Drinks

A No-Fail Guide To This Summer’s Easiest Cocktail

The paloma is slightly under-the-radar—and very, very, simple and delicious.

A paloma cocktail in a salt-rimmed glass adorned with rosemary and lime beside a lime on a juicer and in front of a cocktail shaker for a piece on the best paloma recipes

(Photo: iStock)

We’re calling it—this is the summer of the paloma.

It’s time for this simple tequila-grapefruit drink to finally step out from the long shadow of the margarita and take its rightful place as one of the all-time best tequila cocktails.

Why now? Because this summer’s vibe is all about wanting nice things but, at the same time, not having to work too hard for them or deal with any fussy recipes. The bright, bubbly and easy-to-make paloma checks all these boxes—especially now that a couple of new and tasty grapefruit sodas have been released, promising to make this cocktail even more delicious.

Paloma basics

La paloma (“dove” in Spanish) is a simple three-ingredient formula—tequila, lime and grapefruit soda. Since it’s become trendy, bartenders and home cocktail enthusiasts have elevated it with extra flourishes but, since part of the appeal of the drink is its simplicity, we’re trying to keep it real, with a few basic rules followed by three no-fail recipes.

Tequila 101

But first, a short tequila primer.

There are four main types of tequila available in Canada—Blanco (sometimes called Plata), Reposado, Añejo and “Mixto.”

Both Reposado and Añejo spend time in oak casks and, as a result, both pick up a little golden colour, as well as a little sweet vanilla flavour from the wood. They both tend to be more expensive than Blanco tequila, which is colourless and, essentially, unaged.

The good news is that, when it comes to most citrus-forward tequila cocktails like the paloma, budget-friendly Blanco is actually a better choice, since vanilla just muddies the flavour profile.

There is a case to be made for spending a little more money on a good blanco, however, since “mixto” tequilas can contain additives and aren’t necessarily made from 100 percent agave.

“Mixto” tequilas are often only made with 51 percent agave, the minimum required by law and the rest of the fermentation is often done with corn sugar, cane sugar or molasses.

If you want a tequila that’s free from added colour or flavour and is made from 100 percent agave, it’s easy enough. Just look for these words on the label: “100% De Agave” or “100% Puro De Agave.”

Here are three budget-friendly, widely-available Blanco tequilas that are 100% agave. With a couple of exceptions all three are available in every province for between $35 and $45.

  • 1800 Silver Tequila ($39.45; LCBO 227678) Available in all but one province (at varying prices).
  • Espolón Blanco ($37.99; BC Liquor 70763) Available in most provinces (at varying prices).
  • Sauza Hornitos Plata ($35; SAQ 11253724) Available in all provinces (at varying prices).

Always add a splash of fresh lime

If you’ve ever had a margarita, you already know that fresh citrus and tequila are a winning combination. Given some of the new fancy grapefruit sodas on the market, it can be tempting to skip it, but you can’t beat fresh acidity to tame tequila’s sharp edges.

Rim the glass with salt

Those who really dislike salt should obviously skip this step, but getting a little salt on your lips will actually make the flavours pop.

It’s simple: Pour a quarter-cup of fancy pink salt out onto a small plate. Rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and place the glass into the salt until the rim is evenly coated. Wipe excess salt from the inside of the rim so it doesn’t land in the drink.

Here are three recipes, from simple to fancy:

The Paloma

We chose Hornitos Plata (silver) for this recipe, since it’s a really good value pick that has a rep for being popular in Mexico. Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit is low in sugar, delicious, tastes (and smells) like real ruby red grapefruit with a few floral notes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz Hornitos Plata tequila
  • 4 1/2 oz Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit*
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • Salt (for optional rim)
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish (optional)

Method: Rim the Collins glass, add ice, tequila, grapefruit soda and lime juice. Gently stir, garnish with a lime and serve.

*Fever-Tree is only one of several options. We tried Pink Ting, San Pellegrino’s Pompelmo and Jarritos grapefruit (a Mexican brand that’s available here) and they were all good.

Peach Paloma

The first survey of most popular post-pandemic cocktails in the United States found the peach paloma in the top ten. We chose Espolón tequila for this one, since it’s both good and budget-friendly, to show that there are several options for mixing tequila in the $40 range.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz Espolón Blanco tequila
  • 3 1/2 oz grapefruit soda
  • 1 oz peach nectar
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • Salt (for optional rim)
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish (optional)

Method: Shake tequila, peach nectar and lime juices over ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into ice-filled, salt-rimmed Collins glass and top with grapefruit soda.

Juicy Paloma

Although there are plenty of great grapefruit sodas on the market these days, craft cocktail bartenders tend to favour DIY fresh juices and premium tequila. If you’re in that camp, this is the recipe for you.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz Herradura blanco tequila*
  • 2 1/2 oz fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz soda water
  • Salt (for optional rim)
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish (optional)

Method: Shake tequila, lime and grapefruit together over ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into an ice-filled, salt-rimmed Collins glass and top with soda water.

*Herradura is almost twice as expensive as Hornitos, Espolón or 1800 Silver in most markets and, strictly speaking, not necessary in a cocktail or mixed drink. But it’s an excellent choice if you want a sipping tequila as well. Another good, similarly versatile option in this price range is Volcàn de mi Tierra and, anyone who wants to try out smokier versions should keep an eye out for Los Siete Misterios Mezcal—the best value mezcal we know of.

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