After over a decade of crafting beverages at home, you pick up on some trends. Mocktails are increasing in popularity because, frankly, people want to have more choices when they’re going out or hosting guests. While most non-alcoholic drinks tend to be on the sweeter side, it’s easy to create balanced zero-proof bevvies at home! This Non-Alcoholic Paloma Mocktail recipe is a refreshing drink full of grapefruit flavor without the typical tequila, so you can enjoy it today without feeling sluggish tomorrow!
This recipe was inspired by my grapefruit simple syrup. Using a fruit infused syrup is a great way to get even more grapefruit flavor into your beverages while also balancing out the bitterness that fresh grapefruit juice can have. This recipe also uses a homemade saline solution, which helps to round out the flavor of this fruity mocktail!Jump to Recipe
💕 why you'll love this zero proof paloma recipe
🍊 grapefruit forward. Grapefruit can be a polarizing citrus because of the balance of bitter and sweet, but this drink plays up on those classic grapefruit flavors to take advantage of what the fruit is known for: being slightly sweet, slightly bitter.
🍹 twist on a classic. This nonalcoholic cocktail might just become a new favorite, especially if you’re a fan of margaritas and palomas to start with. By taking out the booze, you’re able to enjoy the flavor of a favorite drink anytime of day!
🤌 easy to customize. Creating mocktail versions of classic cocktails means you can customize the amount of alcohol in each adult beverage. Make a pitcher of this fun fruity beverage and give guests the option to add their own alcohol if they want!
- grapefruit simple syrup - take the time to make your own grapefruit simple syrup, trust me. This homemade fruit syrup will add a delicate layer of grapefruit flavor with sweetness to balance out the bitterness.
- seltzer water - Essentially, we are making a homemade grapefruit soda by combining the syrup with soda water, otherwise known as seltzer water. Choose a brand of unflavored soda water, like La Croix, not a mineral water. Mineral water has additional minerals added to it that can change the flavor of your drink.
- grapefruit - fresh grapefruit juice amps up the flavor in this mocktail, taking it to the next level. Try to find pink grapefruit if you can, because it’s the least bitter in flavor. Ruby red grapefruit will do as an alternative if you can’t find pink grapefruit.
- lime - you’ll need whole fresh limes for lime juice and for garnishing the drink, so make sure to grab one lime per drink to be safe. Fresh lime juice is tart and acidic, without being bitter like grapefruit. You can use either a lime wedge or a dehydrated lime wheel to garnish the cocktail.
- saline solution - grapefruit is known for being bitter, and because citrus can vary so widely in flavor, using a few drops of a saline solution is an easy way to balance the flavor in your homemade mocktails. It cuts the bitterness while creating a delicious balance of the grapefruit flavor.
- alcohol alternative spirit- alcohol free spirits are starting to pop up all over the market, making it easier than ever to craft a good mocktail at home. Classic palomas are made with blanco tequila, or silver tequila, which is an agave spirit. It can be difficult to spend $30 - $40 on a bottle of a zero-proof spirit, so I've been looking for ways to get creative by crafting multiple recipes out of each spirit-free bottle I try. I chose to use the Seedlip Grove in this drink, because it plays up the citrus notes of grapefruit.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Step 1: Rim half of the glass with salt.
Step 2: Add 1.5 ounces of grapefruit simple syrup to a highball glass with ice.
Step 3: Add the lime juice and grapefruit juice to your glass.
Step 4: Add in 5 drops of saline solution to your glass.
Step 5: If you’re using an alcohol alternative spirit, add it in next.
Step 6: Top your glass with seltzer water.
Step 7: Garnish with a lime wheel or grapefruit slice.
Step 8: Stir with a cocktail spoon to incorporate the ingredients and serve immediately.
💡tips and tricks for getting it right
🍽️ serving tips
How and when to serve your virgin paloma cocktails:
- Serve your palomas at any gathering where you’d typically enjoy a tequila-based cocktail, such as Taco Tuesday, a beach barbecue, or even a holiday gathering like Cinco de Mayo or New Year’s Eve.
- Make a pitcher of virgin palomas and allow your guests to choose whether to add tequila or not!
Choose your glass
- Highball glasses are typically used to serve palomas.
- Opt to use a glass that has at least a 12 - 16 ounce capacity, as it will be filled with ice cubes.
- a pinch of salt
- Traditionally, palomas are served with salt on the rim of the glass.
- To do this, use a lime wedge to rim half of the glass, then dip it in salt. Want even more flavor? Try using homemade lime salt!
- Avoid the urge to rim the whole glass. Doing so allows salt to fall into the drink and ruin the balance of flavor you achieved. It’s also messy for guests. On top of all of that, some people don’t like drinking from a salted rim, so give your guests the choice by only garnishing half the glass.
- lime or grapefruit
- You can garnish the drink with a dehydrated lime wheel, fresh slice of lime, or even a slice of grapefruit or grapefruit wedge.
- You can also squeeze a peel of fresh lime or grapefruit onto the glass just before serving. Squeezing the peel of citrus expresses the essential oils in the fruit’s skin, imparting an aroma of the fruit on top of the cocktail!
ℹ️ troubleshooting tips
Things that can go wrong and how to fix:
- too bitter - if your drink is too bitter, you can add in a few more drops of saline solution.
