From its earliest iterations, the Paloma has been designed with adaptability in mind. In its simplest form, the refreshing Mexican cooler is just a straightforward trio of tequila, lime juice and grapefruit soda. Swap the bottle of Jarritos for grapefruit juice, simple syrup and soda water, and the sweet-tart highball will draw out even more fresh, citrusy aromas. Using the basics as inspiration, the tequila-grapefruit template can seamlessly transition from spicy to bitter to savory.
The combination of tequila and spice is well-documented as a perennial fan favorite on bar menus—and the Paloma is a key player in its popularity. T.J. Lynch’s Why Not, for example, incorporates layered dimensions of spice, with a five-chile molasses bringing heat (from ancho, pasilla, chipotle, guajillo and cayenne chile powders), bracing acidity by way of Cholula, and earthy, warming notes from cinnamon and cloves. Swapping the effervescent element for blended ice, Lynch turns the Mexican cooler into a frothy, frozen drink. In her Garden Paloma, Meaghan Dorman similarly leans on a steeped syrup to deliver chile heat. Spiced and sweetened with jalapeño-agave syrup and finished off with a dash of celery bitters to add depth and complexity, Dorman’s modifications are welcome tweaks to the fail-safe formula.
While Palomas may not typically fall under the aperitivo umbrella, they can certainly be adapted to fit the bill. Jon Mullen’s Shady Grove mashes up grapefruit soda and aperitif liqueurs in pursuit of what he dubs a “Palomaperitivo.” The bianco vermouth base is accented with Suze and Calvados for a silky, bitter balance. Once again proving its adaptability, the brandy can easily be swapped with gin, tequila or rhum agricole without compromising those fruity, vegetal notes.
Not surprisingly, Campari is a natural companion to the tart, punchy character of Palomas. Alex Anderson goes for bold flavors in her Feeling Without Touching, mixing the bittersweet liqueur, full-bodied orgeat and a touch of anise-scented Kafroun. When paired with bell pepper simple syrup in the Dove Dispatch, meanwhile, Campari complements the vegetal layers accompanied by an extra dose of spice in the form of a chili-salt rim. It adds what Dorman describes as “that extra subtle layer,” to the familiar, infinitely permutable Paloma.