The classic paloma gets a touch of heat to become the Serrano Paloma. We add serrano pepper to the tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda that have made the Mexican cocktail so iconic.
There are those who think you need to pledge your allegiance to one or the other: the margarita or the paloma. Both are tequila-based Mexican cocktails with lime juice and salt, but for some reason, we get the sense people stick to only one. Those people do not write these recipes at T&T. Here, we subscribe to both, and have been known to serve both at our Cinco de Mayo parties each year. Sinful, I know.
We’re not sure who invented the paloma; it’s been around since the 1860s (i.e., before mixology was a TRUE science and its history was properly documented for posterity). It’s generally believed to have been named after “La Paloma”, a Mexican folk song, which translates to “the dove” in English. The actual drink, we THINK, is the fruit of the labors of Don Javier Delgado Corona, the owner of La Capilla in Tequila, Mexico. To the dove and don, we raise a glass.
For this recipe, we’re going to put the margarita on ice and focus on the paloma. We’ve covered the drink before, adding an assortment of ingredients to turn it into something new. Today, given the chilly time of year, we figured you might like a little heat. Say hello to the Serrano Paloma!
What is the Best Tequila to Use?
We get tequila from the blue agave plant. Its juices are fermented then distilled to become that seductive spirit from down Mexico way. The Jalisco region, specifically. That’s where the town of Tequila lies. It is the only government-regulated location where the spirit can be made. Tequilas are recognized by their age and color:
- Blanco (silver) is light in color and taste. Because of its mildness, blanco tequila is my go-to when I only want a hint of agave.
- Reposado is an amber tequila. What makes it amber? Spending two months to a year aging in oak casks.
- Añejo and Extra Añejo (aged and extra aged, respectively) are the grandparents of the tequila family. Añejo is aged for one to three years while Extra Añejo surpasses three.
If you’re new to the world of palomas, I recommend starting with a blanco. Then, as you become more accustomed to the taste, expand to reposados. I generally don’t use aged tequilas in mixed drinks but there’s no rule against it.
- 2 oz. tequila
- 1/2 a serrano pepper
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 oz. agave nectar
- grapefruit soda (for topping)
- salt (for rimming)
- lime wheel and extra serrano slices (for garnish)
- Muddle the serrano pepper in a shaker. Add the tequila, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar.
- Fill the shaker with ice. Shake for 25–30 seconds.
- Run a slice of lime around the rim of your glass. Dip the rim into a shallow dish of salt.
- Strain the cocktail mix into the glass over fresh ice. Top it off with some grapefruit soda.
- Garnish with a lime wheel and serrano slices. Enjoy!
Tips & Tricks to Making a Perfect Serrano Paloma
- There are good grapefruit sodas and not-so-good grapefruit sodas. Inspect the ingredients; in general, the shorter the list, the better the soda.
- Serve over large ice cubes, which won’t melt as quickly and dilute your drink.
- Use fresh lime juice to avoid the additives and sugars usually prominent in store-bought juices.
- If you don’t have any agave nectar, simple syrup will do.
- If you don’t usually eat serrano peppers, I suggest starting with a small amount and only add more in future cocktails once you have a better idea of just how much heat you can handle.
Other Paloma Variations Worth Trying
- Serrano Paloma Mocktail: Drop the tequila and add more lime juice and grapefruit soda.
- Jalapeno Paloma Mocktail: Grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave syrup, club soda, and jalapenos.
- Rosemary Paloma: Add a sprig of rosemary to the simple syrup.
- Spicy Paloma: Bring the heat to your Paloma with hot sauce and a jalapeno pepper.
- Blood-Orange Paloma: Blood-orange juice replaces grapefruit juice.
- Paloma Sour: Pretty much the same as a Smoky Paloma but minus the mezcal.