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Classic Paloma Tequila Cocktail Recipe

The Paloma is a classic tequila cocktail that’s not quite as celebrated as the Margarita, and I’m here to help change that! If you enjoy tequila (or mezcal) cocktails and citrus, you’re going to love this easy summer cooler that’s made with just three ingredients.

pink drink in highball glass with grapefruit wheel and pink flower.

Although the ingredients might have you thinking this is a modern cocktail recipe, the Paloma has actually been around for at least 70 years.

Like many a classic cocktail, the exact origins of the Paloma are a bit murky, but it is widely believed to have been created in Mexico in the mid-20th century.

Who invented the Paloma?

The most commonly accepted story is that the Paloma was invented by Don Javier Delgado Corona, the owner of La Capilla bar in Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico, during or before the 1950s. Don Javier is also credited with creating another iconic Mexican cocktail, the Batanga.

According to legend, Don Javier created the Paloma as an alternative to the Margarita, using grapefruit instead of lime.

The Paloma consists of tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda, such as Jarritos or Squirt, served over ice and garnished with a lime or grapefruit wedge. A salted rim is also a classic, although optional, addition.

four highball glasses filled with pink liquid and grapefruit wedges.

Over the years, the Paloma has become immensely popular both in Mexico and internationally, often regarded as one of the quintessential tequila-based cocktails. Its light, crisp, and refreshing flavor makes it a favorite choice, especially during the summer.

Today, it’s often said that the Paloma is the most popular tequila cocktail in Mexico, outranking even the Margarita and Cantarito.

Classic Paloma ingredients

To make a basic Paloma, you really only need three ingredients. Optionally, you can rim your glass with a coarse or flaky salt, or even add a pinch of salt directly to your glass (which is my personal preference). Salt makes the sweet and sour flavors pop, so I highly recommend giving it a try!

The most important thing to keep in mind when making a drink that only has a few ingredients is that quality is key.

pink drink with clear ice, grapefruit wheel and small pink flower.

Also, don’t skip that lime wedge! A squeeze of fresh lime juice takes this simple drink from just ok to incredibly refreshing.

  • Tequila or mezcal (typically a blanco, although aged spirits can be used, too)
  • Grapefruit soda
  • Lime

If you’re not familiar with grapefruit sodas, there are actually quite a few options, ranging from very sweet to crisp and tart. Any grapefruit soda will do in a pinch – and you can always add an extra heavy squeeze of fresh lime juice to offset the sweetness of the soda. Let’s dive into the very best grapefruit sodas for making Palomas at home!

Best grapefruit sodas to use

Some classic options are the brands Jarritos and Squirt, and these make an excellent Paloma. But if you want to elevate your Paloma to craft cocktail status, or you just prefer a more natural soda, try the delicious Sparkling Pink Grapefruit from Fever-Tree. This is hands down my favorite for making Palomas.

pink liquid splashing onto a large ice cube in tall glass.

Another excellent option is Q Mixers Sparkling Grapefruit. Like all of Q’s mixers, it’s extra bubbly, which I love. It has a very nice pop of sour that’s balanced by the sweet – and it’s a beautiful shade of pale pink.

I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Sparkling Grapefruit Soda from Betty Buzzy, but I love their Lemon-Lime, so I’m sure the grapefruit is worth a try as well.

Lastly, you can’t go wrong with a quality Italian grapefruit soda. Whole Foods has some very nice flavorful Italian sodas. Just be sure to chill them well in advance, as they tend to not be quite as carbonated as the brands I mentioned above.

Here are some top picks:

  1. Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit
  2. Q Mixers Sparkling Grapefruit
  3. Ting
  4. Italian Grapefruit Soda
  5. Jarritos Grapefruit

Find more grapefruit sodas in this cool taste test comparison over on Bon Appetit!

How to make a Paloma with fresh grapefruit juice

Although the classic Paloma is made with soda, you can make a Paloma with fresh grapefruit juice, too. To make a Paloma with fresh juice, you’ll also need simple syrup and club soda or sparkling water (seltzer water is fine).

four highball glasses filled with ice and pink liquid in bright sunshine.

It’s best to squeeze your own grapefruit juice, but you could use an unsweetened, bottled grapefruit juice if that’s all you have. If you use freshly squeezed juice the finished drink will be more flavorful and also have a better balance of sweet to sour.

The best ratio to start with when making your own “grapefruit soda” is 2 ounces of grapefruit juice to 1 ounce of simple syrup and then topping that with 4-6 ounces of ice cold sparkling water. You can use more or less simple syrup, to taste.

How to make simple syrup

Here’s the basic fresh grapefruit juice Paloma recipe:

  • 2 oz tequila (or mezcal)
  • 2 oz grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 4-6 oz sparkling water
  • Pinch of salt

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the first four ingredients over the ice, then add a pinch of salt and stir until chilled. Top with cold sparkling water, give one more gentle stir, then garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

You may also enjoy:

three pink drinks with grapefruit garnishes on white table in the sun.
four highball glasses filled with ice and pink liquid in bright sunshine.

Classic Paloma Tequila Cocktail Recipe

Amy Traynor
This classic tequila cocktail is made with three simple ingredients. It's citrusy and refreshing and the perfect cooler for summer.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 cocktail

Ingredients
  

With Grapefruit Soda:

  • 2 oz tequila or mezcal
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • 6-8 oz grapefruit soda
  • Pinch salt optional

With Fresh Grapefruit Juice:

  • 2 oz tequila or mezcal
  • 2 oz grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • ½ oz lime juice
  • Pinch salt optional
  • 4-6 oz chilled sparkling water

Instructions
 

With Grapefruit Soda:

  • Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the tequila, lime juice, and salt (if using) over the ice and stir to chill.
  • Top with grapefruit soda, then stir gently and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

With Fresh Grapefruit Juice:

  • Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the first five ingredients over the ice and stir to chill.
  • Top with chilled sparkling water, stir gently, then garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
Keyword grapefruit, grapefruit soda, mezcal, tequila
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