Back when Matt and I lived in Brooklyn (a.k.a. before we moved to Beacon, went insane and thought it would be wise for two freelancers to try and buy a house), we occasionally went to a lovely little restaurant called Buttermilk Channel. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because they inspired our Spiced Pickled Grapes recipe (and I talk about the place constantly to anyone who will listen). It’s not a “fancy” restaurant, but everything is prepared with care and with an eye towards seasonality, including their cocktails. It was through their inventive menu that I began to expand my cocktail palate beyond gin and tonics and margaritas (though I still love both, of course. I’m not a monster).
For me, cocktail perfection is all about balance. I like a little sweetness, but not so much that I feel like I’m sipping dessert. (Matt, an unapologetic prom-drinker, doesn’t always agree with me on that). [Camera swish pans around to reveal Matt drinking Baileys straight from the bottle, a milky dribble glistening on his chin. “You knew what I was when you married me”, he says quietly.]
I want to taste a little kick of alcohol but I don’t want to shake my head a like a teenager chugging Southern Comfort out of a paper bag after every sip.
After extensive (ahem…) research, I have come to believe that fresh grapefruit juice is the best mixer of all time.
The French Blonde uses the delicious sweet/tart balance of the grapefruit juice to round out the flavors of White Lillet and dry gin. A delicate splash of Elderflower Liqueur and lemon bitters give it depth. Result, cocktail perfection. (I call mine a French Red Head because I used a pink grapefruit).
One tiny word of warning (or encouragement, your choice). This drink is deceptive. When you fist take a sip, you think “Oh my, that’s delicious. And not strong at all! Why don’t I just go ahead and have a few.” Then before you know it, you’re leaning against the UPS delivery guy, lecturing him on why The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best films of all time and Steven Spielberg is a manipulative hack. Not that I have personal experience with this but it could theoretically happen.
- One can usually get about 4 oz. of juice from a grapefruit so 1 grapefruit = 2 drinks.
- If you don’t want to juice your own grapefruits, buy a good quality juice. Don’t use concentrate.
- If you like a little sparkle in your life (or just want a slightly weaker drink), splash a little club soda on top.
- If you like a little sparkle in your life (or just want a slightly stronger drink), splash a little Champagne on top.
The French Blonde (or Red Head)
- ½ oz. elderflower liqueur like St. Germain
- 1 oz. dry gin recommended; Hendricks
- 2 oz. White Lillet
- 2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice pink or regular
- A few dashes lemon bitters
- Vigorously shake together all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass.
- Garnish with a small piece of grapefruit rind.