The Cocktail I Come Back to Every Summer
La Paloma is a relentlessly refreshing Mexican tequila cocktail that’s perfect for bringing out to the patio. Or the fire escape. Or just a wide-open window.
I have nothing against Margaritas. They’re delicious, and they can be improvised upon a thousand ways, depending on what ingredients you have on hand. They’re great frozen or on the rocks, and an excellent pairing for summer meals. But if I have a bottle of tequila knocking around the house, the drink that I’ll go to first isn’t a Margarita. It’s a Paloma.
A Paloma, the Spanish word for dove, is a tequila cocktail that’s got a balance of bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and, depending on the tequila you use, a little spicy or umami. For something so flavorful, the ingredients are incredibly simple: tequila, grapefruit soda, lime juice, and a little salt on the rim if you care for it. That’s it. Not only is it delicious, you can make them in the can of grapefruit soda, if you want. It’s a great drink to have on hand at the beach or in the park, or in a backyard party, when we can have those safely again.
The ideal grapefruit soda for the job is up to your particular tastes. The first Paloma I had used Squirt, which is, according to some cocktail historians, the original Paloma mixer. But if you’d rather, any grapefruit soda will work: Jarritos, Fresca, San Pellegrino’s Pompelmo soda, or even Pamplemousse LaCroix, if you like things to be less sweet.
You can also use any kind of tequila you like. It adapts well to reposado, anejo, or blanco, which all bring different characteristics to the drink. If you don’t have grapefruit soda handy, or you’d just prefer to use some actual grapefruit juice instead, that’s no problem. This Paloma recipe replaces the bottled grapefruit soda with a version you can make at home with club soda, grapefruit juice, and simple syrup. Though that’s more work than the classic and simple lime, grapefruit soda, tequila combination, it allows you to fine-tune how sweet or bitter you want your cocktail.
If you want to get fancy with it—and the beauty of the Paloma is you absolutely don’t have to, but if you’re feeling a little extra, so be it—you can also add a touch of liqueur. This Ruby Red Pamplemousse Paloma trades the lime juice for lemon juice and replaces the grapefruit soda with grapefruit juice and a touch of Giffard Creme de Pamplemousse Rose liqueur. You could also reach for Cointreau or Triple Sec for a similar effect. When it comes to summer tequila consumption, there really aren’t any rules.