How to make the perfect Paloma cocktail

How to make the perfect Paloma cocktail recipe

The Paloma is Mexico’s most popular cocktail and it also happens to be mine. As a huge fan of tequila and pink grapefruit juice, this is the perfect drink for me. With just enough sweetness and a dash of bitterness, I share my recipe for the perfect Paloma cocktail.

Twp paloma cocktails with ice and a slice of pink grapefruit as garnish

In Mexico, the classic cocktail is made with grapefruit soda and tequila. I prefer to make it with fresh grapefruit juice and club soda since we don’t have many pink grapefruit soda brands here in South Africa.

The Paloma cocktail was created in the 1950s by Don Javier Delgado Corona, who owned a bar in Jalisco, Mexico. The cocktail’s name translates to “the dove” in Spanish. It’s said to be named after La Paloma, a popular folk song in Mexico.

Half a pink grapfruit being squeezed for a Paloma cocktail

The Paloma is a popular drink globally, and there are many variations of this delicious drink. It can be made individually by the glass or, if you are making more, in a jug. I prefer to pre-mix the tequila, sugar syrup and juice before adding it to the glass with ice and then finally topped up with soda.

This Paloma cocktail recipe is the perfect mix of sweet and tangy. The fresh grapefruit juice gives the drink a refreshing grapefruit flavour, while the tequila adds a little kick.

The salt on the rim brings out the flavours in the cocktail, making it taste even better. We all know how well tequila and salt go together. You can add chilli to the salt if you want to spice things up.

If you’re looking for a sweeter cocktail, you can replace the grapefruit soda with grapefruit-flavoured syrup. This will make the cocktail sweeter and less tangy.

Fresh grapefruit and lime for a Paloma cocktail

Variations to the Paloma cocktail

For those who want to try different ways of making a Paloma, there are plenty of variations to choose from.

One popular variation is the spicy Paloma, which includes jalapeño slices and a dash of salt for an added kick. You can also include a sprinkle of chilli in the salt for the salt rim.

Another popular variation is the Mezcal Paloma, which uses smoky-flavoured Mezcal instead of tequila.

If you prefer to use a different type of tequila, reposado tequila is a great choice for a Paloma and is my favourite. if you struggle with tequila drinks because they bring back too many dreadful memories of drunken student days and debauchery, this might just be the alternative.

It’s delightfully refreshing and sophisticated, complimenting spicy Mexican food perfectly.

I fell in love with this cocktail at my favourite Cape Town Mexican restaurant El Burro.

How to make perfect Paloma cocktail recipe with fresh grapefruit juice

Ingredients for a Paloma cocktail

If you are making a Paloma with fresh grapefruit juice, these are the ingredients you will need

Tequila – You can use blanco tequila which is more classic but I prefer to use a reposado which has been aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels. This gives the drink a totally delicious and slightly smoky flavour. Either way, use good tequila in this recipe.

Fresh grapefruit juice – Since I am making a recipe using fresh pink grapefruit juice I like to juice them just before making the drink.

Lime juice – a Paloma contains a little fresh lime juice which gives it an amazing vibrancy. You can add however much you like.

Club soda – top up your Paloma cocktail with club soda to reach the rim. This gives the drink an amazing fizzy texture as well as tempers the sweetness of the drink.

Sugar syrup – a shot of sugar syrup or agave nectar can be used to sweeten the Paloma.

Garnish – The glass is rimmed with salt, and a lime wedge and grapefruit wedge are added as a garnish.

A bottle of tequila for a Paloma cocktail recipe

How to make perfect Paloma cocktail recipe with fresh grapefruit juice

How to make a simple sugar syrup

To make a simple sugar syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves completely, then let it simmer for a few minutes until the syrup thickens slightly.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool before transferring it to a clean container.

Simple sugar syrup can be infused with herbs, spices, or extracts to create interesting flavours for drinks or desserts.

Slices of fresh grapefruit and lime to make a perfect Paloma cocktail

How to salt the rim of a glass for a Paloma

Adding a salted rim to the glass gives the Paloma a delicious salty flavour as you sip plus it looks very professional. I like to use flaky sea salt such as Maldon. Do not use fine sea salt as this will be too salty.

