The Paloma and the gin and tonic are both worthy contenders for best hot-weather cocktail

Both cocktails can be refreshing in their simplest versions, but they're also a snap to elevate.

click to enlarge The Paloma uses modest ingredients to create a refreshing summer drink. - Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker
Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker
The Paloma uses modest ingredients to create a refreshing summer drink.
It’s not a slugfest, really.

No, we’re not talking a no-holds barred fight between Paloma the Pugilist and Gentleman Gin and Tonic where the best boozy drink takes home the Summer Sipper crown. But why not gin up, as it were, a little friendly competition as temperatures reach, and exceed, 100 degrees?

Gentlefolk, place your bets.

The margarita is alleged to have been the most-ordered cocktail in the world in 2023, but in Mexico, the Paloma — said to be of older origins, at that — can claim equal popularity in the minds of many. In part, that's because it’s easier to make at home. The basic formula is tequila and grapefruit soda accented with a little lime. But within these modest ingredients, there’s a world of variations to be had.

With simplicity in mind, here’s a recipe:


4 oz. chilled grapefruit soda such as Jarritos or Mexican Squirt
1½ oz. blanco tequila
½ oz. fresh lime juice
Squeeze of fresh grapefruit juice (optional)
Pinch of salt (preferably kosher)

Build drink in a highball glass filled two-thirds with ice and stir minimally.

The choice of grapefruit soda alone has spawned numerous debates, with some concluding that the classiest of sodas, Fever Tree for example, don’t necessarily make the best Paloma. And then there’s the salt: some prefer to salt a grapefruit wedge-moistened rim, others to incorporate the salt. My preference is to salt the drink, but you do you.

The precocious among you will have already raised a hand to suggest subbing mezcal for tequila, and for this you do get extra points: a made-for-mixing mezcal such as Del Maguey Vida makes a killer Paloma. A combination of tequila and mezcal also works. Desert Door, a maker of Texas sotol, also promoted its product as a base spirit at recent World Paloma Day celebrations; that’s how far the drink has come.

But to take the Paloma further into creative cocktail territory, omit the soda altogether in favor of fresh grapefruit juice and simple syrup topped with sparkling water.

Here’s another recipe:

Elevated Paloma

2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice (Ruby Red yields a summery pink color)
½ oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. simple syrup (one-to-one mix of sugar to water)
2 oz. tequila or mezcal
Pinch salt
2 oz. club soda

Stir first four ingredients together in tall glass, add tequila, then ice to fill glass, stirring until chilled. Top with soda and stir minimally. Garnish with grapefruit wedge if desired. For a spicier version, make the simple syrup with 1:1 hot water, agave nectar and sliced chiles to taste.

Pro tip: Always keep your gin in the freezer, the tonic water in the refrigerator. You’ll then be ready to knock out a G&T at a moment’s notice with only a lime to add to the equation. Here’s a recipe — not that you need one:

click to enlarge A gin and tonic is always better when made with high-quality, juniper-forward gin. - Shutterstock / Charles Brutlag
Shutterstock / Charles Brutlag
A gin and tonic is always better when made with high-quality, juniper-forward gin.

Gin and tonic

1 part gin
3 parts tonic water
A swath of lime peel or a small wedge

Fill tall glass with ice, add gin first, then tonic, twist lime peel over glass and drop in. Done.

With such a simple recipe, it’s essential to go with the good stuff. To keep the drink bracing, a juniper-forward London Dry such as Beefeater is classic. I happen to like the Plymouth variant — navy strength if I’m feeling frisky. But more floral gins such as the cucumber- and rose petal-scented Hendrick’s can work too.

And as tonic water is three-quarters of the drink, it’s worth springing for a premium brand such as Fever Tree. That producer makes four variations on the tonic theme, including an elderflower edition.

Playing with tonic waters opens up other possibilities. In Spain, where the popular drink is often condensed to gintonic — and just as often served in bars called gintonerias — the OG G&T positively blooms with accessories and is typically served in a balloon glass to emphasize aromas.

There are basically two approaches to garnish: emphasize the elements already present such as the juniper berries in the London Dry or the cucumber in Hendrick’s, or fill in for something missing such as citrus or pungent herbs such rosemary, pink peppercorns, star anise and even green olives have made appearances.

Whichever your preference, summer’s better with these refreshing tequila and gin drinks at the ready as an antidote to the heat and humidity.

Rolling blackouts, however, might require stronger stuff.

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