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Paloma Cocktail Recipe

The Paloma tastes like summer in a glass. The refreshing tequila tipple is simultaneously sweet, sour and salty. It’s also easy to craft at home regardless of the season.

Paloma Cocktail with Black Background from Above

The Paloma is a magical cocktail.

You could be in Buffalo during a December blizzard. You could be in Chicago in February. Heck, you could even be in Antarctica in the dead of a July winter.

Whenever or wherever you sip a Paloma, you’ll feel like you’re on a Mexican beach if only for a sweet moment. And, as a bonus, that sweet moment will taste like grapefruit and tequila.

What Is a Paloma Cocktail?

Paloma Cocktail with Grapefruit and Black Background
Grapefruit takes a starring role in the Paloma cocktail.

The Paloma is suddenly giving the Margarita a run for the title of Mexico’s national drink. Don’t worry – it’s a friendly contest since the word paloma translates to dove. But what is this potent potable with the bird-inspired name?

Although it’s not technically a classic cocktail, the Paloma follows the classic cocktail playbook with a simple recipe and a short ingredient list that includes tequila, grapefruit soda and lime juice. As refreshing as an ice cold lemonade, the Paloma tastes simultaneously sweet, sour and salty. But, unlike lemonade, the Paloma also provides a tequila kick.

History of the Paloma

Paloma Cocktail with Pink Background from Above
We’d thank the Paloma’s inventor but we don’t know who to thank.

Our research reveals that the first Paloma was likely crafted in Mexico during the 1950s. That’s the decade when Squirt, an American grapefruit soda, crossed the border into Mexico and the cocktail icon was born. But who was the first to combine Squirt with tequila?

Some cocktail historians speculate that a Tequila (the city) bar owner named Don Javier Delgado Corona invented the Paloma. It’s a story we’d like to be true since it would be poetic for the popular tequila drink to hail from Tequila (one again, large ‘T’). Then again, it doesn’t matter who created the Paloma recipe. We’re just glad that it happened.

Fun Fact
While we don’t know the Paloma’s exact origin, we do know that Squirt was invented in Phoenix, Arizona in 1938.

Paloma Ingredients

Paloma Cocktail Ingredients
You don’t need a lot of ingredients to craft a Paloma cocktail. You just need tequila, grapefruit soda, a lime, a grapefruit, some coarse salt and ice cubes.

As noted above, the Paloma ingredient is short. These are the only ingredients you need to craft a Paloma cocktail at home:

  • Blanco Tequila
  • Grapefruit Soda
  • Lime Juice
  • Ice Cubes
  • Coarse Salt (for rim)
  • Lime Wedge (for rim)
  • Grapefruit Wheel (for garnish)
Bottle of Jarritos Grapefruit Soda
Jarritos grapefruit soda is the popular choice for crafting Paloma cocktails both in Mexico and in our home bar.

While Squirt was the grapefruit soda of choice back in the 1950s, many Mexicans now prefer using Jarritos grapefruit soda. This popularity is no surprise since this soda is made with grapefruit juice and cane sugar in Mexico.

Besides Jarritos and Squirt, other grapefruit soda choices include Fresca and Ting.

Paloma Cocktail with Tequila Bottle
A Paloma with without tequila is a soda. In other words, don’t forget the tequila!

You can use any tequila to craft a Paloma although mixologists recommend using blanco tequila. You could also use a barrel-aged reposado tequila if you already have a bottle.

We used a bottle of Jose Cuervo Especial tequila made with blue agave. Distilled in Mexico, it has a 38% ABV. While it may not be the finest tequila for sipping, it’s an ideal tequila for crafting cocktails.

Buy a bottle of tequila from Drizly or Total Wine if you live in the US.

How to Craft a Paloma Cocktail

Paloma Cocktail Mise en Place
Gathering ingredients and tools takes more time than crafting a Paloma.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to craft a Paloma cocktail. In fact, you just need the following two bar tools:

Don’t give up if you’re missing one or both of these basic bar tools. You could use an angled measuring cup instead of a jigger and a teaspoon or tablespoon instead of a bar spoon.

Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.

Paloma Cocktail - Social IMG
Buckle your seatbelt. It’s time to craft a Paloma cocktail!

Create a salt rim on a highball glass by rubbing a lime edge around the top of the glass and then dipping the glass on to a plate topped with coarse salt. Swirl the glass in a circle and voila! you just created a salt rim.

Measure two ounces of tequila and pour the Mexican liquor into the salt-rimmed tequila glass. We like to use a Japanese jigger to get an accurate measurement and to avoid spilling the tequila on the salt rim.

Buy a Japanese Jigger from Amazon if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Pour freshly squeezed lime juice into the same glass. You can either use a jigger or an angled measuring cup glass.

Pouring Lime Juice for a Paloma Cocktail
A little bit of lime juice goes a long way when crafting a Paloma cocktail.

Stir the tequila and lime juice with a bar spoon or another long utensil.

Topping a Paloma Cocktail with Grapefruit Soda
Grapefruit soda provides the Paloma’s sweet and sour flavors.

Top the glass with grapefruit soda.

Stirring a Paloma Cocktail
Grapefruit soda and tequila come together in the Paloma cocktail.

Pro Tip
Open the bottle just before pouring to maximize the soda’s bubbles.

Garnish with a grapefruit wheel.

Paloma Cocktail from Above
You could hypothetically garnish the Paloma with a lime wheel but a grapefruit wheel looks way cooler.

Serve with a straw unless you’d rather sip your Paloma straight from the salt-rimmed glass.

Paloma Drink Alternatives

Crafted Paloma Cocktail with Ingredients
The Paloma recipe is easy to craft. It’s also easy to tweak.

Millions of Mexicans can’t be wrong when it comes to crafting a traditional Paloma cocktail. However, nobody will get upset if you tweak the tequila cocktail’s simple recipe. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Replace the grapefruit soda with a mixture of fresh grapefruit juice and club soda if you don’t have access to grapefruit soda.
  • Replace the grapefruit soda with triple sec to craft a Margarita cocktail.
  • Replace the tequila with mezcal to craft a smokier Paloma cocktail.
  • Replace the tequila with either vodka or gin and leave out the lime juice to craft a Greyhound cocktail.
  • Replace the tequila with vodka to craft a Palomita cocktail.

Paloma Cocktail FAQs

What is a Paloma cocktail?

The Paloma is a tequila cocktail crafted with grapefruit soda and fresh lime juice.

Where was the Paloma cocktail invented?

The Paloma cocktail was invented at an undisclosed location in Mexico. In other words, nobody knows exactly where in Mexico it was invented.

What are the ingredients in a Paloma cocktail?

Blanco Tequila, Grapefruit Soda, Lime Juice, Coarse Salt (for rim), Lime Wedge (for rim), Grapefruit Wheel (for garnish) and Ice Cubes

Is the Paloma cocktail shaken or stirred?

The Paloma cocktail is stirred not shaken.

Paloma Recipe

Paloma Cocktail with Pink Striped Straw

Paloma

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Paloma is a contender for Mexico's national drink. It's also a tasty tequila tipple that's easy to craft at home.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces blanco tequila
  • 4 ounces grapefruit soda
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • coarse salt (for salt rim)
  • lime wedge (for salt rim)
  • grapefruit wheel (for garnish)
  • ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Pour coarse salt on a small round plate.
  2. Rub lime wedge around the rim of a highball glass and then dip the glass into the salt, twirling the glass until the rim is well coated. Set the glass aside.
  3. Pour tequila and lime juice into a highball glass. Stir and add ice.
  4. Top with grapefruit soda.
  5. Garnish with a grapefruit wheel.

Notes

  • You can use reposado tequila instead of blanco tequila.
  • You can garnish with a lime wheel instead of a grapefruit wheel.
  • You can make your own grapefruit soda if you're an over achiever or if you can't find grapefruit soda at your local store.

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Original Publication Date: December 28, 2022

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