The humble Paloma is a drink everyone can appreciate. Tart, lightly effervescent and as refreshing as can be, it is a drink that will never let you down. Plus, it’s one of the easiest cocktails to master (only using two basic ingredients is a huge plus when it comes to mastering a drink). But there are a few simple things you can do to make it even better. Here, five ways to take your Paloma to the next level.
If there’s one thing that’s better than tequila with grapefruit soda, it’s mezcal with grapefruit soda. The slightly smokey and wild character of mezcal adds some depth to the drink, turning a cocktail that’s regularly cherished for its simplicity into a drink with heft and complexity. Mezcal is packed with flavor, but it’s still light enough to mix in summer drinks. If you really want to switch things up, use a sotol (made from an agave-like plant in northern Mexico) or bacanora (an agave spirit that’s less smoky than many mezcals).
Adding a mezcal can be tough “since most of the good ones are so good neat,” Mike Morales, the CEO of the agave education site Tequila Aficionado, tells Supercall. But he does suggest higher proof espadin choices like Sombra and Montelobos. Por Siempre is a solid bottle if you want to make a sotol Paloma.
Add a Floral, Fruity or Bitter Liqueur
Whether you like things flowery and sweet or as bitter as your soul, there’s a liqueur out there for you. Palomas are already summer drinks, but an elderflower liqueur like St-Germain will turn it into an instant garden party. A fruity flavor will have the same effect, while an aperitif, like Aperol or Campari, or amaro like Cynar will add a deeper layer of flavor (and give the drink a color boost).
If you really feel like mixing it up, add both fruity and bitter elements. At De Maria in New York, they use reposado tequila with both amaro and an apricot eau de vie, then throw in some arbol chili to spice it up. De Maria beverage director Hanna Astrom says it’s “both an ode to a Paloma and an Italian soda (think a light spuma nera) at the same time.”
Make Fresh Grapefruit Syrup
Homemade ingredients can go a long way when upgrading a Paloma. To up the bitterness without throwing the whole cocktail off balance, try adding a syrup made with fresh grapefruit zest, like they do behind the bar at Cosme in New York. A simple grapefruit syrup can be made with sugar, water and the peel of a single grapefruit. Cosme makes its Paloma with reposado tequila, house-made grapefruit syrup, lime, soda and grapefruit salt. “By adding a deeper complexity to the element of bitterness in the cocktail, our Paloma has greater balance than the traditional one,” says Yana Volfson, beverage director for Cosme and sister restaurant ATLA.
Add Fresh Citrus
Depending on your choice of grapefruit soda, your Paloma may be slightly tart or super sweet. Take matters into your own hands by adding fresh citrus like lime, lemon or grapefruit. You can even get a little wild and use a more obscure citrus like muddled kumquat for an exotic twist. Dosing your drink with fresh juice is the easiest way to get more out of your Paloma without fundamentally changing the cocktail.
Spice Up the Salt Rim
Capsaicin is a Paloma’s best friend. Mix salt with a touch of chipotle powder, chili powder or even sweet-sour-spicy Tajin, then rim the glass to bring vibrance into every sip.