Bartenders Share Favorite Twists on the Classic

Bartenders Share Favorite Twists on the Classic

In Mexico, the paloma is the tequila drink of choice (sorry, margs). In its most basic form, paloma recipes comprise tequila, lime juice, and a grapefruit soda. However, in the land of agave, palomas are actually considered less of a cocktail and more just “an easy way to drink tequila,” explains Joseph Mortera, an award-winning Mexico City mixologist. The grapefruit soda of choice in Mexico is definitively Squirt.



The beauty of the paloma is that it’s tart, bitter, a tad sweet, and ripe for riffs. Mezcal can give it a smoky makeover. Muddled jalapeños mingle with grapefruit for a cocktail that bites. A pinch of salt can balance out a sweet-leaning drink.

Here, bartenders share their eight favorite ways to reinvent the classic paloma.

Bartenders Share Their Favorite Paloma Recipes With a Twist

The Earthy Paloma Courtesy Image

1. The Earthy Paloma

The Lost Explorer’s Espadín has notes of herbs and citrus, making it an ideal match for a paloma, says Mortera, a brand ambassador for the mezcal. Using a volcanic salt on the rim brings a minerality to the cocktail that gives it a full, earthy transformation.


  • 1.5 oz The Lost Explorer Espadín
  • 3 oz grapefruit juice
  • 0.25 oz lime juice
  • Top with tonic water (optional)
  • Volcanic salt rim and grapefruit slice garnish


  1. Rim your glass with volcanic salt.
  2. Combine all ingredients except tonic water in a shaker with ice. Shake.
  3. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a grapefruit slice.
Parker Garage Spicy Paloma
Parker Garage Spicy Paloma Courtesy Image

2. Parker Garage Spicy Paloma

The raw spiciness of fresh jalapeños in this paloma cuts the bright acid from the citric grapefruit, says Brent Walker, owner of Parker Garage in Colorado. The salty finish on the rimmed glass ties all the flavor profiles together for a perfect salty-spicy-slightly sweet sip.


  • 1.5 oz Corazon Reposado Tequila
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 3-4 slices of jalapeño for muddling
  • 3 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • Splash of soda water
  • Salt for rim


  1. To make simple syrup at home, bring sugar and water to a boil at a ratio of 1:1.
  2. Salt the rim of a pint glass.
  3. Muddle fresh jalapeños and include seeds to taste (the more seeds, the spicier the drink) in the pint glass.
  4. In a shaker glass with ice, shake tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, and grapefruit juice. Pour over ice and muddled jalapeños.
  5. Top with a splash of soda water.
Pom Paloma
Pom Paloma Courtesy Image

3. Pom Paloma

Cactus pear and pomegranate provide a complementary juiciness to the classic grapefruit paloma, says H. Joseph Ehrmann, chief mixology officer of Fresh Victor and owner of Elixir in San Francisco. “A drier style of grapefruit soda or a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water or seltzer will provide the best balance,” he says.


  • 2 oz Fresh Victor Cactus Pear & Pomegranate (which made our list of the best cocktail mixers)
  • 1.5 oz blanco or reposado tequila
  • 2 oz grapefruit soda or grapefruit seltzer
  • Pinch of salt
  • Squeeze of lime wedge (1/8th of a lime or 1/8 oz of lime juice)
  • Garnish: drop the squeezed lime wedge in the glass


  1. In a tall glass full of ice, add all ingredients, stir gently, and garnish.
LALO Paloma
LALO Paloma Courtesy of LALO

4. LALO Paloma

By using sparkling water and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, you’re essentially making your own grapefruit soda for this cocktail. Eddie Baz, bartender at Josephine House in Austin, Texas, created this recipe with LALO, an agave-forward tequila, and added a pinch of sea salt to tie the earthy and citrus flavors together. “That small detail makes this variation on a paloma sing,” he says.


  • 2 oz LALO blanco tequila
  • 1.5 oz hand-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 oz hand-squeezed lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • Sparkling water (bartender’s choice is Richard’s Sparkling Rainwater).
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Lime wedge for garnish


  1. To make simple syrup at home, bring sugar and water to a boil at a ratio of 1:1.
  2. Combine all ingredients (except sparkling water, sea salt, and lime wedge) in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice into collins glass.
  3. Fill with sparkling water and garnish with a lime wedge.
Aperol Paloma
Aperol Paloma Courtesy Image

5. Aperol Paloma

This cocktail is so popular, Brass Tacks in Denver keeps the paloma riff on tap. The bitterness of Aperol makes the grapefruit flavors pop, says Stuart Jensen, the bar’s co-owner. Here’s how to make a version at home.


  • 1.5 oz blanco tequila
  • 0.5 oz Aperol
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz grapefruit juice
  • 0.25 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz Squirt
  • 1 dash salt
  • Grapefruit wheel for garnish


  1. To make simple syrup at home, bring sugar and water to a boil at a ratio of 1:1.
  2. Shake blanco tequila, Aperol, lime and grapefruit juices with ice and add a dash of salt.
  3. Strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice, top with 2 oz of Squirt, garnish with a grapefruit wheel.
Peroni Grapefruit Spritz
Peroni Grapefruit Spritz Courtesy Image

6. Peroni Grapefruit Spritz

For a total plot twist on the paloma, sub out tequila for a beer, specifically an Italian one with citrus notes.


  • 1.5 oz orange-flavored Italian aperitif, such as Aperol
  • 4 oz grapefruit juice
  • 0.25 oz lemon juice
  • 5 oz Peroni
  • Grapefruit or orange slice garnish


  1. Pour all ingredients into a 04.L glass and fill with ice.
  2. Garnish with an orange or grapefruit slice.
Spicy Paloma Marg
Spicy Paloma Marg Courtesy Image

7. Spicy Paloma Marg

Combining two tequila cocktail classics, the Spicy Paloma Marg is built with a jalapeño-infused tequila. It’s spicy, tangy, and sweet, and the Topo Chico makes it bubbly, says Chantelle Blanchard, bartender at Thirsty Lion, which has locations in Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Texas.


  • 2 oz Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila
  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • Dash of sweet and sour
  • 0.5 oz agave syrup
  • Splash of Topo Chico
  • Grapefruit wheel for garnish


  1. Combine all ingredients, except Topo Chico in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice into a highball or Collins glass.
  2. Add a splash of Topo Chico. Garnish with a grapefruit wheel.
Thai Chili Paloma
Thai Chili Paloma Courtesy Image

8. Thai Chili Paloma

This spicy paloma makes a case for trading gin for tequila. Deviation Distilling’s Citrus Rosé Gin, which is grapefruit and tarragon forward, is paired with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, a simple syrup made using whole Thai chili peppers, and a salted rim. It’s refreshing, says Bob Wiley, co-owner of Deviation Distilling, but has a nice bite.


  • 1.5 oz Deviation Distilling’s Citrus Rosé Gin (or your favorite gin)
  • 1.5 oz grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 oz Thai chili simple syrup (see directions below)
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • Soda water
  • Salt for the rim of the glass
  • Thai chili pepper for garnish


For simple syrup

  1. Combine 5-10 chopped Thai chilis, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup water on stove in saucepan. Stir and simmer, making sure to dissolve sugar.
  2. Strain and cool for 10 minutes.

For cocktail

  1. Prepare a rocks glass by rubbing a lime wedge along the rim and dipping the rim of the glass in coarse salt. Add Citrus Rosé Gin, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and Thai chili simple syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain the cocktail into a highball glass with fresh ice. Top with soda water and garnish with a Thai chili.

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