Margaritas may be popular here in the States, but down Mexico way the Paloma is king. The tequila-based cocktail is the country’s best-selling and most popular, often ordered up in bars as a “refresco de toronja con tequila” or “squirt con tequila.”
And refresco it is. The combination of tequila, fresh lime juice, grapefruit soda and salt is sweet, tart and just a touch savory making for an effervescent and easy-to-drink warm weather quaffer. It’s the kind of cocktail that could only be born in a climate like Mexico’s, where sometimes, the only way to beat the heat is to drink it away.
Not much is known about the origins of the Paloma, though, barman Don Javier Delgado Corona is said to have created it sometime in the 1950s at his bar, La Capilla, in the small Mexican town of Tequila. Paloma means “dove” in Spanish, and it’s suspected that Corona named the cocktail after the popular folk song “La Paloma” from the 1860s.
While there is a standard Paloma recipe, variations abound. Some call for the addition of agave nectar; others suggest fresh grapefruit juice and soda water. Some even allow for subbing in lemon-lime soda and a splash of bottled grapefruit juice, but if you’re deviating that far from the original, you may as well order something else.
2 oz. tequila (reposado is best)
1/2 oz. lime juice
Grapefruit soda (the traditional Mexican brands can be hard to find, but Izze is a solid substitute)
Pinch of kosher salt*
Directions: Combine tequila, lime juice and salt in a highball glass with ice and top off with grapefruit soda. Garnish with a lime or grapefruit wedge.
*Rimming the glass with salt is a common variation.
Jim Sabataso is a writer, part-time bartender, and full-time cocktail enthusiast living in Vermont. Follow him on Twitter @JimSabataso.