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.