The Margarita may be one of the most popular cocktails in the world, but if we're comparing iconic tequila cocktails, the Paloma may be the one to beat. It's also the national drink of Mexico, giving it some authentic cred.
The Paloma is delicious, refreshing, and much simpler to make than the Margarita. With so few ingredients—tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda—Palomas are hard to mess up. Margaritas can be transcendent when made properly but, when ordering one in the wild, you have a greater risk of getting a pint-sized glass filled with day-glow sour mix and an imbalanced drink. When you're looking for a refreshing cocktail that will hit all the right notes in less than two shakes, the Paloma's three-ingredient highball built directly in the glass is a sure thing.
Palomas are effortless but also offer a surprisingly complex flavor profile. Blanco tequila is the traditional choice, but lightly aged reposado also makes a fine drink. It’s best to keep the añejo capped for this cocktail, as the well-aged expression’s oaky profile disrupts that clean, refreshing taste you want in a Paloma.
In Mexico, Jarritos is commonly the grapefruit soda of choice for its easy accessibility, high carbonation, and sugar cane-sweetened grapefruit flavor. This brand is relatively easy to find stateside, particularly in grocery stores that stock Mexican foods and ingredients. Squirt is another common pick in Mexico, while Ting and Fresca are also suitable options.
Some people may also choose to rim the glass with salt, while others add a pinch of salt straight into the drink. This step isn’t necessary, but it does add a savory quality that melds beautifully with the earthy tequila and tart grapefruit. And it opens the possibility of using a spiced salt, like Tajín, for an extra seasoning kick.
Because the Paloma is constructed right in the glass, you don’t need any bar tools to make it. Just add your ingredients to a highball glass with ice, give a quick stir, and you’re ready to enjoy a refreshing cocktail. Mexico’s national cocktail is a great choice any day of the year.
Click Play to See This Paloma Recipe Come Together
2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
Grapefruit soda, chilled, to top
Garnish: lime wheel
Garnish: salt rim (optional)
Rub a lime wedge around the edge of a highball glass, and dip the rim in salt (optional).
Add the tequila and lime juice to the glass, and fill with ice.
Top with grapefruit soda, and stir briefly and gently to combine.
Garnish with a lime wheel.
Can You Use Fresh Grapefruit Juice Instead of Soda in a Paloma?
As bartenders continue to embrace fresh juice in their cocktails, it has become increasingly common to use fresh grapefruit juice in place of grapefruit soda. If you want to go that route, you can complement the juice with unflavored sparkling water to achieve the necessary bubbly effect.
Fair warning, this combination yields a much drier cocktail, as grapefruit soda can be quite sweet. You can add a little simple syrup to mix, but then you're veering further away from the simplicity of this drink. Grapefruit soda is the more traditional choice when making Palomas.