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Salty Dogs, Grapefruit, and that Lame Food Writing Joke We've All Heard a Million Times
Some thoughts on complaining. Plus personal history! And a really long scroll to the recipes!
There was a big grapefruit tree at my parent’s house, near the splintered wooden dock that jutted out into a quiet island bay, in the Floridian yard inhabited by lizards and a tall, sneaky blue heron, who would occasionally slip in the back door. Ah, those ripe, ruby, juicy grapefruit are the ones of memory…
Okay, so I know there are a number of new subscribers to this newsletter over the past couple of weeks. And my hunch is that at least one of you is thinking, Come on, bro, get to the cocktail recipes already! I don’t care about your childhood memories! Just give me the ingredients for the Salty Dog!
Anyone who writes about food or drink knows well the whiny howl of this tiresome complaint. Even in just the past 48 hours, I can see many aggrieved tweets from people looking for free recipes who apparently still find scrolling down to be too taxing.
Is six tweets enough to get the idea? I mean, I can go on. This same thing is tweeted by someone literally every four to six hours. Maybe the people who voice such a complaint have other, original ideas. But this is not one of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the recipe-scrolling complaint is something that Russian bots automatically tweet to appear lifelike, before moving on to QAnon conspiracies.
In a way, I’m genuinely impressed by the staying power of this lame joke. It blew up two years ago (almost to the day) when Mindy Kaling tweeted: “Why do all online recipes have endless pages of the chef’s whole life story about the recipe and then on the 12th page is the actual recipe? I just want the recipe! I don’t need the Modern Love essay on how you came up with it!” (It wasn’t original when Kaling tweeted it, either, to be clear.) The backlash from food writers came swiftly, as well as plenty of explainers and discourse.
At some point, Kaling deleted her post. But the complaint lives on!
Anyway, I want to be clear that at Everyday Drinking, we are very committed to the long story that makes you scroll endlessly down to the recipes. Tales about traveling to find ourselves—yes. Thousands of words on random topics—check. Nebbiolo recommendations in which you have to scroll past musings on suburban skatepunk—yep. Essays on obscure Austrian wines, interrupted by the melancholy history of the American chestnut and the Hapsburg Empire—of course. An article on viognier that veers into Jay McInerney’s second-person narration and Grey Poupon—certainly. Sorry, haters!
In any case, do not worry, we’re almost to the recipes here. I always think about grapefruits when winter transitions into spring. I love grapefruit. For me, the complexity of its bitter-sweet-tart flavors puts it head and shoulders above any other citrus. And yes, my family once had a big grapefruit tree in our backyard along with the lizards and the sneaky blue heron.
When it comes to booze, it’s hard to beat the grapefruit for sheer mixability. Gin and aquavit, brandy and bourbon, amari, and herbal liqueurs—you name the spirit and there’s a good drink calling for grapefruit. What stands up best to smoky mezcal? Grapefruit. What was in Ernest Hemingway’s signature drink, the daiquiri variation called Papa Doble? Rhum agricole, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, and a little something else to bring it all together: Grapefruit juice.
One of the formative drinks of my college years was the Greyhound: Grapefruit juice and vodka. That was long before I had any inklings of spirits connoisseurship. Surely the grapefruit juice was store-bought and the vodka came from a plastic jug. Soon enough, I graduated to the Greyhound’s slightly more urbane cousin, the Salty Dog, an afternoon drink that my parents occasionally made around the house. The difference between the Salty Dog and the Greyhound? A salted rim, of course, and gin instead of vodka. Simple and elegant: 2 ounces of gin, 3 ounces of fresh grapefruit juice, ice, salted rim. Eventually, as I gained a taste for tequila, the Paloma (with real grapefruit or grapefruit soda and the salted rim) became one of my go-to cocktails.
In any case, I’m sure I’ve made you read too much at this point. You probably want the recipes. Below are five variations of Salty Dogs, Palomas, or Greyhounds. Rest easy, weary traveler. The scroll is over.
The Grapefruit Variations
This was one of the first cocktails I ever recommended in my old Washington Post spirits column, and it’s still a favorite. It’s a twist on the Salty Dog, with a little Benedictine in the mix. The honeyed, earthy, herbal flavors of the liqueur mingle beautifully with the grapefruit and the gin botanicals.
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Benedictine
2 ounces grapefruit juice, fresh squeezed
Grapefruit wedge, for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice. Add gin, Benedictine, and grapefruit juice. Shake vigorously, then strain into a rocks glass with ice cubes (or one nice big ice cube). Garnish with wedge.
This is another simple riff on the Salty Dog /Greyhound that’s been a staple at my house for many years. It originally called for Punt e Mes, but feel free to experiment with other amaro and vermouth. I’ve used both Averna and Montenegro and been very happy.
2 ounces Punt e Mes (or other vermouth or amaro)
2 ounces grapefruit juice, fresh squeezed
Grapefruit wedge, for garnish
Rim an old-fashioned glass with salt, then fill with the ice cubes. Punt e Mes and grapefruit juice; stir and serve. Garnish with wedge.
This is sort of an inverted or reverse Salty Dog. I’ve always wondered why this fresh and lively drink (a variation on the classic Aviation) isn’t more popular. Now, in the age of lower alcohol cocktails, it seems like it could certainly find an audience.
2 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (from 1/2 of a large grapefruit)
1 ounce gin
1 dash maraschino liqueur
1 maraschino cherry, for garnish
Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the cherry.
This is a variation on the Salty Dog and the Greyhound created at Ruby, a cocktail bar in Copenhagen. The number, in fact, refers to a Danish long-distance bus called the Graahundbus, or “Greyhound bus.” The original called for a dill-based aquavit, and Gamle Ode in Minnesota makes a really good one. But this drinks also works well with more typical caraway-forward aquavit. For more on aquavit, check out my piece here.
1 ounce aquavit
1 ounce grapefruit juice, fresh squeezed
1 ounce Campari
Sprig fresh dill, for garnish
Rim an old-fashioned or rocks glass with salt, then fill it with ice. Combine the aquavit, grapefruit juice, and Campari in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into the salt-rimmed glass. Garnish with the dill.
A traditional Paloma is made with grapefruit soda (such as Fresca or Squirt) and lime juice. This refreshing version, however, calls for fresh grapefruit juice with a splash of club soda for the fizz.
2 ounces blanco tequila
3 ounces grapefruit juice, fresh squeezed
1/2 ounce lime juice, fresh squeezed
1/2 ounce agave nectar
Salt, to rim the glass
Lime wheel, for garnish
Rim an ice-filled collins glass with salt. Fill a shaker with ice. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave nectar. Shake well and strain into the Collins glass. Top with a splash of club soda, and garnish with lime wheel.