- too sweet - saline solution can also help balance out a drink that is too sweet! Add a few more drops until you get the balance of sweetness you like. You can also add in more lime juice to balance out the sweetness.
- not enough grapefruit flavor - squeeze in a wedge of fresh grapefruit to add in a bit more grapefruit flavor. Alternatively, you can add in a bit more grapefruit simple syrup.
⚖️ scaling tips
This drink is easy to scale up for a party! Simply multiply the recipe to reflect the number of servings you’ll need in the recipe card!
🔆 top tip
A homemade saline solution does double duty in this zero-proof mocktail, helping to balance out the bitterness of grapefruit while also ensuring your drink isn’t too sweet.
♻️ substitutions & variations
Missing an ingredient? No problem. Check out these tried-and-true substitutions, or comment below with your question. I’m here to help you troubleshoot!
- grapefruit soda - If you don’t have the time to make your own grapefruit simple syrup, or you don’t want to make it, you can use a store bought grapefruit-flavored soda. Brands like Betty Buzz and Fever Tree are good options. Each brand has a distinctly different flavor though, so make sure you taste it before using it in your drinks.
- grapefruit juice + seltzer - in a pinch, you can combine grapefruit juice and seltzer to make a makeshift grapefruit soda!
- agave syrup - Use agave syrup instead of grapefruit syrup. Of course, you’ll also want to add in some fresh grapefruit juice so you get the classic grapefruit flavor.
Feeling like a rebel?! 😈 Feel free to stray from the recipe card using these variations, or leave me a comment with your own!
- rosemary paloma - rosemary and grapefruit are BFFs! Try making this mocktail using a half and half mix of rosemary simple syrup and grapefruit simple syrup. You can also muddle some fresh rosemary in with the grapefruit syrup and lime.
- spicy paloma - muddle a few slices of jalapeno pepper with grapefruit simple syrup and lime wedges before mixing the rest of the ingredients into your glass for a spicy take on this grapefruit cocktail!
- low-abv - want to make a lower abv version of this mocktail? Add in 0.5 - 1 ounce of your favorite blanco tequila for a lower-alcohol version of the classic cocktail.
🧰 equipment needed & storage tips
🧰 tools needed
- highball glass - highball glasses are the traditional glass for paloma cocktails, so I always opt to use one of those. They usually have a 16 ounce capacity, though some have a 12 ounce capacity.
- cocktail spoon - while you can use a regular spoon, cocktail stirring spoons help you to mix ingredients without agitating the drink too much and over diluting the ice. The longer handle is also great for added control in deeper glasses like highball glasses.
- small measuring glasses or jigger - I love using these small nesting measuring beakers from OXO when making cocktails, because they’re so handy for other recipes in the kitchen too. Of course, if you have a cocktail jigger, you can use one of those, too!
how to store paloma mocktails
As with most beverages containing carbonation, it is best to enjoy this drink shortly after making it. If you are preparing it in advance of a party, be sure to store it in an airtight storage bottle that can contain the carbonation. Use caution when opening the bottle next, as pressure can build inside the container!
Do I need to use an alcohol alternative in this mocktail?
No way. While the market is expanding for alcohol alternatives, many of them are still quite expensive (think $25 - $50) and they are perishable. This doesn’t make it cost effective to stock up on the options unless you’re using them within 2-3 months. I like using brands like Seedlip that can be used for a variety of drinks from mules to margaritas! But you can totally skip the alcohol free spirit if you like.
What kind of grapefruit should I use in palomas?
Pink grapefruit have a good balance of sweetness and bitterness. Ruby-red grapefruit can also work, but they can be more bitter. Avoid using grapefruit that don’t have their variety marked on them, as they can vary widely in bitterness.
How is a paloma different from a margarita?
A paloma is made with grapefruit soda, tequila, and lime juice. A margarita is made with lime juice, tequila, Cointreau, and agave nectar.
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Paloma Mocktail (With or Without Alcohol-Free Spirit)
- 1 cocktail glass such as a highball glass or collins glass
- 1 citrus juicer
- 2 ounces Alcohol Alternative Spirit optional, such as Seedlip Grove 42
- 1.5 ounces grapefruit simple syrup
- 1 ounce grapefruit juice freshly squeezed
- 1 ounce lime juice freshly squeezed
- 5 drops saline solution
- seltzer water to top
- lime slices for garnish
- grapefruit slices for garnish
- lime salt optional, for rimming glasses
- Juice one lime and half a grapefruit to get 1 ounce of juice, each.
- Garnish your glass by using a lime wedge to rim the glass, then pressing it in a small dish filled with homemade lime salt or coarse salt.
- Fill your glass with ice.
- Add 1.5 grapefruit simple syrup to glass.
- Add 1 ounce of lime juice and 1 ounce of grapefruit juice.
- If using, add 2 ounces of alcohol-free spirit alternative.
- Add in 5 drops of saline solution.
- Top with seltzer water to fill the glass.
- Garnish with lime slice and grapefruit wedge.
- Serve immediately.
🧯food safety & other information
Food safety is an important ingredient in any recipe for success! Here are some tips to keep you safe in the kitchen!
- If you are using an alcohol alternative spirit, keep this beverage for adults only. Some brands of zero-proof spirits still contain trace amounts of alcohol (as little as 0.05% ABV).
- If you are adding alcohol, be sure to enjoy in moderation and only serve alcohol to those of legal drinking age. In the US, thats 21+ years old.