The Classic Paloma Gets A Korean Twist

Though summer is coming to a close, the refreshing bite of citrus from the national drink of Mexico is still a welcome respite. Though the Paloma might be served with a more practical grapefruit soda instead of fresh juice down South, the best craft versions take advantage of the natural sweetness and brightness found in the fresh citrus itself. Despite it being an incredibly simple drink to make, bars seem to overlook this classic as something that's ripe for experimentation.

Sitting down at one of NYC's latest lauded Korean restaurants, Oiji, it's clear that almost everything on the menu features some form of soju as a base spirit, which works surprisingly well in both stirred and shaken cocktails. However, the most surprising drink came in the form of a milky, pinkish Seoul Paloma. It has all of the tartness of a regular Paloma, but there's something unexpected in its intensity and earthiness. A nearby bottle of Korea's oldest liquor —the Makgeolli fermented rice wine— proves to be the culprit, and it's incredible.

Part of this cocktail's secret lies in its use of grapefruit syrup instead of straight juice. Unlike other syrups, this one is created like an oleo saccharum for a punch is, meaning the peels and juice sit in sugar over time to create a concentrated citrusy solution. A hint of the vibrant orange liqueur, China-China, adds a bit of complexity to round out the drink. It's an unexpected nod to both Mexico and Korea in a glass, and certainly worth a try. Enjoy.


Servings: 1 cocktailIngredients

2 ounces Espolon tequila

1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce agave syrup


  • Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker and whip with a few cubes of ice for several seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled collins glass and top with soda. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
  • Seoul Paloma

    Servings: 1 cocktailIngredients

    2 ounces Avión Silver tequila

    1 ounce cold pressed grapefruit syrup*

    1/2 ounce Bigallet China China Amer Bitter liqueur

    1/4 ounce lime juice

    Splash of Makgeoli rice wine


  • Combine grapefruit syrup, lime juice, China-China, and tequila in a highball glass.
  • Add ice and top with Makgeoli. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
  • *Grapefruit Syrup


    5 grapefruits

    5 cups of sugar


  • Peel the grapefruit zest with knife and take off the excess pits (whites). Reserve the zest peel.
  • Using only pulp and zest, macerate with sugar. Place macerated grapefruit into airtight jar for it to ferment.
  • After one week, strain the liquid and remove the pulp with a cheesecloth. Discard the pulp and refrigerate syrup for later use.
  • Optional: Dry the zest and make a powder with it. Powder can go back to strained syrup as needed to give stronger grapefruit flavor.
  • Prep time: 5 minutes

    Difficulty: Moderate