Great cocktails can come from grapefruit juice. Consider the Hemingway Daiquiri (aka, Papa Dobles) — rum, lime juice, maraschino liqueur and, for a nice twist of character, grapefruit. Or the Comet — an obscure mixture of cognac, grapefruit juice and Van der Hum liqueur, brought to light a while back by David Wondrich. And don’t even get me started on the use of grapefruit juice in some of the better tiki drinks.
Too bad I hate it. Let me amend that — I hate it, and I always have. To my tastes, grapefruit was always the orange’s evil cousin, bitter while the orange was sweet, caustic while the orange was sparkly. My childhood memory of grapefruit juice is of having it served in my first-grade classroom during cold-and-flu season. I’d shudder over it, then choke it down with my nose pinched closed, barely containing my disgust (and my breakfast). In college, someone told me it paired well with cigarettes, which I was fond of back then, so I tried them together for a while until I realized that, hey — this is grapefruit juice. Other than that I’ve treated the stuff with a loathing I typically reserve for pedophiles and certain politicians.
But as part of the great modern alchemy that is mixology, certain bartenders have found ways to take this ingredient and make it palatable even to certifiable grapefruitaphobes such as me. One of the results of their endeavors is the Blinker, a classic that goes back at least to the 1930s. Originally composed of rye whiskey, grapefruit juice and grenadine, the Blinker uses rye’s funky assertiveness and grenadine’s sweet fruitiness to disarm the grapefruit of its malicious intent. The citrus bite remains, along with the grapefruit’s distinctive bitterness, but in a mix such as this it’s made to play its part.
Credit Ted Haigh with reviving this drink, and putting his own spin on it while tinkering with the Blinker. As he writes in Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, he was experimenting with classic substitutions for grenadine, and tried this drink with raspberry syrup, then never looked back. After trying it both ways myself, I agree — the raspberry has that distinctive brightness that surpasses grenadine’s, and this works well in a drink like the Blinker.
While I was apprehensive at first, I now consider the Blinker an essential step on the road to a greater grapefruit detente.
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 1 ounce grapefruit juice
- 1-2 teaspoons raspberry syrup (Haigh recommends the thick stuff, like Smucker’s or Knott’s Berry Farm; those can be hard to find, so I use Nutrafruit, an all-natural fruit syrup from Croatia that has more “raspberry” flavor than many of the coffee syrups I’ve tried)
Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a piece of lemon peel.
there is a variation of the “blinker cocktail” called the “wildflower cocktail”
and it calls for scotch whisky instaed of rye whiskey. might be of some interest!
Funny, I just had to buy raspberry syrup for the Angel’s Wings cocktail. Went with Monin, though, as the Smuckers syrup had HFCS, and I didn’t find any of the European brands conveniently. I know I’ve seen the d’Arbo raspberry syrup around from time to time, and I’m sure it is a step above the Monin.
Which rye did you use?
Interestingly, the first few times I attempted this cocktail I tried it with Rittenhouse bonded — my default mixing rye. It was not very good. Later I tried again with Old Overholt and the light went on.
Jim Meehan of Gramercy Tavern and Pegu Club once made us a Blinker using muddled fresh raspberries and simple in place of the raspberry syrup (seeds double-strained out en route to the glass). Tasty and interesting.
I have long shared your wrath of the nectar from the grapefruit. However, recentley I have become a big fan and introduced my palate to the delicate and bitter nature of it through its slightly cuter sister. Pink Grapefruit.
Hmmm…that’s funny, my experience is just about the opposite of slkinsey’s. My first stab at the Blinker was with Old Overholt, and I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t until I finally laid my hands on some Rittenhouse 100-proof that I had a Blinker with some gumption to it.
Next summer I’ll have to tackle the fresh raspberry version–thanks for the tip.
Also the “wildflower” version — just imagining it, I can see how the scotch might tangle pretty well with the raspberry and the grapefruit; they’re all pretty cantankerous beasts, in a way (I’m thinking of the raspberry’s physical presence, with thorns and annoying seeds and all), and they might snarl together nicely in a cocktail.
Although I know I read this post in the past, I was inspired to try the blinker as I perused A.J. Rathbun’s “Good Spirits”, where he calls for 1 : 1 : 2, grenadine : grapefruit : Bourbon. I’m quite enjoying it, and was delighted when Bryan, who hates grapefruit, declared it “kinda fun” (after which I sang “I made you drink grapefruit juice”). Now I’m eager to try it with rye, especially if I can score another bottle of Sazerac, which I was delighted to find a month ago at WA store #101 despite the website claiming WA knows nothing of the brand.
[…] uninterested in how great it tasted halved, with sugar, much less in a cocktail. When I read him Paul Clarke’s discussion of grapefruit, few sentences in his was exclaiming in agreement. “Yeah, […]
I found that High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey out of Utah makes the best Blinker on the planet. I also use the Small Hand Foods raspberry syrup and ruby red fresh grapefruit juice. Try it!
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I tried this with Old Potrero 18th Century (Rye) Whiskey, Fresh White GF Juice & House-made Grenadine (Morgenthaler specs, + hybiscus & Hangar 1 Orange Blossom for color & preservation). Indeed, a time machine in a glass. This must have been what Duffy had been imagining from the ‘Olden Days’ when he finally committed the recipe to print. I concur, it is feeble and uninspired when made with a milquetoast rye, overly sweet GF & processed grenadine. In which case, Ted’s raspberry-fine-tune does dial it in quite deliciously, but the burly OP18 changed the game back for me. What a shame it’s become too scarce to squander. For now, nothing more than a few drops of H20 gets near her.
[…] told me that Paul Clark already wrote about Blinker. He insists that Blinker is one of the cocktails resurrected by Ted […]