Grapefruit Gimlet

Ann Fulton

By Ann Fulton

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A delightful balance of sweet and tart, this eye-catching twist on the classic cocktail requires just three simple ingredients. The refreshing drink is also easy to customize with other liquors and flavors, and I've included a few of my favorites.

A delightful balance of sweet and tart, this eye-catching twist on the classic cocktail requires just three simple ingredients. The refreshing drink is also easy to customize with other liquors and flavors, and I’ve included a few of my favorites.

 

 

Most winters around this time, I begin looking forward to an annual trip to visit my parents in sunny California. It’s a welcome reprieve from the cold and often gray east coast, and a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family.

One of the simple things we enjoy on those visits is walking through the yard to what my dad has deemed “the best” grapefruit tree in the neighborhood. Picker in hand, we pluck enough of the juicy globes to last a few days.

The activity was a novel adventure when my boys were young, although they still enjoy these treks. 

For breakfast each morning, my mom or I would slice one of the grapefruits in half and cut around the sections for my boys to scoop out with a spoon. Of course, their favorite part was squeezing the remaining juice into their spoon.

Until this point, the kids deemed grapefruit as less desirable than decidedly sweeter oranges. But something about walking out your own door and picking the fresh fruit, combined with the flavor that was a touch more sweet than tart, won them over.

My husband always preferred to peel his grapefruit like an orange-something I thought was funny at first, because my family always sectioned grapefruit-but I find myself doing this regularly these days. My grandmother would surely applaud this easy method for the extra “roughage” (i.e., fiber) that one consumes in the process!

grapefruit picking 2007

Our boys with their bounty in 2007, when they were 8 and 5 years old.

grapefruit picking 2020

…and the younger one last year with my dad!

 

☀️            ☀️           ☀️           ☀️            ☀️

There are so many ways to enjoy fresh grapefruit, and one of my favorite ways is in mixed drinks. The juice offers sweetness-but not too much-and a certain complexity that pairs especially well with gin, vodka, and tequila. 

A delightful balance of sweet and tart, this eye-catching twist on the classic cocktail requires just three simple ingredients. The refreshing drink is also easy to customize with other liquors and flavors, and I've included a few of my favorites.

What is a gimlet?

Traditionally, a gimlet is a cocktail made with gin and lime juice. A 1928 description of the drink was: gin with a “spot” of lime. A 1953 Raymond Chandler novel The Long Goodbye stated that “a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice cordial (a bottled mixture of lime juice and sugar) and nothing else.”

And then in the 1980s and 90s, the practice of making gimlets with vodka became increasingly common. 

Based on the above, I decided that precedent has been set for tinkering with this time-honored cocktail-and grapefruit pairs exceedingly well with gin.

Anyone who has enjoyed the pairing in a Greyhound or Salty Dog will agree: the sweet-tart flavor of grapefruit works wonders with the juniper and citrus notes in gin.

Different gins, of course, will produce slightly different flavors profiles in the cocktail. Something balanced with a more modern flavor profile (like Hendrick’s, which I mention in the recipe) will take a backseat to the grapefruit, while a juniper-forward London dry gin will assert itself. 

What is a Frenchie?

Similar to a gimlet made with grapefruit juice, a Frenchie replaces the simple syrup with St. Germain. The sweet-tasting liqueur injects the flavor of elderflower, so those who like a prominent floral note may enjoy this substitution, which I mention in the recipe below.

Beyond the traditional cocktail hour, the use of fresh grapefruit juice makes either version of cocktail well suited to special breakfasts and brunches. Think of it as an alternative to a mimosa.

How do you make simple syrup?

Making simple syrup is quick, easy, and only requires two ingredients. Simply combine equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat, whisking occasionally, just until the sugar has dissolved into the water. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool.

I usually use ½ cup of each and, once cooled, store the syrup in a jar in the fridge to use whenever needed. Simple syrup will last for months.

If you’d like to experiment with flavors, you may enjoy this easy, homemade vanilla simple syrup. It’s also a great option for making cafe-worthy coffees and lattes at home. 

grapefruit tree

You need not pick your own grapefruit for this drink, but using freshly squeezed juice will produce fresher, better flavor. 

Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

For added convenience if you’d like to enjoy this cocktail over several days, simply squeeze extra juice and refrigerate it in a jar or other airtight container for up to a week.

A delightful balance of sweet and tart, this eye-catching twist on the classic cocktail requires just three simple ingredients. The refreshing drink is also easy to customize with other liquors and flavors, and I've included a few of my favorites.

Tied with the mandarin vodka option mentioned in the notes section, the recipe below states the combination that is perfect for me. That said, you may feel free to adjust to personal preference, adding more of one ingredient or another, or even turning the drink into a spritzer by adding sparkling water. 

Grapefruit Gimlet
Yield: 1 serving
A delightful balance of sweet and tart, this colorful twist on the classic cocktail requires just 3 simple ingredients. Easy to adapt, too!
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 2 ounces gin (I like Hendrick’s; see notes for options*)
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup**
  • Optional: squeeze of fresh lime (about ½ teaspoon, and a slice of lime or grapefruit to garnish
Instructions

For the shaker method: Add the grapefruit juice, gin, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Cover and vigorously shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice. Garnish with a thin triangle wedge of grapefruit or a lime wheel.

For the easy method: Add the ingredients to an ice-filled glass (chilled if you’ve thought ahead) and stir.

Notes

*I typically use Hendrick’s gin, although you may use your favorite gin or vodka. If using vodka, a citrus-infused option like Absolut mandarin adds a little something special.
**If you enjoy the flavor of elderflower, you could use 1 tablespoon St. Germain in place of the simple syrup.

Prefer a spritzer? Simply top off with sparkling water. In this case, you may enjoy a citrus-infused variety. FeverTree sparkling grapefruit offers a low-sugar option that delivers good flavor, although there are many good options.

A few more things…
For a complementary herbal note, you may add a sprig of rosemary to the simple syrup when preparing it, and then garnish the cocktail with a fresh sprig.
I recently made this drink with a squeeze of lemon, and that was delicious, too. Citrus flavors complement one another, so feel free to experiment with various fruits as well as flavored liquors. Just start with small amounts so you can stop if you don’t like where things are going!

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

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