Did you know that paloma is Mexico’s favorite cocktail? No, it’s not the margarita, contrary to popular belief.
A traditional paloma cocktail is served on the rocks and often in a highball glass. This pink cocktail is prepared with grapefruit juice and tequila. According to cocktails connoisseurs, grapefruit and tequila are just the perfect match. This combination is even better than that of tequila and lime juice. Adding salt to the rim of the glass, just like for a margarita, is optional.
Paloma: History & Legends of the popular Mexican cocktail
Etymologically, the word paloma means dove in Spanish. This bird is often associated with peace. The origin of this cocktail remains unknown until today. However, even if no one can say who is the worthy inventor of this delicious Mexican beverage, some sources attribute its creation to Don Javier Delgado Coroba. This man was the owner of a legendary bar named La Capilla in the city of Tequila in the Jalisco state of Mexico.
But as the old adage says, there is no smoke without fire! Because it is the same Don Javier Delgado Coroba who would be at the origin of another popular cocktail based on soda and tequila. Have you heard of bartanga? It is a cocktail made of Coca-Cola, tequila and lime juice.
Also, several sources confirm that the bartender Evan Harrison was the first to introduce the paloma in the United States, in a pamphlet entitled: “Popular Cocktails of The Rio Grande”. In this pamphlet, Harrison is referring to the region of Texas. Indeed, it is in this region that grapefruits have become popular and are produced in large quantities.
Texas grapefruits and the growing popularity of paloma
What makes the paloma original is the quality of its grapefruit. An astonishing variety of grapefruit was discovered in Texas in 1929 by a citrus farmer named A.E. Henninger. He actually noticed a red mark on one of his trees. This mark was actually a mutation. The citrus farmer continued to plant these grapefruits, extending the scale of the red mutation. From this mutation was born the variety of grapefruit Ruby Red, a very popular American grapefruit variety that makes this cocktail so special in the region.
Although paloma is not so popular in the north of the United States, this cocktail is very popular in Houston Texas. With the rise in popularity of Tex-Mex food, grapefruit production in the United States has surpassed that of Mexico by half a million each year.
Although the combination of grapefruit and tequila is brilliant, it is rather surprising that the paloma is under represented on cocktail menus in the United States. There are actually two main reasons:
First, the traditional paloma in Mexico is made with grapefruit soda, which is a sparkling soft drink. This has two major disadvantages: firstly, the bubbles of the soda evaporate quickly once the bottle is open. Then, this waste thus reduces the margins that bars could make on this cocktail.
In Mexico, there are several types of grapefruit soda. Most of them never cross the US border because of customs reasons. Thus, the American and the Mexican paloma versions do not have the same taste. In the United States, the flavor of grapefruit in the cocktails is altered because they contain a high concentration of corn syrup. This gives a sweeter but less fruity taste.
But, what may have hurt the popularity of the paloma has been the massive introduction of the margarita machine in the 70’s. Indeed, this machine contributed to better profits for restaurants and bars.
The paloma is more ubiquitous on cocktail menus in Texas, and its popularity continues to increase. Who knows, maybe in a few years, the traditional Mexican cocktail will become as popular as the mojito or daiquiri cocktails that are all the rage today.
So, are you more a paloma or margarita person? How about you try this refreshing Mexican cocktail and let us know?
- 1 fl oz. pink grapefruit juice , freshly squeezed
- 1 fl oz. sparkling water (or club soda)
- 1½ fl oz. tequila
- A drizzle of lime juice , freshly squeezed
- 1 slice lime
- 1 pinch salt
- Crushed ice
- In a cocktail glass, add some crushed ice.
- Mix with a small cocktail stirrer or a spoon to cool the glass.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Pour the grapefruit juice, then the sparkling water.
- Add the tequila and a drizzle of lime juice. Mix.
- Decorate with a slice of lime.