This refreshing whiskey cocktail is a playful mashup of two classics – the Paloma and the Old Fashioned.
Bourbon and crisp grapefruit are the stars of the show here. A squeeze of lemon or lime livens things up and keeps sweetness in check, while a couple dashes of Angostura bitters keep things interesting.
What’s in a traditional Paloma?
The classic Paloma is a tequila or mezcal cocktail made with a squeeze of lime and a long pour of grapefruit soda. It’s fairly common to serve it with a salted rim, not unlike a classic Margarita.
It’s a classic highball that stands out because of its perfectly balanced sweet and sour flavors combined with the earthy agave flavor of the tequila. If you use a quality, not too sweet grapefruit soda, the Paloma is a fantastic cocktail that is also incredibly easy to make.
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The Paloma and the Old Fashioned are both featured in my Essential 3-Ingredient Cocktails, available over on Amazon!
The Paloma is the national cocktail of Mexico, more popular than the American favorite, the Margarita. It’s also more common to make a Paloma with mezcal than tequila in Mexico. Mezcal is produced throughout Mexico, whereas tequila is made only within five states. The word Paloma is Spanish for ‘dove.’
The Old Fashioned is the original cocktail. Historically known as ‘bittered sling’, the OF was intended as a medicinal preparation. A combination of whiskey (or brandy, or any spirit really), bitters, a small amount of sweetener, and an orange peel are all you need to fix this classic.
The expressed citrus peel that finishes the Old Fashioned adds a ton of nuance and brightness to the cocktail – never skip it! Depending on the spirit, sweetener, and bitters used, a lemon, lime, or grapefruit twist could all be suitable garnishes. The Old Fashioned possibilities are truly endless.
Learn all about citrus twist garnishes in my Guide to Citrus Peel Garnishes!
A simple bourbon and grapefruit highball
After making a tasty bourbon Old Fashioned with honey syrup and a grapefruit twist recently, I got to thinking about other bourbon and grapefruit drinks, like the classic Brown Derby (bourbon, honey, grapefruit juice).
Before long, I remembered I had some Italian grapefruit soda left in the fridge and this Old Fashioned-inspired Paloma was born!
With the right ratio of ingredients, this highball still highlights the flavors of the whiskey and bitters, but accents them with a nice pop of crisp and bubbly grapefruit.
It’s an easy-sipping and versatile bourbon cocktail that feels just warming enough for a winter evening, while still being the perfect refresher for a summer afternoon.
Which whiskey to use
This highball works well with just about any bourbon or rye you like, but save those top shelf bottles for Old Fashioneds or sipping neat.
What brand of grapefruit soda to use
I really enjoy my Palomas with bittersweet Italian grapefruit sodas. Whole Foods sells a couple of different ones that are great for cocktail making.
Q Mixers makes a lovely crystal clear grapefruit soda that has a pinch of tartness and tons of carbonation.
Fever-Tree makes a floral-forward grapefruit soda that is delicious but a bit hard to find, at least near me.
Which bitters to use
My go-to for Old Fashioned vibes are classic Angostura bitters, but feel free to substitute with another aromatic bitters of your choice. Other bitters flavors can add a lot of flavor and dimension, but Angostura bitters really amplify those oaky, spiced flavors of the whiskey that make this cocktail so delicious. Citrusy bitters like classic orange bitters might get lost in the grapefruit soda.
If you don’t have grapefruit soda, make your own
No soda? No problem, as long as you have a fresh grapefruit. You’ll also need some sugar or honey and some sparkling water.
First, create a simple syrup or honey syrup. Next, add your bourbon and bitters to your ice-filled glass, then add 2 ounces of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and 1/2 ounce simple or honey syrup. Finally, top with chilled sparkling water and stir gently.
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Old Fashioned Paloma (Bourbon and Grapefruit Cocktail)
- 2 oz bourbon
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 4-6 oz grapefruit soda
- squeeze of a lemon or lime wedge (optional, recommended if using a sweet soda)
- Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the bourbon and bitters to the glass and stir to chill.
- Top with chilled grapefruit soda and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
- Garnish with grapefruit and a sprig of fresh mint.