Mexican cocktails arguably set the benchmark for heady, potent yet delicious drinks across the globe. While many may think the margarita reigns as numero uno among American tourists at Mexican resorts, it surprisingly doesn't hold the title of Mexico's most cherished cocktail. Other assumptions lean toward the Tequila Sunrise, courtesy of its association with the 1973 Eagles song, but this, too, would be incorrect. The Paloma, a light and summery blend of grapefruit and tequila, claims the honour of being Mexico's favourite cocktail, even earning the title of the National Drink of Mexico by esteemed drinks writer David Wondrich. However, an authentic Paloma differs from the more elaborate and costly versions featured on some Texas bar menus.
Though the Paloma has found its way onto numerous cocktail menus across the state, recent renditions showcase a spectrum of variations. These adaptations boast elements ranging from tamarind-laced Himalayan salt and fresh Rio Red grapefruit juice to chilli-infused tinctures and simple syrups crafted from lime peels.
Essentially a blend of grapefruit soda and tequila, the Paloma may have been concocted as a way of making the tequila more appetising to the masses.
The origin and etymology of the name "paloma," meaning "dove" in Spanish, remain uncertain. There is speculation that it might have been mistakenly associated with or substituted for "pomelo," the Spanish term for "grapefruit," given the similarity in spelling. Interestingly, Wondrich also traced the earliest mention of the Paloma on a menu of Tlaquepaque restaurant in Orange County, California, dating back to 1999.
In 2000, the cocktail found further mention in renowned Texas chef Grady Spears and food writer Brigit Binns publication, Cowboy Cocktails. They referred to it as "The La Paloma" (translating awkwardly to "the the paloma") and noted it as "virtually the national drink of Guadalajara." This acknowledgement added to the evolving narrative surrounding Paloma's emergence and popularity.
One theory regarding Paloma’s origin suggests that Don Javier Delgado Corona, the proprietor of La Capilla bar, was the first to whip up the cocktail. This theory gains traction, given Don Javier's association with another cocktail discovery—the Batanga. However, due to the lack of concrete historical records, the precise genesis of the Paloma remains a subject of speculation and mystery.
However, the advent of Paloma into American lands has been well documented. This is mainly attributed to bartender Evan Harrison, who prominently featured the cocktail in his pamphlet titled Popular Cocktails of the Rio Grande. This publication specifically highlights a region in Texas renowned for its extensive grapefruit production. In the year 1929, within the Rio Grande Valley, citrus grower AE Henninger made a noteworthy observation—his pink grapefruits displayed a unique red blush shade. This discovery marked the identification of the Ruby Red Grapefruit and earned the distinction of being the first citrus patent granted in the United States. The introduction of this grapefruit had a substantial influence on Texan preferences, steering a considerable number towards cocktails centred around grapefruit, such as the Paloma. This automatically increased sales for the drink and soon it crossed those of the Margarita.
In a tall glass, build the drink starting with the tequila and the lime juice.
Add ice cubes and top with grapefruit syrup and soda water.
Stir gently and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.