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Pickle La Paloma Cocktail: fermented grapefruit soda

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  • Pickle La Paloma Cocktail on blue background from eye level
  • Pickle La Paloma Cocktail on blue background from eye level with deep shadow
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Pickle La Paloma Cocktail on blue background from eye level

Pickle La Paloma Cocktail is a pickle grapefruit twist on a classic Mexican La Paloma – meaning ‘the dove’ in Spanish – using a from scratch fermented grapefruit soda paired with ginger, strawberry, hibiscus, cinnamon, fresh lime and grapefruit juice, blanco tequila and a grapefruit, cinnamon, salt rim garnished with a pink grapefruit segment. The Pickle La Paloma Cocktail combines sweet sour pink grapefruit and lime with sweet spice cinnamon and sea salt along with the vegetal notes of tequila for a sweet, sour, salty and spicy very refreshing spring highball cocktail.

What is a La Paloma cocktail?
A La Paloma cocktail or Paloma is part of the highball family of cocktails, a Mexican sour tequila cocktail – more than a longer version of the shorter sour margarita – La Paloma has a unique flavour profile featuring grapefruit: sometimes using grapefruit juice, along with lime juice, topped with grapefruit soda, with a salt rim, served over ice with a grapefruit garnish – see the Cocktail Codex (Day, Fauchauld & Kaplan 2018: 212) and Difford’s Guide. For more about the history of the highball cocktail see my post on Chilcano de pisco.

La Paloma Ingredients – For the basic recipe I have referred to the Cocktail Codex (Day, Fauchauld & Kaplan 2018: 212), Difford’s Guide – Difford provides a simple Paloma recipe and more elaborate Paloma recipe – and David Wondrich’s (2007) La Paloma. The basic ingredients for a La Paloma cocktail are those in bold italics below, variations in plain text, discussed further below:

  • Tequila
  • Fresh lime juice, and in more elaborate recipes such as Difford’s (2019) grapefruit juice
  • Grapefruit soda, or sometimes soda water if using fresh grapefruit juice
  • Agave syrup or simple syrup, if using fresh grapefruit juice
  • Salt rim, and in some recipes such as Wondrich’s (2007) a pinch of salt
  • Grapefruit garnishor lime garnish
  • Grapefruit bitters, as in the Punch recipe below
  • Ice

La Paloma Variations – There are variations on this grapefruit tequila highball theme – with Simon Difford including in his more elaborate Paloma recipe agave syrup and fresh grapefruit juice and Cocktail Codex using crème de pamplemousse and homemade grapefruit soda made from fresh grapefruit juice. Further variations include use of grapefruit bitters and use of a combination of fresh grapefruit juice and soda water as in Punch magazine’s recipe for a Paloma: Mexico’s tequila Collins.

La Paloma Method – Shake & strain; or build in the glass; & top with soda – The method for making a La Paloma cocktail is similar to that used for other highball cocktails, involving either, shaking and straining the base ingredients with ice – lime and grapefruit juice, tequila, agave or simple syrup, salt – or, building the drink in the already salt rimmed glass with ice, stirring; and then topping with grapefruit soda or soda water, and giving a final brief stir. David Wondrich (2007) in his recipe for La Paloma helpfully recommends the build in the glass, topping with soda and stir method and recommends using Mexican Jarritos brand grapefruit soda.

History and significance of La Paloma cocktail
There is little documented history of the origins of La Paloma cocktail. Simon Difford (2019) in his wonderful recipe and article Paloma relates that the Paloma was invented by Mexican bartender Don Javier Delgado Corona, while Difford and Punch in their article Paloma: Mexico’s tequila Collins write that ‘La Paloma’ means ‘the dove’ in Spanish. La Paloma is very popular in Mexico – with Punch and Teresa Finney (2016) for Tales of the Cocktail writing that La Paloma may even be more popular than the Margarita, being according to Finney (2016) ‘Mexico’s Preferred Tequila Drink’. Taste Cocktails Magazine explains how ‘La Paloma’ is also the name of a popular folk song dating from the 1860’s for which the cocktail may perhaps have been named.