Take a lime wedge and rub it along the rim of your glass. On a small plate, sprinkle sea salt flakes (or kosher salt) and dip the glass into the salt. Roll. It is around to ensure the edges are well coated.

Here’s my best Paloma cocktail recipe that you can make at home. The ingredients are to make 1 cocktail, but scale up and pre-mix the tequila, grapefruit and sugar syrup to make more than one. You can adapt the quantities as you like them.

An overhead shot of a perfect Paloma cocktail with fresh grapefruit

A few of my other tequila cocktail recipes (and favourite cocktails)

A frozen Paloma cocktail

2 glasses of frozen paloma

How to make a pomegranate mojito (video)

Mixed berry margarita with jalapeno

Pineapple & ginger mint julip 

Tigers milk cocktail

A close up of a glass of paloma cocktail with fresh grapfruit slice

A shot in South Africa = 25ml

Tequila, it makes you happy. Enjoy!

Paloma cocktail with grapefruit

The perfect paloma cocktail

How to make a delicious Paloma cocktail. One of the most popular tequila cocktails in the world
Print Recipe
Prep Time:10 minutes
Total Time:10 minutes


  • 1 1/2 shots of reposado tequila or any good quality blanco
  • juice of half a ruby grape fruit
  • 1/2 shot of agave syrup or sugar syrup
  • about 75ml club soda
  • a squirt of fresh lime juice optional


  • Mix the grapefruit juice, tequila and sugar syrup until well mixed.
  • Pour over a tall glass filled with ice and top up with soda water. You could add a squirt of lime juice which is nice and I did, and you could also rim the glass with salt.


If you are wanting to reduce your sugar intake, simply leave the sugar out. Its less sweet but still delicious.
Servings: 1 drink



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  1. Beautiful pics Sam, just love the colours — I could really do with one of those now.

  2. I could TOTALLY go for one of those right now!

  3. Pinned this, I know what I’m drinking this weekend.

  4. Been thinking about these ever since I pinned them. Hubby’s making posole for dinner tonight, and we have a big bowl of fresh grapefruit….You do the math! Oh my, they are tasteeee!!!! Dinner won’t be ready for a while. We could be in trouble…
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Awesome Becca I so love that cocktail (its no too sweet and I love grapefruit). I hope you had a fab dinner.

  6. I left a “yummy” comment on my pin last night. Since then over 85 people have repinned it! They are in for a treat. =)

  7. Wow that’s awesome Becca thanks 🙂 – I have been totally blown away by this post which shot to the top of my ‘most popular’ posts soon after it went up 2 weeks ago.

  8. This is awesome and refreshing great! I love it!

  9. I’ve been looking for uses for a hibiscus simple syrup I made, this would be fantastic! Thank you!

  10. Hi Helen that sounds interesting (although I have never been a fan of the flavour of hibiscus)

  11. OMG……. I live in south Texas and this is what the Chamber of Commerce serves at Official Events, it is called Border Buttermilk……….delicious!

  12. Hi Mary Beth – just like I thought – a posh cocktail 🙂

  13. Amanda Marquez says:

    I’m Amanda, a writer for Spoon University, and I’m writing a story about cocktails. If it’s okay with you, I’d love to use the first photo in the article and of course give you proper photo credit.
    If you could let me know by tonight, that would be great.
    Thanks so much ahead of time.

  14. Pug @ Pug's Modern Life says:

    Hi Sam!

    I run and I’m going to be posting a recipe round up of Mexican and Mexican-inspired recipes mid-September and would love to include your perfect paloma cocktail!

    With your permission, I’d like to include a picture and link to both the recipe and your site (but will totally understand and not be offended if you don’t want me to).

    Thank you so much for your time 🙂

  15. Sure Pug, no problem. Thanks for asking.

  16. Thank you for writing this hilarious article. LOL

  17. Thanks Coral

  18. I was recommended this website by means of my cousin. I am not certain whether or not this put
    up is written via him as nobody else recognise such particular about my difficulty.
    You are wonderful! Thank you!

  19. I love cocktails and this recipe was so amazing when I tried it at my home.

  20. This Paloma recipe is the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, a must-try cocktail! Thanks for sharing.

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