The humble grapefruit is a very under-rated fruit. Now is the time to appreciate its simplicity since we are at the time of season where it starts to peak. Often looked upon as a flavorless and boring, the grapefruit has a lot to offer in terms of cocktail balance and flavor. To cocktail enthusiasts and gurus, it has many applications and has been used in cocktails since the turn of the century. The grapefruit isn’t ‘hip’ and the terms ‘exotic’ and ‘esoteric’ doesn’t apply to this fruit in today’s cocktail vernacular, like passion fruit, plum, acai berry, etc…
Grapefruit is considered to be a cross between the Southeast Asian pummelo and the standard sweet orange. Surprisingly, it’s one of the newer fruits on Earth, having been first discovered on the island of Barbados in the mid-18th century. The name comes from the fact that the fruit clusters on the tree resemble a bunch of grapes. While lemon and lime is the most often used and the preferred citrus used by bartenders, the grapefruit has been a part of a wide variety of wonderful and timeless drinks. Take the classic Hemingway Daiquiri, which is a delightful cocktail containing the grapefruit juice ingredient. While the history of this recipe is far from certain, it has a cooling effect and perfect for parties.
Right now, grapefruits are in season, and their color, especially in the beautiful Ruby Red type, is deep and inviting. While the ruby is a little sweeter than the standard yellow grapefruit (white grapefruit) and a favorite among bartenders, the white grapefruit has more acidity and can actually work better in balancing out sugary components of the cocktail.
A case in point is the Brown Derby, which was perhaps created at the famous hat-shaped Los Angeles restaurant of the same name. It’s a simple drink, but tastes better when using the white grapefruit instead of ruby. That is also the case for a rather unknown, but delicious cocktail called the Blinker. The drink was first mentioned in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s 1934 The Official Mixer’s Manual but was resurrected in Ted Haigh’s wonderful Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. It is another simple and elegant concoction, calling for rye whiskey, grapefruit and either grenadine or, even better, fresh raspberry syrup. Again, use a yellow variety here for balance.
And speaking of easy, a great drink to bring out at a party gathering is the Paloma, pretty much the only cocktail you will find in Mexico not named Margarita. In its birthplace, this ubiquitous highball cocktail is made with a sweet grapefruit soda called Squirt. But when made with fresh grapefruit juice and topped with sparkling water as an alternative, the result is one of the most refreshing drinks you’ll ever try. Mexicans aren’t known for cocktail experimentation. Grapefruit also matches beautifully with Aperol, Campari, and some bitter Italian Amari (all classic Apertifis aka fortified or appetizer wines) as well as most spirits, especially Tequila, proving that it might be one of the most versatile citrus fruits out there.
Here are some great cocktails to mix up this spring and summer season or for parties that will dazzle your guests.