Grapefruit juice is a relatively common ingredient in cocktails, with the primary drink being the Greyhound. Unlike a Screwdriver, the Greyhound isn't nearly as sweet and even has a pleasant bitterness that is imparted by the grapefruit juice. There are people who do not enjoy the bitterness of grapefruit juice, so those people tend to avoid the whole category of drinks using grapefruits, but all is not lost. There are things you can do to reduce the bitter flavour, such as adding salt. If you do this to a Greyhound, it becomes the Salty Dog.
So what is the point of a salt rim on this drink? Well, salt actually reduces the perceived bitterness of the grapefruit juice, which seems to make it more tolerable to some people. The “salting” of a drink is also done by some people who don’t like the bitterness of beer.
As to how this technique came about, I’m not sure, but it does work. When I was young I couldn’t stand grapefruit juice, unless it was drenched in sugar. But as I aged, the flavour became more appealing, especially when you add gin! Most people make them with vodka, but to really make this drink taste good, use gin. I use Plymouth gin. As for the salt, I’m don’t use a lot of salt in my daily life, so I tend not to use it in cocktails. But, understanding how salt can make a drink less bitter is a great way to help people through their bitter phobia.
At Tales of the Cocktail 2008, part of my session will be dealing with the combination of the primary flavours and how each influences the others, including salts effect on bitterness. I’ll have more info on that shortly, but start planning your mid-July trip now.
1½ oz Gin (or Vodka)
3 oz Grapefruit Juice
Instructions: Rim a highball glass with salt and pack the glass with ice. Add gin and grapefruit juice. Garnish with a cherry.
This is a simple drink like the Screwdriver, but if you use gin it will make it a little more complex. The salt ads a pleasant flavour not found in most cocktails and you could probably drink a lot of these because the sugar content is exceptionally low compared to the vast majority of sugar laden cocktails. Best enjoyed on a hot summer day.