A freshly made paloma. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

A freshly made Paloma. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I’ve written before in the depths of winter that now is grapefruit season and grapefruits were my first realization that food was in fact seasonal. It was 1989 and I’d grown up in a country where I could buy pretty much anything I knew about all year long and this was the natural way of the world. I’d fallen in love with Donna, who was a photographer for the Palm Beach Daily News, but I kept long-held plans and left her to travel Africa and Asia, only to find myself 10 weeks later on the porch of an American expatriate living in Ouagadougou. A monkey jumped onto my lap, and I thought What the hell am I doing in Ouagadougou when I’m in love with this beautiful photographer in southern Florida?

I couldn’t answer the question. I caught a train to Abidjan and from the Côte d’Ivoire a plane home. I packed my little Mazda 626 with everything I owned and drove from Cleveland to Florida, with dinner and a few hours’ sleep at the home of my mentor in Durham, NC.

A few months later, mid-February, there was grapefruit everywhere. I was astonished. Look at all these trees that used to have just leaves, in front lawns and backyards, trees heavy with grapefruit. AMAZING grapefruit. They grew in abundance behind a little cottage I was able to rent on that opulent plump island. I lived on the stuff.

So I wanted to honor the grapefruit in its season for this Friday Cocktail Hour, and I do so happily by reprising a summertime drink I’m so fond of, the Paloma, which also happens to be my favorite cocktail photograph by the woman who decided to marry me a year and a half after the monkey jumped onto my lap.

Cure the wintertime blues with a blast of vitamin C and some reposado tequila (any good tequila will do), 2 to 1 juice to booze, and a squeeze of lime to finish. That’s it!

The Donna Paloma

  • 2 ounces añejo or reposado tequila
  • 4 ounces freshly squeezed Florida grapefruit juice
  • 1 fat lime wedge
  1. Combine the hooch and the juice in glass, fill with ice, garnish with lime. Put on some shades and listen to Ramsey Lewis’s “Sun Goddess.”

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


11 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Donna Paloma”

  • Jim Washburn

    Texas grapefruits are better than Florida grapefruits.

  • Lora in Louisville

    And this Mr. Ruhlman is why we like this blog- the best of all of the combined compliments of the past post. Won’t be doing the paloma tonight as it is full on fish-fry season in Louisville- Will raise my grapefruit later in the weekend. Cheers!

  • Bill Bumgarner

    Fantastic choice of tequilas in that picture! That is Tequila Ocho, a highlands tequila distilled at La Altena (where El Tesoro and Tapatio are also made).

    Beyond being extremely well made, Ocho is unique in that every batch is made from Agave harvested from a single large field. Thus, you can pick up two bottles of Blanco and if the labels say they are from different fields, a taste comparison will yield subtle, but surprising, differences in an otherwise identically made product.

    This may seem surprising, but keep in mind that good tequila is made 100% from the Weber Blue Agave Tequilano plant, which requires nearly a decade (sometimes longer) of time in the ground before it can be harvested and turned into tequila. All that time in the field means the plant has a long, long, time to develop flavors unique to altitude, farm and, even, field.

  • Victoria

    Once you posted your original Paloma, it became my drink of choice for the rest of the summer. In the winter, there are always fresh grapefruit in my house, so I’m giving this a try later on today.

    By the way, I always use reposado tequila when I make a Paloma, but I recently read an article that said silver tequila was the way to go. Maybe next time.

    By the way, will you please let me know how you store your “best homemade bread?”

  • Allen

    Friday cocktail post lead me to purchase a book by Reynolds Price on Amazon.
    After your last recommendation of The Things They Carried, I am looking forward to it.
    Happy Friday all!

  • Elke

    Made this tonight and have made them over the last month or two… this ratio is what I’d adjusted from the other recipe. I think they’re good in cold or hot weather — granted, most of CA isn’t ever really “cold”. Cin cin!

  • Noelle

    This post brings back memories from my childhood. I grew up in southern Florida and we had two large grapefruit trees in the yard. During the winter, I remember eating a freshly picked grapefruit almost every morning and collecting bags of them to take to relatives up north. Maybe my memories are glorified, but I’ve never had grapefruit as vibrantly pink and deliciously sweet and juicy as those.

    This past year, I’ve held off buying fruits and vegetables until they’ve been in season; doing this is so worth the wait because the quality of in-season-flavor is incredible.


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