I love making refreshing cocktails, especially on a hot summer day.
Origins of the Paloma Cocktail
The origins of the Paloma cocktail are variably attributed to Mexico and/or somewhere along the Rio Grande. Wikipedia claims a gentleman by the name of Evan Harrison was the first to claim it in a cocktail pamphlet by the name of “Popular Cocktails of The Rio Grande.”
Whether this cocktail originated in Mexico or a dive bar in New York, and whether or not Evan Harrison was a gentlemen are all up for dispute. Like many cocktails, the Paloma’s history is a little cloudy.
What’s important is that La Paloma, Spanish for “the dove” is a refreshing and delicious drink that will wrap a cloak of warmth and happiness around you, provided the room doesn’t start spinning and you don’t trip over your feet.
La Paloma Recipe
The basic recipe goes like this:
- Fill a Collins (tall) glass with ice
- Add 2–3 ounces of good tequila, depending on the size of your glass
- Top off with grapefruit soda
- Squeeze a lime wedge over the top and drop it in
- Add a pinch of coarse salt
Give the whole concoction a few gentle stirs to incorporate the ingredients.
For extra flavor, rim the glass with margarita salt before filling it with ice. To do this, run a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then overturn the rim into a shallow dish filled with a layer of salt.
Be careful not to knock off the salt when adding ice and ingredients.
The Paloma Ingredients
The basic recipe is delicious, but one should always use the best ingredients whenever possible. So let’s take a look at them one by one.
The tequila can be reposado (meaning aged for at least 2 months in oak barrels,) blanco (also known as silver, typically unaged,) or anejo (aged at least one year in oak barrels.) The important thing is that it is good tequila. A high-quality spirit not only tastes better and makes a better drink, but it leaves less likelihood of a hangover later on.
To be sure, many La Paloma cocktail recipes feature tequila reposado, but choose your favorite. Much like using different tequilas in a margarita, the effect will be subtle but noticed by the individual.
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The Grapefruit Soda:
The first time I tried this cocktail was at a friend’s house who made this delightful concoction with a very fine bottle of tequila and a can of Fresca. It was delicious. However, many bartenders choose the Mexican Jarritos soda and some swear by it. Again, try both and choose your favorite.
Another option for those who prefer the taste of fresh juice is to use fresh grapefruit juice and club soda. To this, I would add two teaspoons of sugar to balance out the intense sour of the fresh juice. Also, go easy on the grapefruit juice unless it is fresh squeezed (preferable.) Too much of a commercial brand will overpower the drink.
There is something special about the marriage of tequila and salt, and I never have one without the other. Ok, well, almost never…
Be sure to choose Margarita salt or coarse-grained salt. If Margarita salt isn’t available, a good quality sea salt will do. For an extra flavor layer, try rimming the glass with Hawaiian sea salt; it will add color and a unique taste to your drink.
Fresh and juicy is the key! Do not squeeze a dry lime into this drink and drop it in. The point is to have the bright citrus notes explode into your senses as you lower your nose and take a drink.
Choose limes with thinner skin that are not too hard.
Serve the Paloma at your next cocktail hour, or substitute this refreshing drink for a Margarita. The Paloma goes great with seafood, gazpacho, spicy shrimp tapas, and of course, traditional Mexican foods. It's cocktail time!
Tequila and Food
Tequila based cocktails complement a wide range of foods. Try your favorite with the following:
- Ceviche Mussel Shooters
- Baked or barbecued oysters
- Shrimp or seafood gumbo
- Chicken, cheese and chipotle quesadillas
- Pan-seared halibut in beurre-blanc sauce with peppercorns
- Tequila-lime chicken
These are just a few sample dishes that go well with tequila-based cocktails, but the possibilities are endless!
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© 2013 Chris Montgomery