Serrano-Spiced Paloma Cocktail

Serrano-spiced paloma cocktail recipe -

Happy Friday, friends. I’m buzzing with ideas after brunch (and entirely too much coffee) with the fine bloggers behind Gimme Some Oven and Minimalist Baker. Hanging out with blog friends always makes this gig seem slightly less absurd.

An example of such absurdity took place yesterday afternoon—I snapped these photos during rare moments of sunshine while cursing the dark clouds rolling overhead. It was a game of cat and mouse, and the winner earned a melting cocktail.

grapefruit and serrano pepper

I glanced through my cocktail selection the other day and realized that the older drinks aren’t exactly representative of the cocktails I order these days. I generally alternate between light, fizzy, clinky drinks (bourbon and soda with lots of lemon, for example) and stupid-expensive, swanky little numbers (believe it or not, this Midwestern city offers some killer cocktails). I’m a sucker for savory accents like peppers or olives and foreign liqueurs that I can’t pronounce. How else am I going to justify a 12-dollar drink, if it doesn’t contain ingredients that I don’t have at home?

agave nectar serrano pepper and grapefruit

This grapefruit cocktail is precisely my kind of drink, and fortunately, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to make at home. It has some kick to it thanks to tequila and Serrano pepper, but bittersweet grapefruit juice and a dash of agave nectar round out the flavors nicely. I’ve learned through trial and error with my pineapple serrano cocktail that muddling a tiny round of pepper into the drink lends just as much flavor as more time-consuming methods of infusing liquor/simple syrup with peppers. If you’re sensitive to spice, you can use the tiniest sliver of pepper or omit it altogether.

Palomas are typically made with grapefruit soda, but I opted to keep it light and refreshing with a combination of fresh juice and club soda. Actually, I happened to have grapefruit-flavored club soda in my fridge (the pamplemousse flavor by Lacroix), so I reached for that instead of plain club soda. It’ll be great with unflavored club soda, too, though. I think you’ll love it either way.

Lacroix pamplemousseSerrano-spiced paloma cocktail -

Serrano-Spiced Paloma Cocktail
5.0 from 4 reviews
Recipe type: Cocktail
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
A simple and fresh, spicy cocktail made with grapefruit juice and tequila. Most paloma cocktails call for grapefruit soda, but I lightened this one up with club soda and agave nectar.
Per drink
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice (which is about 1 lime, juiced)
  • ½ teaspoon light agave nectar or 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 1 thinly sliced serrano round (1/8th to ¼th inch wide, a little goes a long way!)
  • 2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice (which is less than 1 grapefruit worth of juice)
  • 2 ounces silver or blanco tequila
  • 1½ ounces grapefruit-flavored club soda or plain club soda
Salt rim and garnish
  • 2 teaspoons kosher and/or sea salt
  • Lime wedge, for lining the rim
  • Small grapefruit wedges, for garnish
  1. First, prepare your cocktail glass: Pour the sea salt onto a small plate. Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass and roll the edge of the glass onto the salt. Fill the prepared glass with ice.
  2. In a cocktail shaker or mason jar, muddle together the lime juice, agave nectar and one small slice of Serrano pepper. Fill the shaker with ice, then pour in the grapefruit juice and tequila.
  3. Put the lid on your shaker/jar and shake until the mixture is thoroughly chilled. Pour the blend into your prepared glass. Top off the cocktail with club soda. Garnish with a small wedge of grapefruit.
  • Recipe influenced by A Cozy Kitchen, Bon Appetit, as well as my pineapple-serrano-cilantro cocktail and fresh margarita recipes.
  • You can make a few cocktails at once in your cocktail shaker. Just multiply the per-drink amounts as necessary.
  • No agave nectar at home? You can make simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar in a small jar with a lid. Put on the lid and shake until the sugar is dissolved in the water.
  • Tequila recommendations: Espolón, Milagro or any other 100% agave tequila.
  • Lacroix makes a grapefruit-flavored club soda (the pamplemousse flavor) that goes great with fresh grapefruit juice.


  1. Yvette (Muy Bueno) says

    I adore Palomas! They are one of my FAVORITE drinks. Your photos are gorgeous and now I’m craving one. I love the idea of the added spice! YUM! Salud!

  2. says

    These photos are so gorgeous, Kate! And that’s awesome that you got to spend some time with a few other (super talented) bloggers. I always feel so inspired after a few hours with my blog friends. Now if only we could all meet in person one day!

  3. says

    I want one of these immediately! Good thing it’s Friday night at ten after five, right? :) I love the idea of spicing up a classic citrusy cocktail.

  4. says

    grapefruit is going like gang busters here in AZ, we have a pink grapefruit tree and it’s almost the end of the season. this drink looks great, and anything with fresh juice is pretty darn good!

    • says

      Good question! I’ve never had Don Julio, but if a mixologist says it’s great, I’d take his word for it. It sounds like Don Julio is an aged tequila, so it will add oaky notes to the cocktail, which would probably be pretty tasty.

    • says

      Hey Katie, you probably could! Añejo tequila is tequila that has been aged in oak casks, so it’s going to taste a little different than the more neutral blanco tequila. If you have enjoyed the añejo in other cocktails, though, I bet you would like it in this drink.

  5. says

    Oh man, we have a lot of La Croix in the fridge at the moment — clearly it needs to be used up. By mixing it with tequila and serrano. Ahem.

    Also, your brunch sounds wonderful! I am constantly inspired by Minimalist Baker — Gimme Some Oven is new to me, but after a quick skim of that site, I know it’s going to become a new favorite.

  6. Marie says

    I had some grapefruit and Dillon’s white rye begging to be in this cocktail.
    And, oh man is it good!
    Thank you sharing this great recipe. Off to finish the rest of it…

  7. says

    After a few of such aforementioned expensive cocktails, I’ve realized that I’m OBSESSED with hot peppers in my cocktails. So good. I am so excited to make this paloma at home while the grapefruits are still good.

  8. says

    This is definitely my kind of cocktail. I am such a sucker for anything citrusy, fizzy and gently spiced. I only discovered the wonder of chillies in cocktails at the end of last year after ordering a lychee, kaffir lime and chilli cocktail at one of my favourite local bars in Perth. It was so, so good – gently warming, addictive! I am definitely going to try this recipe Kate. Thanks, I can’t wait! Gorgeous photos as always xx

  9. says

    Palomas are one of my faves! Love the grapefruit seltzer you added, great idea. I’ve totally been chasing the sun through quick-moving clouds as well, which makes light readings so tricky to get right ;) Your photos are gorgeous despite the challenge!

  10. says

    I just published a Paloma cocktail too; discovering how much better they are with both real grapefruit juice AND grapefruit flavored soda. They never appealed to me that much without the juice…that was key.

    The addition of jalapeno? I’ll have to try that; I’ve done the same with a margarita and since this is my idea of margarita’s cousin, I know it will rock!

  11. Robyn says

    You love your grapefruit coctails, don’t you. So do I. However, I recently started mixing peach juice with rum & a bit of club soda. Ever used peach juice? Trader Joes juice is called Dixie Peach. Up for the challenge?

    • says

      Hey Robyn, that peach juice sounds delicious. I am generally hesitant to use ingredients that might not be readily available, but I bet I can come up with a solution. :)

  12. Michael Hinchey says

    I made these last night for my girlfriend and she loved them. I omitted the club soda all together and it worked just fine using just the fresh grapefruit, simple syrup, pepper,and fresh lime juice. Awesome drink!!

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