Why The Paloma is Summer’s Quintessential Cocktail

Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: Don Julio

Taste in cocktails evolves every few years, and the preferred tipple of the time often best sums up the zeitgeist of a particular era.

Boomers who like piña coladas (and getting caught in the rain), may have fond memories of the rollicking 1980s. In the 90s, Sex and the City birthed the Carrie-esque Cosmopolitan. Millennials will never shut up about how Mad Men spurred on the Negroni.  Then came the era of The Aperol Spritz somewhere in the 2010s. But now we’re in a new decade, and there is a new cocktail taking centre stage this summer: The Paloma. 


A Mexican Favourite

This Mexican favourite is being hailed here by the cocktail cognoscenti as the quintessential 2024 summer cocktail.  The influencers are calling it all over social media: 2024 is Paloma Summer. You know if TikTok and Twitter are in agreement then it must be objectively true. Cocktails are a bit like our wardrobe: we like adapting them according to the seasons and the latest trends. Like the bloody Mary, classic martini, Harvey Wallbanger, the Aperol Spritz, and other famous decade-defining drinks, The Paloma will likely always reflect this era: representing a time when there was a refocus on the importance of simplicity, fun, and making memories with mates in an era where literally everything is expensive and uncertain.

Ireland and Mexico may seem like they’re on opposite ends of the Earth, what with the vast Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico keeping them apart. But surprise, surprise, we’re not that different after all. We both love a good wedding, we both dance an awkward dance with our bigger neighbours, and we both love Mexican food. Since the dawn of the new millennium, Ireland has embraced Mexican food with the kind of open arms our spice-intolerant ancestors would be wildly impressed by. And if our penchant for Margaritas is anything to go by, we are well on our way to adopting the full range of Mexico’s finest drinks. So the Paloma has arrived just in the nick of summer time.

The details of the Paloma’s origin are a little murky.  The Paloma didn’t arrive on the scene until after 1938, when Squirt was first invented in Phoenix, Arizona. Squirt began advertising its appeal as a mixer with tequila as early as 1950, although Mexico didn’t begin importing the soda until 1955

However it came about, the aperitif was a runaway success in Mexico from the start. Because the pre-dinner drink was light and had low alcohol by volume, it could be enjoyed with friends and family and provided the perfect sip to segue from day to night.

The Paloma made its way to the states and became particularly popular around California and Texas a little later. Drinks writer David Wondrich reported the Paloma’s first mention on a menu at Tlaquepaque restaurant in Orange County, California, in 1999. In 2000 food writer Brigit Binns published Cowboy Cocktails and mentioned “The La Paloma” (which translates embarrassingly to “the the paloma”) as “virtually the national drink of Guadalajara.”

The Spanish name “La Paloma” translates to “the dove.” Maybe it’s because they’re so heavenly, or maybe it’s actually a message from the Holy Spirit that you deserve a little treat. We like to think it’s because La Paloma is as weightless as the wings of a dove alighting on a boiling hot day to bring about a little reprieve. That’s probably not the right guess, though.  Realistically, it’s likely named for the similar-sounding “pomelo,” which is a citrus fruit similar to the grapefruit; the flavour at the heart of the drink.

A Paloma’s bubbly grapefruit soda has just a little bit more of a bitter bite than the margarita floating under its sweetness. Then there’s lime and salt too (not rimming the glass but in the actual drink) which beg for Don Julio tequila. Together, it’s a salty, sweet, and sour highball cocktail that you’ll want to add to your signature drinks rotation as soon as you can.


Nothing Complicated

Right now we’re all about sitting on patios, sipping at cafes, We’re enjoying our lives in that moment because everything beyond seems uncertain. People are getting their little treats from friends when they can. It’s all about the vibe, the experience. The essence of the cocktail is so basic and so delicious. The citrus notes of the grapefruit work well with tequila. It’s just beautiful, and crucially lower in alcohol so it’s ideal for warm days and for people who want less alcohol, but who don’t want to stop drinking entirely.

The citrusy libation has shown up on myriad cocktail lists across Dublin in recent years. Bonobo, Kodiak, Masa, 777 to name just a few. Just as pre-Prohibition classics such as the Manhattan, the Sidecar, the Sazerac, and the Old-Fashioned have all risen in fame, each with its own history and lore, the Paloma has also found a seat at the craft-cocktail table.

However, this cocktail is more laid-back than its artisanal brethren. In its original form, the Paloma is a casual, two-ingredient sipper perfectly enjoyed as an aperitif. 

Don Julio makes up the base of the drink, and that’s topped with vibrant lime juice, a slightly bitter citrus-focused grapefruit soda is added, giving it that complexity, and agave to taste. Finally, the cocktail is crowned with an grapefruit slice. While personal preferences vary, the best way to make a Paloma is exactly like they do in Mexico: Grab an ice-filled wine glass and use the countdown combination: 3-2-1. 3 parts grapefruit juice, 2 parts lime, 1 part Don Julio. Mixing the drink in that exact order also eliminates the need to stir, since the liquids will perfectly fuse together on their own.  That’s it. There’s nothing complicated about the Paloma. And that’s what makes it so great. 

So, as we sip our Palomas on Dublin’s bustling streets, let’s raise a glass to the unlikely bond between Ireland and Mexico, united by a love for tequila and good times. The Paloma is a refreshing reminder that in a world of uncertainty, a little simplicity and a lot of flavour can go a long way. So here’s to 2024: the year of the Paloma.

Please enjoy Don Julio responsibly.

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