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Vanilla Paloma Cocktail with Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit

Slofoodgroup Team May 08, 2021

A Flavorful Twist on the Classic Paloma

A classic Paloma cocktail is not made with vanilla, nor does it include fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. An overly sugared grapefruit soda is the standard approach to this famous Mexican, tequila (or Mezcal) cocktail, but classic isn’t necessarily best in all circumstances. We look at it as more of a prototypical stepping stone for flavorful evolutionary creativity. So we set out to evolve a traditional Paloma cocktail into something even more spectacular!

We started with a good quality tequila. Ask any mixologist and they will tell you that when it comes to any cocktail, mediocre liquor will produce a mediocre result (and a much worse hangover). We incorporated vanilla into our beverage three ways: adding vanilla seeds to our simple syrup, pouring pure vanilla extract directly into the cocktail, and via a vanilla-scented sea salt. Next, we decided we needed to replace the sugary soda with something less abrasive. So we incorporated the grapefruit flavor by squeezing a fresh grapefruit directly into the cocktail and we added a bit of soda water for carbonation. 

Note: we always have vanilla-scented sea salt and vanilla sugar on hand. We simply toss spent vanilla pods in zipper-sealed bags with either the salt or sugar and give them a shake every couple of days to incorporate the vanilla flavor and aroma. If you don’t have vanilla salt on hand, you use a plain flake sea salt or order some fine-ground vanilla powder to mix with your salt prior to rimming.  

How to make the best Paloma cocktail using real vanilla & fresh grapefruit:


  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups water
  • Ice 
  • 4 ounces good quality tequila
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • Sea salt (for the rim), we made a vanilla-scented salt with spent vanilla bean pods.
  • Grapefruit twist for garnish 
  • 6-8 ounces of soda water
  • lime wedges for garnish


  1. Slice your vanilla bean and remove the seeds
  2. Stir your sugar, water, and vanilla caviar together in a small pot on the stove. Bring to a light boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir frequently until the sugar has fully dissolved and incorporated, making a fragrant vanilla simple syrup. Remove from heat and set aside. Note: there will be extra simple syrup after making 2 cocktails. Save the rest for additional cocktails or to add to your coffee or tea. 
  3. Rub a lime wedge along the rim of each glass to wet it and dip them into a plate of salt. 
  4. Fill the glasses with ice and pour 2 ounces of tequila in each glass. 
  5. Add 3 ounces of grapefruit juice, 2 ounces of simple syrup, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1 ounce of lime juice. Stir or swirl the beverage slightly. 
  6. Pour your soda water to fill the glass and garnish with a grapefruit twist and a wedge of lime.

Serving Suggestions

A Paloma is such a refreshing beverage! It’s perfect for summertime entertaining and is a welcome replacement to its more-frequently-consumed cousin, the margarita. This recipe yields two drinks, but it can definitely be mixed ahead of time in a pitcher. Just wait to add the soda water until right before consumption.