Pineapple Paloma with Thyme Syrup
It was a balmy evening in New Orleans. It had just rained. The streets seemed to perpetually steam in that city, the smell of salt and jasmine (aka the bayou perfume) rising up and beyond the iron-wrought juliette balconies and pastel parlors. From my perch on the second floor balcony of a Latino-Carribbean restaurant, I could see bright pink hibiscus flowers and bristling birds of paradise glisten with wetness.
Logan and I sat there together on curving rattan chairs, watching the sky go dark and the stars pop out one by one.
I remember the paloma I ordered very clearly. A glossy, ruby-red grapefruit slice floated at the top of the full-to-the-brim glass. It was ice-cold. The juice and tequila swirled together like smokey pink quartz made liquid — my personal Love Potion #9.
It was tangy, smoky, herbaceous and sweet. The tequila seeped slowly into my blood stream. I felt dreamy, wild, witchy. The condensation from the glass ran down my wrist. The sweet pucker of grapefruit settled on my lips. Edges of vision blurred to a romantic glow -- exactly the magic that a good cocktail (and some particularly good tequila) are meant to invoke.
It’s hard to believe, but I had that first paloma only a year or so ago. I've been ordering them almost exclusively ever since, whenever I go out (which isn’t often… I’m a homebody, 100%).
I figure it's time I share my slightly tropical twist on the classic drink: a pineapple paloma with thyme and grapefruit peel infused simple syrup.
It’s very simple, and stays true to the original paloma formula — except that we’re subbing 1/2 of the grapefruit juice for pineapple juice and using an infused syrup. It’s sweet, sour and strong with just a touch of tropicalia and a hint of herbaceousness. All while keeping the process simple and straightforward, so the resulting cocktail is a home-mixology no-brainer.
All you need is pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, 100% agave tequila, thyme-infused simple syrup, bubbly water and ice.
You could even sub out the simple syrup for maple syrup.
Or sub out the tequila for a strong-brewed kombucha for a non-alcoholic version! I do this regularly as a daily bubbly sip, seeing that I am a total and undeniable lightweight.
Just to be sure that this pineapple paloma cocktail hit the mark, I tested it with a gaggle of friends, getting their honest (tipsy) feedback. This recipe is the definitive version, based on what we all liked best.
That is, the pineapple, grapefruit and thyme flavors all come through without anything being overpowering. It’s sweet (but not-too-sweet). And aside from the sweet-smokiness of aged tequila, you can barely taste the alcohol.
The recipe is adapted from Epicurious. I tested it 4 or 5 times, adjusting according to my personal preference. The original recipe calls for too much soda water, which results in an over-diluted paloma. So I dialed back on the bubbles to give it a bolder, brighter flavor. Add 4 tablespoons bubbly water per glass, taste, and adjust to your liking.
I recommend using an aged tequila for a more complex flavor. I've been drinking Lunazul lately (no I'm not sponsored I just like it). I like the reposado for some light oakiness, vanilla-notes and mild caramel flavors. It's what I used when testing this paloma. It's very accessible. The anejo is aged further and is smokier, warmer and richer. It adds a depth and smokiness to mixed drinks without going full mezcal.
Raw sugar gives this simple syrup a deeper, more caramel-like flavor. Fresh thyme is bright, lemony and herbaceous and pairs well with tangy-sweet grapefruit and pineapple. I’ve added grapefruit zest to this syrup because I think it accents the intensity of the grapefruit flavor in the final drink. I zest my grapefruit in broad strokes with a sharp vegetable peeler — just be sure there’s no pith in your zest as pith is quite bitter.
If you would like a salt or sugar rim, rub a slice of grapefruit on the rim of your glass then dip your glass in salt or sugar. Personally, I prefer a plain glass as the salt/sugar gets in the way of my experience of the drink as it is. If using a salt-rim, omit the pinch of salt in the recipe.
Thyme and Grapefruit Zest Infused Simple Syrup
Created by Renee on February 14, 2017
Note: Raw sugar gives this simple syrup a deeper, more caramel-like flavor. Cane sugar can also be used. I zest my grapefruit in broad strokes with a sharp vegetable peeler — just be sure there’s no pith in your zest as pith is quite bitter.
- Cook Time: 5m
- Serves: 6
- 3 tablespoons demerera (raw) sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- zest of half a grapefruit
- Add the sugar and water to a small sauce pot set over low heat. Stir frequently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the thyme and grapefruit zest and cut off the heat. Set aside for 15 minutes. Strain the syrup into a small jar until ready to use. Makes enough for 6 cocktails. Can be stored in a lidded jar in the fridge for a week.
Created by Renee on February 14, 2017
If you would like a salt or sugar rim, rub a slice of grapefruit on the rim of your glass then dip your glass in salt or sugar. Personally, I prefer a plain glass as the salt/sugar gets in the way of my experience of the drink as it is.
- Prep Time: 5m
- Serves: 1
- 1/8 cup 100% pineapple juice
- 1/8 cup 100% grapefruit juice
- 1 teaspoon thyme & grapefruit infused simple syrup (or sub for plain simple syrup, agave, or maple syrup)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (1/2 lime, approximately)
- 1/4 cup 100% agave tequila (I used a mildly smokey tequila from Lunazul)
- tiny pinch sea salt
- 2 -4 tablespoons club soda / unflavored sparkling water
- optional garnish: grapefruit slices, fresh thyme sprigs, lime slices, edible flowers
- In a cocktail shaker (or large mason jar) stir together the pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, lime juice, tequila and salt. Pour into your serving glass, top with ice and 2-4 tablespoons club soda / sparkling water. If you want a more intense, punchy flavor use less club soda and vise versa.
- Top up with a thinly sliced round or half-round of fresh grapefruit on a bamboo skewer. Fresh thyme springs, lime slices and edible flowers are all excellent garnishes as well. Sip, smile and get dancing!
I originally developed this pineapple paloma for Urban Outfitters. You can see the post on their blog here.