Friendly PSA: Palomas Are Way Better Than Margaritas

If you find 'ritas too sweet, you might favor this more-refreshing tequila-based cocktail.

May 07, 2021

I have a handful of unpopular food opinions but this one might just top the list: margaritas are too sweet. Even the ones that don’t come out of a slushy machine at a chain restaurant.

Just to be clear, I don’t hate margaritas. I’ve been known to sip on a jalapeno one every now and then at a happy hour while munching on salty tortilla chips and guac. It’s just that, even when they’re made with minimal (best-quality) ingredients, they’re syrupy sweet — and leave me feeling sooooo thirsty. I might enjoy the first few sips of a margarita, but I always end up wishing I had ordered something different.

That’s why my cocktail of choice has become the lesser-know, Mexican favorite: the paloma. It’s made with tequila and lime juice just like a margarita (you can even salt the rim of your glass if you like), but instead of sweet orange liqueur, the drink gets a nice pour of grapefruit-flavored soda. The result is a cocktail that’s crisp, bubby and refreshing — everything I want when I’m hanging out at a backyard barbecue or eating just about anything laced with fiery chile peppers.

Like any other cocktail, there are plenty of variations on the original, so it’s easy to find one that suits your taste. I like to keep it simple and stick to a 3-ingredient paloma (or, sometimes use grapefruit juice and seltzer in place of the grapefruit soda) but I'm sure I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me one of these palomas instead!

Spicy Palomas (pictured above)

Molly skips the soda and opts for freshly squeezed grapefruit juice in her pepper-infused paloma. Muddled jalapeno slices in the cocktail and a chile-salt rim on the glass help to keep the sweetness of the juice in check.

Geoffrey makes the classic palmoa recipe his own by adding a little splash of freshly squeezed orange juice and grapefruit juice along with the soda. The citrus adds just a touch of sweetness, while keeps all the flavors in balance.

A green, red and yellow colored margarita in various sized glasses placed on a wooden surface

A green, red and yellow colored margarita in various sized glasses placed on a wooden surface

©Food/Prop Styling: Paul Lowe

Food/Prop Styling: Paul Lowe

If you completely disagree with my assessment of margaritas and love a sweeter cocktail, then this is the paloma for you. It’s got a touch of grenadine and sugar added to the mix — but you still end up with plenty of tart, refreshing grapefruit flavor.

Guy keeps all the basic elements of a palmoa (grapefruit soda, lime juice and tequila) but shakes them up with fresh strawberry, rhubarb and a little bit of agave for an inspired take on the classic.

If you really want to riff on the classic, try this version which calls for subtly smoky mezquila (a blend of tequila and mezcal) and sprigs of fresh tarragon in addition to grapefruit juice and club soda. It’s not to sweet, not too bitter — and nothing like any other cocktail you’ve made before.

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