We turned to the much-mythified Paloma to feature at West Main for the weekend of Mexican Independence Day, along with our Mexican spirits flight (tequila, mescal, sotol). We, like many, believed the vague but popular myth that the Paloma was an old school Mexican cocktail that had found its way onto the menu of the occasional modern cocktail bar, and, per usual, we were curious to find out its history. It was only then that we discovered no such history exists.
The myth seems to stem from one Wikipedia prank from the early 2010s which claimed a slew of falsehoods to fabricate a legendary and storied past. Fortunately, one extraordinary researcher rooted out the history—we won’t reprint his work but highly recommend reading Camper English’s post on Alacademics, updated last month—and the Daily Beast featured an article by David Wondrich in May of this year that gives us some geography. Both articles are fascinating and demand attention, but here are some quick notes.
In short, a classic drink format in mid-century Mexico was to mix tequila with any kind of soda—Coke being obvious, but any soda seems to have been acceptable. This format is shared throughout Pacific Latin countries, with variations for national spirits and tastes, and in Mexico is called the changuirongo, as noted in Virginia de Barrio’s book Guide to Tequila, Mezcal, and Pulque (1971).
It wasn’t until 1955 that grapefruit sodas, the most iconic element in the Paloma, were even exported to Mexico, with the native grapefruit industry springing up even later. Even the now popular Jarritos grapefruit soda wasn’t added to the brand’s portfolio until the ‘60s. No specific mention of the “Paloma” or a grapefruit-and-tequila cocktail has been found, not from any bar or publication from the Caribbean to Guadalajara, until 1997 when, in her cook book, Nancy Zaslavsky mentions the drink as a quintessential fixture of the town San Pedro Tlaquepaque, now a neighborhood of the larger Guaralajara. In 1999 a California restaurant by the name of Tlaquepaque put the format on their menu under the name of “Paloma,” but by then it seems the name itself was in popular use.
We approach building a Paloma from the usual point of view, bringing authentic, more flavorful versions of common ingredients. Our clarified house grapefruit cordial joins agave syrup, Corralejo blanco, lime juice, Peychaud’s, and some soda water, and finds its home in some custom glasses made from Corralejo bottles.