Why Bartender Janice Bailon’s Paloma Is ‘Thinking Pink!’

According to Janice Bailon, head bartender at Latin American restaurant Leyenda in Brooklyn, creating an excellent cocktail starts with a clear intention. When she gets started on a new recipe, she asks, “Where do I want this to be? What do I want it to convey? What’s the storyline?”

 “For me, creating a story around cocktail creation is really important,” she says.  As a self-proclaimed “agave nerd,” Bailon started the platform Fueled by Agave following an inspiring trip to Oaxaca. Through the platform, she teaches private classes about mezcal, tequila, and agave-fueled cocktails. Her appreciation for Tequila Ocho in particular comes back to the importance of intention when crafting a drink or a spirit.

Janice Bailon

“I love that Tequila Ocho started by really focusing on the terroir of where the agave is grown,” she says. “Each plot of land lends itself to a little bit more nuance in the agave — what minerality is being particularly highlighted, or any of the nuances of fruit, or whatever kinds of notes that that plot of land seems to incite. I really appreciate that Tequila Ocho has always had such variety while staying true to being 100 percent agave and additive-free.”

Tequila Ocho’s Blue Weber Agave is grown in the Jaliscan Highlands, which boast up to a 6,000-foot elevation and mineral-rich soils. The individual plots where the agave is grown produce distinct flavor profiles for each harvest. Despite this versatility, Tequila Ocho prioritizes purity, remaining free of additives, artificial ingredients, colorings, flavorings, and preservatives. 

This purity of flavor can enhance even the simplest of cocktails, like the classic Paloma. While the Paloma’s origins are uncertain, the pink drink is hailed as a Mexican icon, bringing tequila, soda, grapefruit, and lime together for a refreshing and rose-hued result.

Although her task was to concoct a “simple” Paloma recipe, Bailon put a lot of thought into the storyline for her Think Pink! Paloma. The story is a personal one. She recently moved to Brooklyn from San Francisco, where she had worked at prestigious bars including Bourbon and Branch, Liholiho Yacht Club, and Wildhawk. 

Here’s how she brought her cultural background, a favorite childhood movie, and feelings about her new home to the Paloma.

She maximized fruity flavor in the Think Pink! Paloma by incorporating oleo-saccharum (oil-sugar) a centuries-old cocktail ingredient made by extracting oil from citrus rinds. As a nod to her mother, she incorporated a can of rambutan into the cocktail’s pink salt rambutan grapefruit oleo. The rambutan fruit is closely related to the lychee and has a reddish-pink, sea urchin-like exterior. It comes from the tropical rambutan tree, which is native to Southeast Asia.

“When my mom was younger in the Philippines, her favorite fruit was rambutan,” Bailon says. “When she was treating herself, she’d buy a little bag of rambutan and chomp on those on her way home. I love the juiciness and little bit of savoriness of that fruit. It’s really unique and underused.”

It made sense to connect the Mexican roots of the Paloma to her own Filipino roots: “There’s a huge connection between Filipino and Mexican cultures,” she says, referencing the countries’ shared Spanish colonization. “I wanted to find that in this cocktail creation, and pay homage to the origins of the Paloma as well as how our combined worlds have come together.”

The Think Pink! Paloma also tells a story about Bailon’s recent move to New York City. The cross-country move — as well as the striking color of the cocktail — reminded her of one of her favorite childhood movies, the 1954 musical comedy “Funny Face,” starring Audrey Hepburn. The movie is set in New York and centers around a Greenwich Village bookseller who is recruited to model for a major fashion magazine. “In the very first opening number for Funny Face, the editor-in-chief of the magazine is like, “Everything is pink! Think pink!” Bailon says. “As I’m making this cocktail, I’m thinking, ‘Think pink!’”

This rosy line of thought is evident in each element of the cocktail, from the vivid raspberry color of the rambutan to the pink grapefruit soda to the pink Himalayan sea salt in the oleo. Bailon garnishes the cocktail with a rambutan and a magenta orchid.

Ultimately, the Think Pink cocktail tells a complete story that includes Bailon’s past and present. It nods to her roots and her childhood, but it also looks to the future. “Having just moved to New York, I see myself sitting at the banks of the river overlooking the bridge and sipping this drink,” she says. “[I was] having that kind of feeling of a new city, a new generation, a new lift on a classic.”

Janice’s Think Pink! Paloma Recipe


  • 1 ½ ounces Tequila Ocho Plata
  • ¾ ounce pink salt rambutan grapefruit oleo*
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces grapefruit soda
  • Garnish: orchid and rambutan on a pick


  1. Build all ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice.
  2. Top with soda, add garnish.

*Pink Salt Rambutan Grapefruit Oleo Recipe


  • 2 large grapefruits
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can rambutan
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt


  1. Peel two grapefruits until you have about 100g of grapefruit peels. Place sugar and grapefruit in a ziplock bag, fully coating grapefruit peels in sugar, and lay flat with as little air in bag as possible. Leave overnight.
  2. The following day, add one cup of cool water to the grapefruit and sugar bag. Seal the bag and massage until all water and sugar are integrated. Once the solution becomes clear and free of granules, pour contents into a quart-sized container.
  3.  Combine one cup of canned rambutan syrup with grapefruit oleo.
  4. Add one teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt to quart-sized container and stir until fully dissolved.

This article is sponsored by Tequila Ocho. 

Drink with a Responsible Hand. Tequila Ocho 40% Alc./Vol., Imported by Ocho Asociados, Bardstown, KY.