How to Make a Paloma Cocktail, the Ultimate Tequila Highball

Paloma cocktail
Paloma cocktail / Photo by Meg Baggott, styling by Dylan Garret

The past decade has seen a resurgence in classic cocktails, bespoke bar culture and other terms meant to bring to mind leather-backed chairs and high-minded drinking. But despite the rise of hand-shaved ice or 10-ingredient infusions, two-ingredient highballs remain crucial to cocktail culture.

Nearly every country seems to have its favored combination. British culture became forever entwined with the gin & tonic; the rum & coke (with a wedge of lime) was christened a Cuba Libre; and U.S. drinkers have long identified with whiskey Cokes or vodka sodas, often depending on the decade and prevalent gender biases.

So, it should be no surprise that the preferred cocktail that’s often called the national drink of Mexico is the Paloma.

A Step-by-Step, Beginner’s Guide to Tequila

Like many great highballs, the Paloma traditionally consists of a spirit, soda and wedge of lime.  In this case, the combination is Tequila and grapefruit soda. Historically, Squirt is the favored mixer, a citrus-flavored soda first created in Phoenix, Arizona in 1938, that gained popularity in Mexico in the years to follow. However, with a wide selection available today, you’ll just as likely find Palomas in the U.S. made with alternative grapefruit sodas, like Jarritos Toronja, Ting, Fresca, Fanta Grapefruit or countless others.

Alternatively, you can also use fresh ruby red grapefruit juice and plain seltzer, as we opt for here.

The Paloma is as easy to make as cocktails come, and can be used as a base to experiment with tinctures and extra flavors, as in this spiced habanero Paloma, or mezcal variation. But if you’re just looking for a simple version of the classic recipe, follow along below for instant refreshment.

  • 2 ounces 100% agave blanco Tequila
  • 2 ounces fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice*
  • 4 ounces soda water*
  • 2 lime wedges
  • Salt rim

Using highball or Collins glass, rub one lime wedge around rim to coat in juice. Roll the outside of rim in salt to coat. Squeeze rest of lime wedge into glass, and drop in shell. Add Tequila, grapefruit juice and soda water. Fill glass with ice and give a gentle stir. Garnish with remaining lime wedge.

*Alternatively, replace grapefruit juice and soda water with 6 ounces of preferred grapefruit soda.

Published on July 24, 2021