The Paloma, Spanish for dove, is the "working man’s margarita"—and it's as simple, and as wonderful, as a gin and tonic. A refreshing mix of tequila, grapefruit, soda, and lime, the drink fares just as well at an elegant outdoor dinner party as it does parked next to a towel on the beach.
Typically it's made with grapefruit soda, but we're fans of making our own sodas using fresh fruit syrups and club soda. It takes only a little extra planning, and it's well worth the effort. Zest a grapefruit (if you can find white grapefruit, use it—this slightly more bitter and funky variety holds up better to being made into a syrup), then juice it and add the juice to the zest. Stir in an equal volume of sugar, and shake the mixture to dissolve. (Recruiting a friend helps.) Avoid heating the mixture to speed up the process—it will replace the bright fresh flavor of the grapefruit with a darker candied flavor (think of the difference between a fresh orange and marmalade). Heating will also extract more bitterness from the zest, which is not what you want in the finished product.
Let it rest overnight, strain it the next day, and you’ve just made a nonalcoholic grapefruit cordial. This same method can be applied to any citrus—just add club soda, and you've got yourself a fruit soda.
If you prefer to forego the homemade route, Jarritos makes a classic grapefruit soda that's perfect for a Paloma. It’s crisp, tart, sweet, and refreshing, with the slightest hint of bitterness. Jamaican Ting is also a solid option if you can find it.
Regardless of which soda you choose, you cannot omit the lime. Grapefruit is tangy and bright, but for real tartness you need either lemon or lime, and lime is far superior when paired with grapefruit. For tequila, stick with a nice blanco or plata. Bright, grassy, and just a little vegetal, it will serve as the perfect complement to the funky and spicy citrus in the grapefruit.
If you’re using store-bought soda, simply mix your drinks to taste, but for the fresh version, combine the following ratios in a shaker for a quick shake before straining over fresh ice and topping with club soda. Some cocktails are like air-conditioning, but the Paloma isn’t one of them. Rather, it makes you feel like you were born and raised in the tropics: You’ll still be hot, but you’ll revel in the heat.
Paloma (Serves 1)
2 oz. tequila
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. grapefruit syrup
Top with club soda
Salt rim garnish (optional, but highly recommended)