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10 Grapefruit Cocktails to Try Right Now

This citrus fruit shines in any season.

Paloma cocktail
Paloma. Image:

Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

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 leant 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 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 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. Now show it some respect and make these drinks!

  • Shifting Sands

    Shifting Sands

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    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.

    Get the recipe.

  • Undead Gentleman

    Undead Gentleman

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    This modern Tiki cocktail from Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove slightly simplifies the complex Zombie (but not by much; there are still eight ingredients before we even get to the garnishes) and serves it in a coupe.

    Get the recipe.

  • Ruby

    Ruby cocktail

    Tony Abou-Ganim

     

    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.

    Get the recipe.

  • Green Deacon

    Green Deacon cocktail

    Jim Meehan

     

    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.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • Salty Dog

    Salty Dog cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    This easy mix of vodka or gin and grapefruit juice features a coarse sea salt rim, which is what gives the drink its gritty name. The cocktail is a variation on a classic Greyhound, a version believed to date back to the 1950s. And that name? A reference to a gruff sailor who has spent a life at sea.

    Get the recipe.

  • Grapefruit Negroni

    Grapefruit Negroni cocktail

    Kathy Casey 

    The bracing, bitter classic was originally created for Count Camillo Negroni in the years between the two World Wars, and was itself a boozier spin on the Italian count’s regular order: The Americano. Clearly, the recipe lends itself to experimentation. It works swimmingly with bourbon, as in the Boulevardier, or with prosecco in a Negroni Sbagliato. This variation throws grapefruit into the mix, doubling down on the Campari's bitterness.

    Get the recipe.

  • Banker’s Lunch

    Banker's Lunch cocktail

    ​ Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    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.

    Get the recipe.

  • Brown Derby

    Brown Derby cocktail

     Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    This Los Angeles classic unites three ingredients: bourbon, grapefruit juice, and honey. The result is sweet and zesty and boasts a gorgeous hue. 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.”

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • Hemingway Daiquiri

    Hemingway Daiquiri

      Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    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.

    Get the recipe.

  • Paloma

    Paloma

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    With just three ingredients—tequila, fresh lime juice and grapefruit soda—the Paloma couldn’t be easier to make, and the resulting refresher is ideal for year-round sipping. Sure, we're cheating a bit by including this, since it calls for grapefruit soda rather than grapefruit juice, but purists are welcome to try it with 2 ounces of fresh pink grapefruit juice and club soda replacing the Squirt or similar if you prefer.

    Get the recipe.