How is the Pickle La Paloma Cocktail different?
The Pickle La Paloma Cocktail is a seasonal pink grapefruit pickle twist on a La Paloma using a fermented pink grapefruit soda made from scratch with a ginger bug starter paired with ginger, hibiscus and strawberry. The grapefruit soda used for this Pickle La Paloma Cocktail is arrested after the first fermentation by refrigerating and is thus a soft drink but with a slight fizz from the fermentation process and a delicious flavour from the fresh pink grapefruit juice. For more tips about how to make your own ginger bug starter for making sodas and ginger beer see my previous posts on Chilcano de pisco and Lemon myrtle ginger beer spiders.

Flavour pairing – This Pickle La Paloma Cocktail uses fresh in season pink grapefruit and lime juice and blanco tequila stirred with ice and topped with fermented grapefruit soda in a tall glass with a grapefruit cinnamon salt rim and a pink grapefruit wedge garnish. The flavour is sweet, sour, spicy and salty, with a bubbly refreshing zing from the fermented grapefruit soda.

Fermented grapefruit soda The Pickle La Paloma Cocktail is a refreshing seasonal pickle twist on the classic Mexican La Paloma cocktail using fresh in season pink grapefruit that is preserved by fermenting into a homemade soda paired with cinnamon, ginger, hibiscus and strawberry providing a lovely tart sweet grapefruit flavour and fizz. The grapefruit soda is low sugar with the ginger bug consuming most of the sugar during fermentation but has a lovely sweet sour grapefruit flavour. I have not added additional agave or simple syrup as the soda includes natural sweetness from the additional of sweet strawberries and sweet spice cinnamon. I have followed the method outlined by Holly Davis (2017) in her lovely book Ferment – the flavour pairing of grapefruit with hibiscus, ginger, cinnamon and strawberry and use in a La Paloma Mexican cocktail is my own contribution – inspired by the flavours of Mexican paletas and Niki Segnit’s (2010) wonderful book The Flavour Thesaurus.

Pairing grapefruit with cinnamon, salt & tequila – The pairing of cinnamon and grapefruit along with the salt rim offers a combination of sweet, and salty flavours popular in other Mexican recipes such as paletas or seasonal fruit ice blocks dipped in chili lime salt flakes before eating – cinnamon adds sweet heat and spice to the tart and sweet grapefruit which contrasts with the salt. For more on pairing grapefruit with cinnamon see Niki Segnit’s (2010: 2053) amazing book The Flavour Thesaurus. This sweet sour, salty and spicy combination is paired with a blanco tequila and enhances the sweet and vegetal notes of the base spirit.

Seasonal spring flavours grapefruit – The Pickle La Paloma Cocktail is a celebration of spring flavours of fresh pink grapefruit and strawberries for a refreshing spring cocktail. Using a bespoke homemade fermented grapefruit soda offers a quality mixer for this highball Pickle La Paloma Cocktail that allows the pink grapefruit flavour distinctive to a La Paloma to really shine.

Pickle La Paloma Cocktail: fermented grapefruit soda

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 litre grapefruit soda; 1 cocktail Cooking Time: Ginger bug starter: 1 week; Grapefruit soda: 3 days; Cocktail: 10 minutes


  • Ginger bug starter: 1 tablespoon ginger with skin on, washed and grated
  • 1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
  • 100mls water
  • Ginger bug daily feed for 1 week: 1 tablespoon ginger with skin on, washed and grated
  • 1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
  • 50mls water
  • Grapefruit soda: 1/2 litre water
  • 1 tablespoon dried hibiscus flowers
  • 110 grams low GI cane sugar
  • 110 grams sliced ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Zest and juice of approximately 3 pink grapefruits – 1/2 litre of fresh grapefruit juice
  • ¼ cup washed, hulled, sliced and muddled strawberries
  • ¼ cup active (ie bubbling) ginger bug starter
  • Pickle La Paloma Cocktail: 2 shots blanco tequila
  • ½ shot fresh grapefruit juice
  • ¼ shot fresh lime juice
  • 3-4 Ice cubes
  • Fermented grapefruit soda to top
  • Grapefruit cinnamon salt: 3 tablespoons Grapefruit zest dried and ground
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
  • 3 tablespoons, Sea salt flakes
  • Glassware: highball glass
  • Garnish: Pink grapefruit segment



