Give tequila and grapefruit a caliente kick to concoct a Spicy Paloma—an invigorating take on the classic Mexican cocktail.
While tequila could be considered Mexico’s unofficial spirit, the Paloma could very well be the nation’s unofficial cocktail (with all due respect to the Margarita). Though its origins can’t be confirmed, the Paloma is believed to have started showing up in Mexican bars in the mid–20th century. Some versions keep it simple, comprising only tequila and grapefruit juice, while others include lime juice and sparkling water. It’s this latter version that we’re going to riff on when making the Spicy Paloma.
As you can probably guess, the Spicy Paloma adds heat to the traditional cocktail but goes beyond the expected dash or two of Tabasco. I’ve made spicy drinks before—my Spicy Margarita and Bloody Mary come to mind—but the Paloma makes a solid case for the combination of grapefruit juice and jalapeno. Play around with the degree of heat until you’ve made a cocktail that is your signature piece!
What is Tequila Exactly?
Tequila is a spirit (usually 80 proof) that comes to us from the fermented juices of the blue agave plant. It’s named after the Mexican town of Tequila, found in the Jalisco region which, the government maintains, is the only area of the country where tequila may be produced. There are different types of tequila, ranging from Blanco (silver) to Extra Añejo (extra aged), with age distinguishing one type from another. From my own experience, there are tequilas that make you grimace when you shoot them back and and there are highly refined tequilas that you sip like a whiskey. There are few mid-range tequilas. For this recipe, I recommend a blanco. It’s lighter and mixes with the other ingredients without overpowering them.
- 2 oz. blanco tequila
- 2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
- 2 oz. sparkling water
- ½ oz. lime juice
- ¼ oz. simple syrup adjust to taste
- salt or Tajín seasoning (for rimming the glass)
- grapefruit wedges (optional garnish)
- 1 small jalapeño or serrano pepper slice
- 1-2 dashes hot sauce optional
- ice cubes
- Rim the glass with lime and Tajín seasoning or salt. Add ice.
- Muddle the pepper slice in a shaker for spice.
- Add your tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and syrup into the shaker with ice. Shake well and strain mixture into rimmed glass.
- Add the sparkling water gently into the glass, and for an extra kick, a couple of dashes of hot sauce.
- Stir gently, then garnish with grapefruit wedge and pepper slice.
Tips & Tricks to Making a Perfect Spicy Paloma
- Make a spicy simple syrup by muddling a jalapeno into your sugar/water mix.
- Opt for fresh grapefruit juice you make at home. It’s healthier and more effervescent than those bores you can find at the store.
- The heat in the jalapeno comes from the seeds and membrane; to diminish the heat, remove them before muddling the pepper.
- Shake for 25–30 seconds to ensure your ingredients have been fused together and have been sufficiently chilled.
- For the sake of convenience, you can use grapefruit soda; just try to find one with minimal ingredients.
Other Mexican-Inspired Cocktails
Mexican (“Texas”) Martini: The traditional cocktail gets some Southern flavor with Cointreau, tequila, and citrus juices.
The Original Michelada: Beer makes a cameo in this Mexican fave that also features both hot and salty sauces and your choice of tomato or Clamato juice.
Spicy Margarita: Tequila, triple sec, and lime juice make room for jalapeno for a spicy take on the Mexican classic.
The Paloma: The original to this recipe—minus the spice but still brimming with flavor.
Spicy Paloma Mocktail – Just skip the tequila and you’re good to go!