It was a balmy evening in New Orleans. It had just rained. The streets seemed to perpetually steam in that city, the smell of salt and jasmine (aka the bayou perfume) rising up and beyond the iron-wrought juliette balconies and pastel parlors. From my perch on the second floor balcony of a Latino-Carribbean restaurant, I could see bright pink hibiscus flowers and bristling birds of paradise glisten with wetness.
Logan and I sat there together on curving rattan chairs, watching the sky go dark and the stars pop out one by one.
I remember the paloma I ordered very clearly. A glossy, ruby-red grapefruit slice floated at the top of the full-to-the-brim glass. It was ice-cold. The juice and tequila swirled together like smokey pink quartz made liquid — my personal Love Potion #9.
It was tangy, smoky, herbaceous and sweet. The tequila seeped slowly into my blood stream. I felt dreamy, wild, witchy. The condensation from the glass ran down my wrist. The sweet pucker of grapefruit settled on my lips. Edges of vision blurred to a romantic glow — exactly the magic that a good cocktail (and some particularly good tequila) are meant to invoke.
I figure it’s time I share my slightly tropical twist on the classic drink: a pineapple paloma with thyme and grapefruit peel infused simple syrup.
It’s very simple, and stays true to the original paloma formula — except that we’re subbing 1/2 of the grapefruit juice for pineapple juice and using an infused syrup. It’s sweet, sour and strong with just a touch of tropicalia and a hint of herbaceousness. All while keeping the process simple and straightforward, so the resulting cocktail is a home-mixology no-brainer.
All you need is pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, 100% agave tequila, thyme-infused simple syrup, bubbly water and ice.
You could even sub out the simple syrup for maple syrup.
Or sub out the tequila for a strong-brewed kombucha for a non-alcoholic version! I do this regularly as a daily bubbly sip, seeing that I am a total and undeniable lightweight.
Just to be sure that this pineapple paloma cocktail hit the mark, I tested it with a gaggle of friends, getting their honest (tipsy) feedback. This recipe is the definitive version, based on what we all liked best.
That is, the pineapple, grapefruit and thyme flavors all come through without anything being overpowering. It’s sweet (but not-too-sweet). And aside from the sweet-smokiness of aged tequila, you can barely taste the alcohol.
The recipe is adapted from Epicurious. I tested it 4 or 5 times, adjusting according to my personal preference. The original recipe calls for too much soda water, which results in an over-diluted paloma. So I dialed back on the bubbles to give it a bolder, brighter flavor. Add 4 tablespoons bubbly water per glass, taste, and adjust to your liking.
I recommend using an aged tequila for a more complex flavor. I’ve been drinking Lunazul lately (no I’m not sponsored I just like it). I like the reposado for some light oakiness, vanilla-notes and mild caramel flavors. It’s what I used when testing this paloma. It’s very accessible. The anejo is aged further and is smokier, warmer and richer. It adds a depth and smokiness to mixed drinks without going full mezcal.
Raw sugar gives this simple syrup a deeper, more caramel-like flavor. Fresh thyme is bright, lemony and herbaceous and pairs well with tangy-sweet grapefruit and pineapple. I’ve added grapefruit zest to this syrup because I think it accents the intensity of the grapefruit flavor in the final drink. I zest my grapefruit in broad strokes with a sharp vegetable peeler — just be sure there’s no pith in your zest as pith is quite bitter.
If you would like a salt or sugar rim, rub a slice of grapefruit on the rim of your glass then dip your glass in salt or sugar. Personally, I prefer a plain glass as the salt/sugar gets in the way of my experience of the drink as it is. If using a salt-rim, omit the pinch of salt in the recipe.
I originally developed this pineapple paloma for Urban Outfitters. You can see the post on their blog here.