When discussing tequila cocktails, indubitably the first one which springs to mind is the margarita (Spanish for daisy). The margarita is what began my interest in spirits and cocktails many years ago and remains one of my favorite cocktails. But sometimes you want something different, and when that urge strikes, I’d encourage you to consider the far more Mexican cocktail, La Paloma (Spanish for dove).
Tequila pairs extremely well with various citrus options that stand up well to tequila’s very strong taste, whether the more raw blanco/plata tequilas or the softer and richer reposados or añejo. Those familiar with margaritas may first think of limes and lemons as the best citrus, but in Mexico you’re much more likely to see an orange or grapefruit as the preferred pairings. La Paloma is one of many grapefruit oriented tequila drinks.
It can be as complicated or as simple as you like. Below are two different versions – the first is likely how you’ll get it at a bar, and the second a little more refined as you might prefer to serve it at home. However, don’t get all snooty on this. It’s surprising how refreshing and delicious the bar version is, even if the fancier version looks nicer and displays a bit more skill. As always, vary the proportions based on your personal taste preferences or the preferences of the person you’re serving it to.
Bar Version La Paloma
- 1.5 oz tequila
- Squeeze of lime juice
- Grapefruit soda (Squirt is probably the most authentic, or Jarritos)
Fill a glass with ice and squeeze in the lime juice. Then add the tequila, then top with Squirt. Stir or shake, whichever you prefer. Serve with a lime or grapefruit wedge as garnish.
Fancier La Paloma
- 1 part tequila
- 1 part grapefruit juice (fresh squeezed is always best) (pink grapefruit is prettiest!)
- Juice of 1 lime wedge
- 1 part grapefruit soda
- Salt for rim
Moisten the rim of the glass you’ll be serving the drink in with either a lime or grapefruit wedge, and then salt the rim. Add the ingredients together in a shaker and shake lightly (since there’s carbonated beverage in there!). Strain the drink into the salt-rimmed glass and garnish with a lime or (preferably, in my opinion) grapefruit wedge. This is a great summer drink – refreshing and bright. Careful, as it goes down easily!
On another summer sojourn in Las Vegas competing in pocket billiards, I walked a few blocks from my extremely sketchy extended stay hotel (yet another in a lifetime of reminders that sometimes you barely get what you pay for) to La Mojarra, a local Mexican restaurant of the relatively undistinguished kind. It was late afternoon and extremely hot outside so I was definitely thirsty by the time I arrived. As I prefer to do when alone, I opted to sit at the bar and order lunch there. It was past the lunch rush and things were really quiet. The bartender was prompt and friendly.
This is a good opportunity to discover new cocktails by asking the bartender for a recommendation. Don’t do this at a neighborhood bar or a dive bar. You’ll get funny (or annoyed) looks either because the bartender is swamped or because they don’t serve much other than beers or soda & liquor drinks (like rum & Coke). But at a cocktail bar or a well-stocked restaurant bar with a variety of drinks on the menu, your bartender (if they have the time) may be willing & able to introduce you to something new. So it was when I met La Paloma.
Make sure your bartender isn’t busy when you ask for their recommendation. They’ll likely ask you what sorts of drinks you like or what liquors you prefer (tequila, gin, vodka, etc.). After all, they don’t want to waste their time and liquor making you something you won’t like. If you can include this information in your initial request it makes their job easier. Could you suggest a favorite tequila cocktail of yours, or one that’s really popular here? Don’t be surprised if they ask to get back to you in a minute, once they’ve completed whatever other six tasks they’re in the middle of and had a chance to run through their mental list of cocktail favorites. If they aren’t in the mood, be ready with a standby go-to order to save them the time and trouble of proposing one of their own.