To the many cocktail aficionados reading this, the humble grapefruit might seem like a rudimentary, even boring, piece of fruit. Drinks that tend to garner attention these days contain all kinds of exciting ingredients, like jackfruit, dragonfruit, passion fruit, or my all-time favorite, Ugli fruit. But while the terms "unusual" and "esoteric" have become part of cocktail vernacular, there’s no shame in keeping things simple. Enter the grapefruit.
Known technically as Citrus x paradisi, grapefruit is most likely a cross between the Southeast Asian pummelo and the standard sweet orange. 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 fruit clusters on the tree look somewhat similar to a bunch of grapes. While lemon and lime are our preferred bartending citrus, the grapefruit has lent its own unique charms to a wide variety of wonderful and timeless drinks.
One only has to turn to the Hemingway Daiquiri—an august libation, to be sure—to see what a delightful ingredient grapefruit juice can be. While the history of this recipe is far from certain, it’s about as cooling as drinks come and perfect for parties.
Right now, grapefruits are in season, and their color, especially in the highly coveted Ruby Red type, is deep and inviting. While the ruby is a little sweeter and a favorite of bartenders, the yellow variety (also known as white grapefruit) has more acid and can actually work better in balancing out sugary components.
A case in point is the Brown Derby, which was perhaps created at the famous hat-shaped Los Angeles restaurant of the same name. I’m a big fan of the simplicity of this drink, but it can err on the sweet side if made with pink grapefruit juice.
That also goes 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 and 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 bust out at a gathering for a lot of people is the Paloma, pretty much the only “cocktail” you’ll find in Mexico. (No, the locals do not drink Margaritas.) In its homeland, this ubiquitous highball is made with a sickeningly sweet grapefruit soda called Squirt. But when made with fresh grapefruit juice and topped with sparkling water, the result is one of the most refreshing drinks you’ll ever try.
Grapefruit also matches beautifully with Aperol, Campari, and some bitter Italian amari, as well as almost all spirits, proving that it might actually be the most versatile citrus fruit out there. These dozen drinks will prove it.
A slight variation on the most classic form of this cocktail, this version from Naren Young keeps the traditional rye whiskey and yellow grapefruit juice, but swaps out the usual grenadine in favor of a raspberry syrup—a welcome switch that adds lovely depth and nuance to the simple yet elegant drink.
This Los Angeles classic unites three ingredients: bourbon, grapefruit juice, and honey. The result is sweet and zesty. The Brown Derby is sure to please the bourbon lovers in the room, but is also an excellent gateway drink for that one friend who “doesn’t like whiskey.”
From the innovative minds at NYC's now-shuttered Empellon Cocina, this drink calls for combining mezcal, Campari, Combier, and pink grapefruit juice, producing a unique and unusual cocktail with a vibrant hue.
This cocktail is inspired, not created, by Ernest Hemingway. The author's original request for a Daiquiri made with no sugar and double the booze was an unbalanced drink, but bartenders eventually perfected the recipe with the addition of maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
Despite the name, there's an argument to be made for having this cocktail with any meal. Braced by a crisp vodka backbone, the Banker’s Lunch nods to the dinnertime Martini with a half-ounce of dry vermouth, but ultimately circles back to breakfast with the inclusion of orange liqueur and grapefruit juice. Shake one up and enjoy any time of day.
Sasha Petraske created this gin-and-citrus highball, a sort of mash-up between a Paloma and a Hemingway Daiquiri with its use of gin, maraschino liqueur, and grapefruit and lemon juices, topped with club soda. It's a hybrid highball we'll hoist all day.
Absinthe and two kinds of gin may seem unlikely accompaniments to grapefruit, but they work beautifully in this cocktail by bar legend Jim Meehan. The Green Deacon will have you preaching the boundless virtues of this citrus fruit, like its namesake clergyman might.
Never mind its name: This cocktail from Attaboy’s Sam Ross is actually a member of the fizz family rather than a true collins. Whatever you call it, the mix of scotch whisky, grapefruit and lemon juices, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, and an egg white, all shaken and topped with club soda, produces a cocktail as delicious as it is unusual.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
It's right there in the name: Ruby red grapefruit juice is one of the primary flavors in this fruit-forward cocktail from bartender Tony Abou-Ganim. The grapefruit is joined by vodka, Aperol, St-Germain, lemon juice, and an egg white.
Ivy Mix of Leyenda in Brooklyn created this fruity blend of Cointreau, cachaça, grapefruit and lemon juices, and Angostura bitters. It’s unusually heavy on the liqueur, letting its orange flavors carry the cocktail with the sugar cane spirit in a supporting role, making for an interesting layering of citrus.
Falling somewhere between a Hemingway Daiquiri and a Last Word, this combination of gin, maraschino liqueur, lime and grapefruit juices, and simple syrup by San Francisco bar pro Erik Adkins combines the best elements of both classic cocktails.
A simple mix of gin, elderflower-flavored St-Germain liqueur, and grapefruit juice, this three-ingredient cocktail from Los Angeles bartender Somer Perez couldn’t be easier to make—which is good, since you’ll certainly want to hae more than one.