Ginger bug starter: Add grated ginger, sugar and water to a clean mason jar and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar


Cover with a clean cloth and store in a cool dark place


Maintain ginger bug: Remove the ginger bug from storage daily and feed 1 tablespoon of grated ginger and sugar and 50mls of water and stir with wooden spoon for approximately 1 week – it is ready when bubbles appear.


If keeping and maintaining the ginger bug for further use, you can either continue to feed as above daily and store at room temperature or arrest the fermentation process by refrigerating the bug and feeding once per week with the same daily feed then placing back in the fridge.


When ready to use a refrigerated bug simply begin the daily feeding process and store at room temperature until bubbles form.


Grapefruit soda: Zest grapefruit and juice grapefruit, set aside grapefruit juice


Rub grapefruit zest with sugar to release the oils, set aside


Wash and slice the ginger


Add the sliced ginger, cinnamon stick and hibiscus flowers, along with the sugar and grapefruit zest mixture to a saucepan and add ½ litre of boiling water


Stir to dissolve the sugar and allow the hibiscus tea mixture to infuse and cool for 2 hours or over night


Add the reserved grapefruit juice


Strain the completely cooled hibiscus tea through a fine mesh sieve to remove the ginger slices, cinnamon stick and zest into a clean bowl or fermenting crock


Hull, wash, slice and muddle fresh strawberries


Add the muddled sliced strawberries and strained active ginger bug to the bowl or crock


Stir with a wooden spoon in one direction and then the other to create a vortex to encourage aeration and fermentation


Cover the crock with a clean tea towel


Stir 2-3 times daily with a wooden spoon as above for up to 3 days or until bubbles appear


Strain the grapefruit soda through a fine mesh strainer to remove the muddled strawberries


Decant the grapefruit soda into clean swing top bottles


Store in the fridge and open the tops or ‘burp’ to release carbonation daily


Use within 3-4 days


Pickle La Paloma Cocktail: Prepare the grapefruit cinnamon salt by baking zest of 1 grapefruit in a 140 C oven for 15-20 minutes or until completely dry, allow to cool and grind to a fine dust by blitzing in a blender or grinding in a mortar and pestle


Combine with ground cinnamon and sea salt flakes


Prepare glass by rubbing the outer rim with a cut lime quarter and carefully dipping the outside edge into the grapefruit cinnamon salt flakes on a plate


Add 3-4 ice cubes to prepared glass


Add tequila, fresh grapefruit and lime juice to the glass and stir with a long handled bar spoon


Top with fermented grapefruit soda and stir once more before adding a grapefruit wedge before serving


Fermenting recipes: Fermented sodas, ginger bug starter

Holly Davis (2017). Ferment: A guide to the art of making ancient cultured goods. Murdoch Books: Crows Nest, Sydney.

Flavour pairing

Niki Segnit (2010). The Flavour Thesaurus. Bloomsbury: London.

Cocktail manual

Alex Day, Nick Fauchauld & David Kaplan (2018). Cocktail Codex. Ten Speed Press: New York.

Online Paloma recipes and articles

Simon Difford (2019). Paloma. In Difford’s Guide.

Simon Difford (2019). Paloma (Simple). In Difford’s Guide.

Finney, Teresa (2016).In praise of La Paloma: Mexico’s preferred tequila drink. In Tales of the Cocktail.

Punch.Paloma: Mexico’s tequila Collins. In Punch.

The Taste Cocktails Magazine.Paloma recipe and history: how to make a paloma cocktail.

David Wondrich (2007). La Paloma. In Esquire.

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