the Paloma is likely just as, if not more poular, in Mexico itself. Some would even consider it the national cocktial.
It has certain similarities, with tequila being the spirit base, but it's even easier to make. No shaker, and only a small list of ingredients are required for this citrus-forward cocktail. It's highly refreshing, and just the thing for a warm day.
History of the Paloma cocktial
Most agree that this cocktail dates back to around the 1950s, but beyond that things become a little more murky. Many believe it was first createdin Mexico, but exactly where is unclear (see this article for a more detailed discussion).
The first grapefruit soda to be created (Squirt) was imported from the US to Mexico in the 1950s, and what seems most likely is that it was quickly used as a mixer, in the same way as other sodas. But the combination of tequila and grapefruit turned out to be particularly good, that it soon caught on.
The word "paloma" translates as "dove" in Spanish. There's an old folk song of that name which may, potentially, have inspired the name of this drink. Others say it was named after a female client in the bar it was created. Whatever the exact origins, the drink took off and is now a firm favorite across Mexico and beyond.
Tequila is very much the spirit of choice in Mexico, but more typically, people drink it neat, sipped rather than as shots. The shot with lime and salt is only really if you have a lesser quality tequila.
That said, when you need more of a refreshing drink then a cocktail like this is much better. It might be described as a cooler as it's perfect for slower drinking, such as on a hot day.
How to make a paloma cocktail
This cocktail is so easy to make. As mentioned, it's traditionally made with grapefruit soda, but you can also make it with fresh grapefruit juice and sparkling water or club soda. It will be less sweet, but to me that's better. You get to enjoy the fresh flavor much more.
Just pour the tequila over some ice, add the grapefruit juice, a squeeze of lime and some soda water then serve. Garnish with a lime wedge and grapefruit wedge to make it look that bit fancier. If you want it sweeter, mix in a little simple syrup, but otherwise that's it.
Top tip: use fresh juice
Use freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and fresh lime juice for this as you are going to taste both. They do really make a difference to get all that fantastic, bright citrus flavor.
Traditionally, you make this with a blanco tequilla which is your everyday, unaged kind. However, I quite like the added complexity of flavors you get from a good reposado (with a little aging) or a mezcal, at least in part. I sometimes use half and half mezcal or resposado with blanco. It's worth trying variations to see which you prefer.
Finally, while you won't always find this with a salt rim, it does go pretty well, just as it does for margaritas. So, if that's something you enjoy, just rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and dip in salt before mixing the cocktail in it.
Easy and refreshing, this Paloma is a great cocktail to sip on on a warm day. With fantastic bright citrus flavor, and a great sweet-tart balance, it's no wonder it's a firm favorite for so many.
Try these other easy cocktails:
- Raspberry collins cocktail (fruity and refreshing)
- Pimm's mojito (a tasty twist on the classic)
- Mexican carajillo (a super easy coffee cocktail)
- Strawberry St Germain gin and tonic
- Plus get more cocktail recipes in the archives.
- 1 teaspoon salt (optional and approx- for salt rim)
- 2 fl oz tequila (blanco or reposado, or can use mezcal)
- 2 fl oz grapefruit juice
- 1 tablespoon lime juice freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon simple syrup (made with equal parts sugar and water, warmed to dissolve) approx - or a little more or less to taste
- 2 fl oz sparkling water/club soda (or a little more)
- If you want to have a salt rim on your glass, pour some salt on a small plate then rub the edge of the glass with either a slice of grapefruit or lime. Dip the top of the glass in salt and carefully turn over so you don't knock the salt off.
- Add the tequila, grapefruit juice and lime juice to the glass (traditionally hi-ball but I have used a shorter rocks-style glass here). Add some simple syrup (a little more/less to taste), stir to mix then add a few cubes of ice. Top up the glass with sparkling water/club soda and serve.
This post was first published in May 2017 and has been updated with new photos and additional information.