The Paloma is a highball style cocktail, a simple mix where a spirit is served in a tall glass with a mixer. Hailing from Mexico, it pairs tequila with grapefruit soda and lime juice. It’s a thirst-quenching refresher of a drink, best served in a glass filled to the top with ice.
The exact origins of the Paloma (Spanish for ‘dove’) aren’t known, though it may be named after a popular Mexican folk song La Paloma. The recipe also has several variations, though the classic version (one part tequila, three parts grapefruit soda and a squeeze of fresh lime juice) – also known as the Simple Paloma – is attributed to Don Javier Delgado Corona, owner of La Capilla bar in Tequila.
The leading grapefruit soda brand used in Mexico is the brilliantly named Squirt, however if you prefer a sharp bitterness to your grapefruit drinks, you might find the sugary flavours of this brand rather bland.
In the UK, Ting used to be the most ubiquitous brand, but newer specialist sodas are also well worth seeking out. Both Two Keys Pink Grapefruit Mixer and Three Cents Pink Grapefruit Soda are premium, lip-smacking drinks that work brilliantly in a Paloma.
The Paloma can also be made with grapefruit juice (pink or yellow) and served with or without a salt rim. If you want total control over the piquancy of your drink, try creating your own grapefruit soda.
Start with respective measures of 50ml tequila, 25ml fresh grapefruit juice, 12.5ml lime juice, 5ml agave syrup and enough soda to top the drink off, and adjust accordingly from there. Or follow the suggested recipe below.
How to make a Paloma:
Garnish: Salt rim (optional) and grapefruit wedge
Method: Put all of the ingredients except the grapefruit soda into a cocktail shaker. Half fill with ice and shake until your hands are cold. Strain into an ice-filled glass and top with soda. Stir to mix and garnish.
30ml pink grapefruit juice
15ml lime juice
7.5ml agave syrup
Grapefruit soda to top
Best tequilas for a Paloma:
Named after a Mexican showjumping horse, Arette’s tequilas are made in Tequila town in the state of Jalisco. The Blanco is savoury and peppery, with flavours of seagrass, grapefruit zest, vanilla and granola combining on a medium-weight body with a drying finish. Its salty character is a great foil for grapefruit soda. Alcohol 38%
Calle 23 Blanco
The Calle 23 brand was created by Sophie Decobecq, a French biochemist. She fell in love with Mexico and tequila when she went to the country on a work placement to research yeasts and lactic acid. The Blanco is an excellent all-round mixing tequila, boasting notes of cooked agave, black pepper, spearmint, orchard fruits and pineapple. Alc 40%
Curado Blue Weber
A blanco tequila that’s been infused with further pieces of cooked Blue Weber agave, this is best described as ‘agave on steroids’, with plenty of sweetness to it. Flavours of marmalade, heather honey and brown butter are accompanied by black pepper, dried chilli flakes and sea salt. Add a squeeze more lime to temper the sweetness of this tequila and you’ve got a perfect Paloma. Alc 40%
Made at the same distillery as Herradura, El Jimador is the more affordable brand of the two, and as such is useful to have in your home bar for mixed drinks. Sweet roasted agave plays alongside lemon and grapefruit zest, apples, cooling mint and distinct pepper notes. Alc 38%
El Sueno Silver
Mixto tequilas – made with a mixture of agave and other sugars, rather than 100% agave – get a bad rap, often for justifiable reasons. This is something that El Sueno’s owners want to address, however, by making quality mixtos with better ingredients and production processes. The Silver is juicy and fruity, with plenty of stone fruit flavours mingling with menthol and lime. Alc 38%
Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver
While the vast majority of Cuervo’s output is pile-em-high, cheap mixto tequila, it does make some 100% agave spirit. Tradicional Silver is one such product and it lends itself well to mixing. Agave, green and black pepper, cinnamon and lemon are all present on the palate, with the spice playing well alongside the grapefruit citrus in a Paloma. Alc 38%
Patrón’s distillery may be huge, but its production methods maintain the behaviour of a small-batch operation. It uses a combination of roller mill and more traditional tahona wheel to crush the agave, with banks of small-sized stills producing multitudes of smaller batches of spirit. Silver is a combination of fudge, clean citrus, rich agave, pepper, anise and cinnamon, which produces a well-rounded yet refreshing Paloma. Alc 40%
A high-proof tequila, Tapatio 110 provides extra oomph to a long drink such as a Paloma, thanks to the fact that alcohol carries flavour. Distinct vegetal notes play alongside sweet fruit and spice. Green capsicum and agave, peach, grape and lime all mingle with plenty of spice: pepper and a smattering of cinnamon. Alc 55%