Mexico’s national aperitif, the Paloma cocktail, is a simple tequila drink with a thirst-quenching, irresistible appeal. Move over Margarita, here comes something better!
The Paloma, or ‘Dove’ in Spanish, is easy to admire. First of all, it’s such an quick-to-make, refreshing cocktail. You can make big batches and serve them by the pitcher to friends and family, or you can carefully craft each drink by hand. Up to you.
Palomas are fabulous with spicy food, too. They taste lighter than a Margarita, and they counterbalance the chili’s spice and hot weather to boot. What’s not to love about a cocktail that does double duty?
Take it from me: don’t wait until summer to enjoy a Paloma cocktail. As long as there’s grapefruit soda, or even fresh grapefruit juice, this cocktail is yours for the drinking. Earthy reposado tequila gives the Greyhound, this drink’s cousin, a run for its money in the flavor department.
This drink is a must-make, must-try, dare-you-not-to-make-another type of cocktail.
Contemplating Paloma Cocktails for a crowd? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is the Paloma cocktail history?
This drink is so widely loved in Mexico, that it’s hard to pinpoint who invented the Paloma. Some people suspect that it was first created in the mid-1950s, when the soft drink Squirt was introduced to the country.
Today, the Mexican population consumes more grapefruit soda than any other population, and I think it may be because of this drink. It’s cool, crisp, and goes down so very easy.
What’s in a Paloma?
At it’s core, making a traditional Paloma relies on three basic ingredients:
Tequila: I prefer the richer flavor of reposado tequila, which means ‘rested’ tequila (aged in oak for at least 2 months) but you can use blanco, which is lighter and has less body.
Grapefruit soda: A traditional Paloma cocktail uses grapefruit soda, like Squirt. Mexicans use Squirt, but in the US, Squirt is made with corn syrup, not cane sugar, so I look for Ting, Izze Sparkling Grapefruit, or even San Pellegrino Grapefruit soda in the can. Mexican Jarritos Grapefruit works well also.
In a pinch, people even use Fresca or American Squirt, though, so you can, too.
Salt: This is usually added as a pinch on top of the drink, but you can salt the rim like a Margarita if you prefer.
That’s it, basically! But in my recipe, I add lime juice and another little layer of depth that’s totally optional, but completely delicious: grapefruit bitters.
Having a fancy bottle of bitters in your inventory ups your home bartending game and makes this cocktail absolutely sparkle. If you love grapefruit, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that you’ll love grapefruit bitters.
But I like to buy things that have multiple uses. In between rounds of Palomas, I add the grapefruit bitters to some sparkling water and give a little citrus punch to my daily regimen.
How do you make Paloma cocktail?
Once you find some grapefruit soda, it’s a snap. First, you fill a tall glass with ice. Really load it up. Next, add a shot of tequila, lime juice, 1-2 dashes of grapefruit bitters, and fill the glass up with grapefruit soda. Give it a stir, then sprinkle a pinch of salt over the top of the drink. Salud!
Paloma Cocktail Variations
If you’re considering all the different tequila drinks to order at a bar, give the Paloma a try. You may get one of the bartenders variations, and that’s okay. Variety is the spice of life!
Here are a few, in case you’d like to experiment:
- Mezcal Paloma: Of the many Paloma cocktail variations, using mezcal is popular and delicious. Mezcal is a distilled spirit made from wild agave plants, and it can taste smoky, floral, or herbal. How do you make a mezcal Paloma? Just switch mezcal out for the tequila in this recipe.
- Spicy Paloma: Tajin seasoning, a spice mix with chili, lime and sugar, can be used to season a Paloma or even in place of a salted rim. If you like a little spice in your life, try it!
- Fresca Paloma: Keeping the calories low, Fresca is often used to make Palomas. Let me know how it goes.
- Paloma made with fresh juice: I would never, ever turn down a Paloma made with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. In fact, I might order another round!
Paloma Cocktail Recipe
- 2 ounces tequila blanco or reposado
- 4-6 ounces good quality grapefruit soda (see Notes)
- 1/2 lime juiced
- pinch coarse salt
- 1-2 dashes Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters optional
- Fill a 10-ounce Collins glass with ice, then add tequila, lime juice, bitters, and salt.
- Top with grapefruit soda.
- For grapefruit soda, look for Jarritos, San Pellegrino, Izze, or something similar to make this drink. If you can't find it, you can make your own with fresh-squeezed grapefruit and soda water combined in equal parts.
- Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters can be found in well-stocked liquor stores or online. It really brightens up this drink. If you can't find it, don't fret--the cocktail still tastes fabulous without it.