The Paloma is a super refreshing grapefruit cocktail. With the perfect balance of sweet, bitter, and salty, it’s no wonder it’s Mexico’s favorite tequila-based refreshment.
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The internet is taunting me. More specifically, my Facebook feed. More specifically, my friends on winter getaways in tropical locations with sun, sand, tiny umbrellas, and nary a snowflake in sight.
Yeah. It’s that time of year.
Luckily I have a tonic – a pink, fizzy, tequila-laden tonic – that will chase away the winter blues in no time. And that tonic isn’t really a tonic, but it is refreshing AF, and it’s this Paloma Cocktail.
Tropical vacations? Who needs ’em! Actually, just kidding – I’d totally take one. But if I can’t have a four-day weekend in Puerto Vallarta, I will happily settle for a round of this cocktail by the fire. Join me as I squeeze out the last drops of great winter citrus – literally – with this refreshing Paloma cocktail.
What’s in a Paloma?
The Paloma is Mexico’s most popular tequila based cocktail, and for good reason. Sweet, salty, and bitter collide, and each are tamed just enough for a perfectly balanced, delightfully sippable, utterly transformative tequila drink.
There are several different ways to make a Paloma, including with grapefruit soda, but I like to make it with the freshest ingredients possible, and that includes real grapefruit juice.
- Tequila blanco
- Grapefruit juice
- Lime juice
- Simple syrup
- Club soda
- Salted rim (optional…but recommended!)
How to Make a Paloma Cocktail
Start by juicing a grapefruit. Roll the grapefruit on the counter a couple of times to break up the membranes and release more juices, and then slice it in half widthwise.
Juice one half of the grapefruit. I use the tines of a fork and gently twist the tines into the flesh while squeezing the outside to release as much juice as possible. You can also use a juicer or reamer. Slice the other half of the grapefruit into 1/2″ wide slices.
Pour some kosher salt onto a small plate and give it a gentle shake to even it out. Select one of the smaller end pieces of grapefruit and run it around the lip of the glass to dampen the rim and help the salt adhere.
Dip the rim of the glass in the salt, then fill the glass with ice. I like crushed ice because fancy, but cubes are perfectly fine.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the fresh grapefruit juice, tequila, fresh lime juice, and a dash of simple syrup. Simple syrup is easy to make and handy to have around (see the recipe notes), but if you don’t want to bother with it, use agave nectar instead. Stir it all up until the shaker frosts.
Cover the shaker with a strainer and pour the chilled cocktail into the salted glass. Top with club soda, then garnish with one of the larger pieces of grapefruit slices.
Finally, envision yourself on a sandy beach under a blazing hot sun (if that’s your thing) and sip this refreshing concoction until the winter blues fade away.
Paloma Cocktail Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to use fresh squeezed grapefruit juice? You don’t! I do think fresh grapefruit juice is worth the (minimal) extra effort. The flavor and color of fresh grapefruit juice is simply more intense, but bottled grapefruit juice will definitely get the job done. If you buy bottled grapefruit juice, be sure to select 100% juice that’s sugar free for best flavor.
Similarly, opt for fresh lime juice. Use the lime juice in the bottles if you must (the kind that can be found in the produce section), but please, no Rose’s syrup.
What kind of tequila should I use? Tequila blanco (white tequila) is the standard for a Paloma. Gold tequila is aged, and stronger in flavor, so it’s not well-suited for a drink with delicate flavor, like the Paloma. We like Hornitos, Espolon, and Patron. Each are widely available, but the first two are more economical. If you’re a budding connoisseur of Mexican spirits, you could also use Mezcal.
Can I make a virgin Paloma? Yes! Just leave out the tequila. The remaining ingredients make for a very refreshing mocktail drink.
Do I have to use a cocktail shaker? If you want to be fancy and proper? Yes. If you want your drink faster? Nah. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, simply pour the grapefruit juice, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup into the salted glass. Stir, then add ice and top with club soda.
Can I make a large batch Paloma for a crowd? Yes, please do! This recipe scales up nicely. To make a batch that serves 16, follow this recipe: combine 4 cups tequila, 4 cups grapefruit juice, 1 cup lime juice, and 1/2 cup simple syrup in a large pitcher (at least a gallon). Stir to combine, then place the pitcher in the fridge overnight to chill. When you’re ready to serve, add a few handfuls of ice and top with 3-4 cups soda water, or set the soda water to the side for guests to top off their drinks for the fizziest finish possible.
More Refreshing Cocktail Recipes
- Rosemary Vodka Gimlet
- Bourbon Sour Blood Orange Cocktail
- Stone Fruit Sangria
- Cherry Gin Rickey
- Blueberry Mint Julep
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Paloma Cocktail with Fresh Grapefruit Juice
Chase away the winter blues with this refreshing paloma cocktail! With the perfect blend of sweet and tart and a beautiful pink hue, it's no wonder this seasonal grapefruit cocktail is Mexico's most popular tequila based beverage.
- kosher salt
- 1 large grapefruit or 2 oz grapefruit juice
- 2 oz tequila blanco
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice from 1/2 lime
- 1/4 oz simple syrup or agave nectar
- club soda to preference
Slice the grapefruit in half widthwise. Using a citrus juicer, reamer, or the tines of a fork, juice one half of the fruit and set aside. Cut the other half into 1/2" slices.
Spread kosher salt onto a small plate and shake to create an even layer of salt.
Run one of the grapefruit slices along the rim of the glass, then dip the glass into the salt to create a salt rim. Fill the glass with ice and set aside.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the grapefruit juice, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup or agave nectar. Stir to combine all ingredients.
Pour the cocktail into the prepared cocktail glass. Top with soda water to your preference and garnish with a grapefruit wedge. Serve immediately.
How to Make Simple Syrup:
- Combine 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat, whisking frequently until the sugar is dissolved and the solution is clear.
- Remove from heat and cool at room temperature.
- Simple syrup keeps in the fridge in a sealed container for at least 2 months.
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