Paloma – Classic Recipe & History

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Paloma (Classic Recipe)

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Course: DrinksCuisine: Mexican






Total time



Make a classic Mexican Paloma cocktail


  • 2/3 oz 2/3 Lime Juice

  • 5 oz 5 Grapefruit Soda

  • 2 2 Silver Tequila


  • Technique: Build In Glass
  • Combine all ingredients except for the soda in a glass.
  • Fill the glass with ice.
  • Stir to combine and chill the ingredients.
  • Gently add the soda and give the drink a couple of last stirs to mix it fully.
  • Option Garnish:
  • Tajin and chamoy rim

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History Of The Paloma.

It isn’t easy to pin the Paloma down to any singular creation, and the truth is it most likely started as a simple, ubiquitous everyman’s drink. It is very uncommon to see tequila cocktails before the 1970s, except that being the margarita and a few other tiki drinks. Scanning through many Spanish, Mexican, American, and British cocktail books from 1909 to 1972, I could not find the Paloma or any grapefruit and tequila cocktail. David Wondrich points out in an article he wrote for the Daily Beast that some of the first mentions of this drink appear in the 1997 Mexican cookbook “A Cook’s Tour of Mexico” by Nancy Zaslavsky, where it is called a lazy man’s margarita and common in the town’s plaza.

The exciting takeaway from this is the drink didn’t seem to have a solid name yet (At least from what we know). This implies that this cocktail is still relatively new and, while popular with locals, has flown under the radar of those who write about Mexican food and drinks. I don’t want to assume this was the locals’ attempt at making an easy margarita. I believe they invented something unique with what was available. Structurally the Paloma is a rickey which is nothing like a margarita. The margarita falls into the sour style, so I will assume this is entirely a new drink. Obviously, with such limited information, assumptions have to be made. Still, from what I can tell, the local population was using cheap Squirt soda and limes to make cheap tequila taste better. If that history is somewhat correct, then I like that. That is the true cocktail creation story. Just a bunch of locals trying to find ways to make some bottom-shelf booze taste better, which is the origin of most of the famous old cocktails.

Dave Wondrich mentions in the article that one of the earliest places selling this cocktail with the name “Paloma” (Which means dove in Spanish) was the Tlaquepaque Restaurant in Orange County, California. Located about 20 minutes north of Disneyland (with no traffic, of course), this traditional Mexican restaurant and the local Mexican immigrant population helped bring this fantastic cocktail to California. The Paloma has since spread to the rest of the United States, but it is most popular in the southwest. As a southwest resident and someone who has been drinking since the early 2000s, I noticed the Paloma start to appear on Mexican menus around the mid to late 2000s. Today, every Mexican bar or restaurant in the city I live in has a Paloma.

Grapefruit Soda And Paloma Variations.

The oldest known way to make a Paloma is with grapefruit soda. Squirt was the first soda to be used in a Paloma, but many different brands all make excellent products. Some of the best options are:

  • Fever-Tree Pink Grapefruit
  • Jarritos Grapefruit
  • Schweppes Grapefruit
  • Fresca
  • San Pellegrino Grapefruit
  • Izze Grapefruit

The list goes on and on, but I think you get the idea. These are just some of the more common ones found at stores. So find a brand you like and go with that.

The other option for making a Paloma is to use fresh grapefruit juice. Using this method, you would substitute the 4 or 5 oz of grapefruit soda with a 1 oz grapefruit juice (Usually, white grapefruit juice is too tart in cocktails, but since there is a bit of syrup added, then white, pink, or red grapefruit works well), 1/2 oz simple syrup, and 3-4 oz soda water. Both ways are reasonable; it depends on your taste which you prefer. The soda version is sweeter, appeals more to the rum and coke crowd and the fresh grapefruit juice is much less sweet and appeals more to the sour cocktail crowd. Try both and see which you prefer. Also, keep in mind that this changes the structure of the cocktail. The soda version is structurally a rickey, and the fresh juice version is a collins. Rickey’s are a soda (sweetness is not a variable for the soda), citrus juice, and base spirit. Collins is soda (sweetness is not a variable for the soda), citrus juice, syrup, and sweetener. Ultimately, the final products of these two versions of the Paloma are similar enough, but if the structure is essential, that is something to keep in mind.

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