How to Make a Paloma Cocktail, the Ultimate Tequila Highball | Wine Enthusiast
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How to Make a Paloma Cocktail, the Ultimate Tequila Highball

The past two decades have seen a resurgence in classic cocktails, bespoke bar culture and other terms meant to bring to mind leather-backed chairs and high-minded drinking. But despite the rise of hand-shaved ice or 10-ingredient infusions, two-ingredient highballs remain crucial to cocktail culture.

Nearly every country seems to have its favored combination. British culture became forever entwined with the gin & tonic; the rum and Coke (with a wedge of lime) was christened a Cuba Libre; and U.S. drinkers have long identified with whiskey Cokes or vodka sodas, often depending on the decade and prevalent gender biases.

The preferred cocktail that’s often called the national drink of Mexico?  The Paloma.

The Paloma is as easy to make as cocktails come, and can be used as a base to experiment with tinctures and extra flavors, as in this spiced habanero Paloma, or mezcal variation. But if you’re just looking for a simple version of the classic recipe, follow along below for instant refreshment.

What Exactly Is in a Paloma?

Like many great highballs, the Paloma traditionally consists of a spirit, soda and wedge of lime. In this case, the combination is tequila and grapefruit soda. Historically, Squirt is the favored mixer, a citrus flavored soda first created in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1938 and gained popularity in Mexico in the years that followed. However, with a wide selection available today, you’ll just as likely find Palomas in the U.S. made with alternative grapefruit sodas, like Jarritos Toronja, Ting, Fresca, Fanta Grapefruit or countless others.

Alternatively, you can also use fresh ruby red grapefruit juice and plain seltzer, as we opt for here.

How to Make a Paloma


2 ounces 100% agave blanco Tequila
2 ounces fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice*
4 ounces soda water*
2 lime wedges
Salt rim


Using highball or Collins glass, rub one lime wedge around rim to coat in juice. Roll the outside of rim in salt to coat. Squeeze rest of lime wedge into glass, and drop in shell. Add Tequila, grapefruit juice and soda water. Fill glass with ice and give a gentle stir. Garnish with remaining lime wedge.

*Alternatively, replace grapefruit juice and soda water with 6 ounces of preferred grapefruit soda.


How Do You Salt a Rim for a Paloma?

Salting a rim is a great way to add different aromas and flavors to cocktails. But why not just add it directly to the drink? Because the salt will turn into a briny sludge that won’t taste too great. Luckily, rimming a glass is fairly simple.

Take a highball or Collins glass and rub the lime wedge around the glass’s outer rim. Try your best to not get any citrus on the inner rim so salt doesn’t end up directly in your drink. Next pour the salt on a plate and hold your glass at a 45-degree angle. Lastly, roll your glass in the salt, it may take a few times for it to stick.

What Is a Highball?

Highballs are a classic category of cocktails made with a spirit and topped with a carbonated nonalcoholic beverage (think sparkling water or tonic). Arguably some of the easiest drinks to make, some other classic highball examples are Ranch Water, a Scotch soda and this amaro highball to name a few.

What Type of Glass Should You Use for a Paloma?

You’ll want to use a highball or Collins glass. But if you don’t have either of those at the ready, any tall, thin glassware will do.

This article was updated on April 28, 2023.

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