Sometimes when I crave things that are odd or outside the mainstream, people think it's an affectation or that I'm deliberately trying to be weird. Quite the contrary--there are a million flavors out there and only so many meals you get in your life. And typically anything odd that I try is beloved by hundreds of thousands of people somewhere. I think in the American diet from WWII to the present we abandoned a lot of things for various reasons: tea and coffee are bitter, so mask the bitterness with sugar and cream and other flavors. Organ meats are weird and the things we used to have to eat during hard times, so we must shun them and only eat the muscles. Fish somehow shouldn't smell like fish, and thus we praise the flavorless white fillets where the only flavor comes from the fried batter encasing. Processed cheese is deliberately engineered to remove any texture or aroma or flavor of "real" cheese. Wine should never be earthy, it must always be big and fruity. And so on and so forth.
The following cocktail was made in praise of bitterness, namely in the form of grapefruit juice. No sugar or other sweeteners, just the tart bitter joy of a half glass first thing in the morning. And while I had a half gallon in the fridge and some free time on a Sunday afternoon, it was time to use the ingredients lying around the kitchen to make a new cocktail.
Mixing two different cocktail recipes together is generally a bad idea. A Michelada Margarita is a recipe for disaster. A Rob Roy Wine Spritzer would... I don't even want to contemplate the flavor. But I put a few things together in my head with this one, and was very happy with the result.
Benito's Salty Pamplemousse Cocktail
2 oz. Gin
2 oz. Unsweetened Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
Dash of Fee Bros. Grapefruit Bitters
Start with moistening the rim of the glass with water and dip into a dish of the salt of your choice. Pink Himalayan would be an attractive and decadent choice for a trendy bar. The rest is easily mixed in the glass with ice. Combine the Gin and Juice and Bitters (the name of my upcoming rap album under my stage name "Ice Tongs" featuring "The Boston Shaker"). Stir carefully with a bar spoon so as not to dislodge the salt, and top off with tonic water. Serve immediately.
This is the accidental cross between a Salty Dog (vodka + grapefruit juice) and a Gin & Tonic (er, gin + tonic water). The idea was to boost the bitterness of the former with the quinine of the tonic water and botanicals of the gin. The sugar in the tonic water would mediate things a bit, the effervescence of the tonic water would make it a little more fun, and the bitters would add that little touch to make it special, like good bitters always do. As for the salt, if you've never had salted fresh grapefruit it's one of the greatest things in the world. I detest salt on margaritas but here it's divine.
The flavors all work quite well together, and I am sure that the ratios could be tweaked a bit to perfect it. But I found one to be just right on this bright, sunny, warm day during this preternatural winter we're experiencing. As always, if you try one of my original concoctions, please let me know what you think in the comments or by e-mail.