The Paloma Cocktail 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.
Late winter/early spring weather in the mid-Atlantic is always a giant tease. We wildly swing from 70° days soaked with sunshine to threats of snow in a matter of days. The forecast is more “box of chocolates” like than at any other time of the year, because truly, we never know what we’re gonna get.
Luckily I have a tonic – a pink, fizzy, tequila-infused tonic – that is absolutely transformative for any weather-induced mood you find yourself in. And that tonic isn’t really a tonic, but it is refreshing AF, and it’s this Paloma Cocktail.
The Paloma feels like a summer drink, but I find that they’re best during peak grapefruit season, which just happens to be right now. You too should squeeze out the last drops of great winter citrus – literally – with this refreshing Paloma cocktail.
What’s a Paloma?
The Paloma is Mexico’s most popular tequila based cocktail. A close cousin to a margarita, the base liquor is tequila, which is brightened with grapefruit, then finished with club soda for fizz. Sweet, salty, and bitter collide, and each are tamed just enough for a perfectly balanced, delightfully sippable, utterly transformative tequila drink.
- Tequila Blanco: aka white tequila. Quality matters; see the FAQ section for tequila recommendations.
- Grapefruit Juice: fresh squeezed is best, but you can get away with bottled as long as it’s sugar free)
- Lime Juice: again, fresh is best, but don’t NOT make it because you only have bottled. Just don’t use the sweetened stuff, like Rose’s.
- Simple Syrup: you can also use agave or honey for a refined sugar free drink.
- Club Soda
- Salted Rim: optional…but recommended!
Video: Watch How to Make this Drink
How to Make a Paloma
There are several different ways to make a Paloma, including with grapefruit soda. Here we’re making it with fresh grapefruit juice and simple syrup so that it can be sweetened to taste.
For a quick visual recipe, view and save the web story for making a paloma!
Before you start, our BEST tip!
Use fresh grapefruit juice instead of grapefruit soda. You’ll be rewarded with a more vibrant drink, in both color and flavor.
- Juice a grapefruit. Roll the fruit on a counter a few times to break up the membranes, then slice in half widthwise. Juice half the grapefruit – the easiest way is to use the tines of a fork and gently twist into the flesh. You can also use a juicer (for a pitcher cocktail) or reamer. Slice the other half of the grapefruit into ½″ wide slices.
- Make the salted rim. Run a piece of grapefruit along the edge of a rocks glass to damper, then dip the rim of the glass into a shallow dish of kosher salt.
- Fill the glass with cubed or crushed ice.
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the fresh grapefruit juice, tequila, lime juice, and a dash of simple syrup (or agave nectar or honey). Stir the cocktail until the shaker frosts.
- Strain into the prepared glass. Top with club soda, then garnish with a grapefruit slice.
- Lastly (and most important!), 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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. 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.
Yes! Just leave out the tequila. The remaining ingredients make for a very refreshing mocktail drink.
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 ½ 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
- Lavender Gin Sour
- Bourbon Sour Blood Orange Cocktail
- Bramble Cocktail
- Watermelon Mojito
- Cherry Gin Rickey
- Blueberry Mint Julep
Did you make this Paloma Cocktail? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- Cocktail Shaker
- kosher salt
- 2 oz grapefruit juice
- 2 oz tequila blanco
- ½ oz fresh lime juice, from ½ lime
- ¼ oz simple syrup, or agave nectar, or honey; see notes
- 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 ½" 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.
- 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.