Classic Paloma Cocktail

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This tall and fizzy Paloma cocktail—made with grapefruit soda, tequila, and lime—is easy to make for backyard BBQs and summer gatherings.

Photography Credit: Alison Bickel

When you think about drinking tequila in Mexico, margaritas might come to mind. But the paloma is even more popular there, and for good reason. This tequila cooler is tall, refreshing, and super simple to make—just the ticket for a hot day.

WHAT’S IN A PALOMA? 

Some fancy renditions call for fresh grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and club soda, but the classic (and easiest!) version is made with just blanco tequila, fresh lime, and a chilled bottle of grapefruit soda. You can add a pinch of salt to the ice, or rim the glass.

When it comes to grapefruit soda, Squirt and Jarritos Toronja are the go-to options. They taste great in this drink! If you can’t find them, though, you could try other brands of grapefruit soda like Q Grapefruit, Ting, Izze, or even Fresca. (For the record, as much as I love San Pellegrino’s Pompelmo, I don’t think it works that well in a paloma.)

Different sodas will give the drink different levels of sweetness—feel free to add an extra squeeze of lime to balance it to your taste, or top it off with more grapefruit soda.

How To Make a Paloma Cocktail - tall glasses on metal tray

THE BEST LIQUOR FOR A PALOMA

This cocktail calls for blanco tequila, which might also be labeled “silver” or “plato.” Unlike reposado or anejo tequila, this clear tequila is generally not aged in barrels. Look for a bottle that’s made with 100% agave—not a mixto tequila distilled from a mix of agave and sugar.

A few favorite brands include Tequila Ocho, Azteca Azul, Arette, Tapatio, Siembra Azul, Olmeca Altos, and Calle 23.

CAN YOU MAKE A PALOMA WITH MEZCAL INSTEAD OF TEQUILA?

Yes—and you should! Mezcal will add a savory, slightly smoky flavor to the drink, which can be especially tasty with grilled or barbecued food. Del Maguey Vida is an affordable brand that’s great in cocktails. You may want to start with 1 1/2 ounces mezcal if you’re not familiar with the flavor.

Paloma Cocktail Recipe - two tall glasses on silver tray with bottle and limes

THE RIGHT GLASS FOR A PALOMA

Use a tall highball or collins glass, and fill it up with ice—not just a few measly cubes! I like to add a bit of soda, then the tequila, then more soda, so the booze is evenly mixed and doesn’t sit in the bottom of the glass.

TRY A SPICY PALOMA!

For a spicy variation, rim your glass with salt that’s mixed with a little cayenne or Tajín, a tart and spicy Mexican seasoning mix.

MORE SUMMER TEQUILA COCKTAIL RECIPES

Classic Paloma Cocktail Recipe

  • Prep time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cocktail

The rimming salt (or spicy salt mix) is enough to rim several glasses. You can rim glasses an hour or two in advance and set them aside, or skip it altogether.

Different types of grapefruit soda have different levels of sweetness. I like Squirt with 1/2 ounce lime juice; Q Grapefruit only needs 1/4 ounce.

You can start with 1 1/2 ounces tequila, and increase to 2 ounces as suits your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 chilled bottle grapefruit soda, such as Squirt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces blanco tequila (or mezcal)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, depending on sweetness of soda
  • 2 tablespoons crunchy salt and 1 lime wedge, for rimming (optional)
  • 1 lime wedge, for garnish (optional)

For the spicy rimming variation:

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 tablespoon Tajín

Special equipment:

Method

1 Rim the glass, if desired: Add salt to a small plate. (For the spicy variation, mix 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 tablespoon Tajín with the salt.) Rub lime wedge on rim of glass, then dip rim in salt.

2 Make the drink: Fill glass with ice. Add grapefruit soda to fill 1/3 of the way up. Let the bubbles settle, then pour in tequila and lime juice. Top with more grapefruit soda.

3 Stir, garnish, and serve: Stir gently, garnish with lime wedge, then serve immediately with extra grapefruit soda on the side. Squeeze lime wedge into drink if desired.

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Maggie Hoffman

Maggie Hoffman is the author of Batch Cocktails, a collection of pitcher drinks, and The One-Bottle Cocktail. Her writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Food + Wine, Rachael Ray Every Day, Wine Enthusiast, and others. She's recently returned to Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and many, many bottles of booze.

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4 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Steve

    You can replace the grapefruit soda with a 1:1 mix of grapefruit juice and club soda

  2. N. C>

    Why don’t you recommend the tequila that’s in the picture – Altos Silver? It’s an EXCELLENT tequila at a great price point too. Certainly better than those you’ve recommended.

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Anna

    That Altos is one of my favorite tequilas, especially for the price. This might have to go on the menu this weekend, or at least before the summer is over!

Paloma Cocktail With Grapefruit Soda - closeup two glasses clear cocktail with lime wedgesClassic Paloma Cocktail