Sipping straight mezcal on a Tuesday with my boss was one of the more unconventional workdays I’ve had in a while. But, as is true for many shifts in routine, it sparked a bit of creativity and inspired the makings of this Spicy Mezcal Paloma recipe.

On our recent team trip to Oaxaca, we spent three days soaking up the city’s vibrant art, food, and culture (get Camille’s favorites list here). Of course, a mezcal tasting was warranted given that Oaxaca is home to this smoky spirit. The experience left me itching to infuse more mezcal moments into my cocktails this summer. Enter: this Spicy Mezcal Paloma recipe.

I’ll start by confessing this recipe is breaking a cardinal rule of mezcal drinking. We learned that mezcal is meant to be sipped straight, instead of mixed into cocktails. But if you’re like me, you might need a little fresh juice and soda to help you ease into your mezcal journey. Plus, it’s hard to turn down a classic, thirst-quenching Paloma—so let’s get to it.

What is a Paloma?

A traditional Mexican Paloma is made with tequila blanco and grapefruit soda. This version is a riff on the classic, using a mix of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice, lime juice, and sparkling water. The result is a cocktail that’s citrusy without being overly sweet. This recipe also calls for blanco tequila in addition to the mezcal to balance the flavors and round out the drink. Lastly, I’ve found that using honey gives my cocktails just a hint of sweetness without the headache. And don’t forget your sliced jalapeño and chili salt for that extra kick!

What is the difference between tequila and mezcal?

Mezcal has been produced in Mexico for centuries, and believe it or not, tequila is actually a type of mezcal. Both tequila and mezcal come from agave plants, but the types of agaves and production methods differ for each spirit. At our tasting, we learned that mezcal production is deeply rooted in tradition and begins by being cooked in the ground in natural ovens. It’s later distilled in copper pots, giving it that distinct, smoky flavor. However, we learned that the more authentic the mezcal, the less smoky it tastes.

What You’ll Need To Make This Mezcal Paloma Recipe

This Mezcal Paloma combines a unique mix of flavors: tart, smoky, spicy, and just a little sweet. What more could you want in a drink? Here’s what you’ll need to mix up this cocktail in less than five minutes:

  • A good blanco tequila. I prefer LALO.
  • Your favorite mezcal. I’m a fan of Madre.
  • A few limes. Fresh-squeezed lime juice makes all the difference.
  • Grapefruit. You can opt for store-bought grapefruit juice, but the drink will taste the most fresh if you juice the grapefruit yourself.
  • Honey. For a dash of sweetness.
  • Sparkling water. It’ll give your Paloma that extra fizz. I love Topo chico.
  • Jalapeño. A little goes a long way!
  • Chili salt. You can buy store-bought chili salt or make your own (instructions below!).

When it comes to garnishes, I’ve used fresh herbs like rosemary, lime or grapefruit wedges, and even sliced cucumber.

What pairs well with a Mezcal Paloma?

These Mezcal Palomas have been a crowd-pleaser at my house this summer. They pair well with some of our favorite summer dinner recipes. Mix up a batch and enjoy your cocktails alongside sheet pan chicken fajitas, pistachio crusted halibut, or one of our best taco recipes of all time. For summer gatherings, I love to double (or triple!) the recipe and prepare it in a big pitcher for friends to pour over ice when they’re ready for a cocktail.

Spicy Mezcal Paloma

Serves 1

This mezcal paloma is tart, smoky, spicy, and a little bit sweet.

By Michelle Nash
Prep

5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz blanco tequila (I like LALO)
  • 1 oz mezcal (I like Madre mezcal)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz honey
  • 1 oz sparkling water (I like Topo Chico)
  • sliced jalapeño
  • chili salt: mix pink himalayan salt and Tajin seasoning together in a small bowl
  • garnish with a grapefruit wedge and a handful of rosemary sprigs

Instructions:

  1. Mix together equal parts pink himalayan salt and tajin in a small bowl. Transfer to a plate and spread across the plate evenly. Wet the rim of a cocktail glass with a lime wedge, then dip the cocktail glass upside down into the chili salt mixture to line the rim.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add tequila, mezcal, lime juice, grapefruit juice, a jalapeño slice, and honey.
  3. Strain into an the ice-filled glass and add a splash of topo chico on top.
  4. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge and a rosemary sprig.

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Michelle Nash Instagram