It’s crazy to think that before a few short years ago, I had baaaad tequila memories. But these days it’s one of my favourite spirits, and I truly feel like I’m making up for lost time. Last year I got really into margaritas, but this year I am into another tequila-based drink. Summer of Palomas, anyone? Yup, I think it will be as fun as it sounds.
If you’ve never had a Paloma before, it’s a tequila cocktail that originated in Mexico. Like a margarita, it has tequila and lime juice but is generally less sweet and has grapefruit juice or soda, so it has a little sparkling fizz. It’s also simply stirred or shaken together and not served blended or frozen. Translation – it’s one of the easiest and quickest drinks to make! While the traditional Paloma is awesome, of course there are variations galore. And you just know that I love putting a little spin on a classic recipe.
This Watermelon Paloma is such a great summer drink – refreshing with a touch of bitterness and a little heat. It’s got sweetness from the watermelon balanced out with the bitterness of the Aperol. The citrus brings a little sour and of course it’s topped off with a chilli salt rim. The way that it turns on all your taste buds at once and hits all those different taste receptors is so fun. I think it brings your whole palate to life.
This recipe is actually my recreation of a delicious drink that I had at my birthday dinner
500 years ago back in June, before lockdown. We went to Light Years on the Gold Coast and as usual it was a 10/10 experience. But months later I was still thinking about the cocktail I had – the Lola Paloma – so I decided to try and make it at home. I’m so happy with how it turned out!
To make this Spicy Watermelon Paloma, here’s what you’ll need…
- Blanco or Silver tequila – This is a clear coloured tequila that is not aged like a Reposado or Anejo, which are classified by how long they have been aged. Blanco or Silver tequila often has fruitier notes which makes it great for margaritas and other citrus forward drinks. If you like it spicy you can create your own chilli infused tequila. Just take a bottle of good tequila, 1-2 (or more) chillies cut down the middle, and infuse for 24-48 hours. Strain them out and use in cocktails. I’ve often seen jalapeños used, but you could try your favourite kind of chillies. Experiment with the number of chillies and time of infusion to your liking.
- Aperol – The original drink used Campari, but I used Aperol because it’s what I had on hand. Aperol is an aperitif like Campari, but it is slightly less bitter and has a lower alcohol content. I also feel like the rhubarb and bitter orange in Aperol complement the watermelon and grapefruit really well.
- Watermelon juice – I used about 350g of fresh watermelon, blitzed it in the Nutribullet and strained it to make 2 cocktails. Boom, now you have the freshest watermelon juice!
- Grapefruit juice – Many Paloma recipes use grapefruit soda but I love using freshly squeezed ruby grapefruit juice.
- Fresh lime juice – Of course.
- Dash of soda, lemonade or ginger beer – for a bit of fizz.
- Chilli salt – for the rim. I skipped the spicy tequila this time but in my opinion you absolutely have to have the chilli salt rim.
And because I’m a Gemini and I love a random fact… Ever wondered why palomas and margaritas are always served with a salted rim? Well there’s actually a scientific reason for that! The molecules present in salt (sodium ion) actually have the benefit of dampening bitter tastes, and can work to enhance the sweet and sour notes of the drink!
Sharing this cocktail now is actually perfect timing, as watermelon season is just beginning for us here in the southern hemisphere. For the next few months, we’ll pretty much always have a watermelon in the fridge at all times, sliced up and ready to grab as a refreshing snack. Or, you know, to have on hand for a watermelon paloma!
Related Post: Roasted Strawberry Paloma
This Watermelon Paloma is such a great summer drink. It's refreshing and fruity with a hint of bitterness from the Aperol and a little chilli kick!
- Flaky salt and chilli flakes
- 90 ml Silver or Blanco Tequila
- 50 ml Aperol
- 100 ml fresh ruby grapefruit juice
- 100 ml fresh watermelon juice
- 30 ml fresh lime juice
- Dash of soda or ginger beer
- Ice cubes, plus extra to serve
- Extra watermelon, for garnish
Pour a generous amount of flaky salt and chilli flakes onto a small plate and stir to combine. Line the rims of two glasses with lime juice and gently dip the rims into the salt/chilli mixture.
Combine the silver tequila, Aperol, grapefruit juice, watermelon juice and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
Add extra ice to your serving glasses and using a strainer, pour the cocktail evenly between the glasses. Top up with a dash of soda or ginger beer and garnish with a thin slice of watermelon.