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Cocktail Class: The Paloma

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In the early 2000s, I developed a strong distaste for the margarita. It had everything to do with the fact that I was working bar on the West Coast of Florida, slinging two-for-one margaritas Monday through Friday. My hands seemed permanently soaked in bright green First Call mix, which I ordered each week by the case. This wasn’t a craft cocktail bar but a seafood restaurant for snowbirds, snowbirds who drank their way through winters with bright green margaritas rimmed in chunky salt.

So when it came time to order my own, the margarita was never on my list, even the hand-squeezed beauties made at my favorite happy hour watering hole (although a bit of a drive), Pepe’s in Key West.

Maybe you’ve felt the same way. Maybe too many mariachis blaring tableside, and slushy, sweet versions of the margarita melting unevenly as you wondered how much of a tip would make the horn player move away from your table. I get it. But please don’t eschew the entire citrus/tequila category because of such.

Allow me to introduce the Paloma, “the dove.”
Photo by Nick Simonite
The Paloma. Photo by Nick Simonite.

In Mexico, you’re more likely to find this cocktail than the margarita (if you’re outside of Cancun, that is). The Paloma is a bird’s wing whisper of bubbles, traditionally from grapefruit soda, with an added fresh squeeze of grapefruit or lime juice to balance the sweetness. It’s light, lovely, and a wonderful alternative to the summer margarita.

There’s still a salt rim but there’s not a bright green mixer in sight. Aaaah. Cheers to the Summer Dove.

Garden Paloma
from Chef Alex Gates of Hotel Saint Cecilia, Austin, TX