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Spirits

Resolved: Grapefruit Is In

The Italian Greyhound, elegant with flavors of citrus and herbs.
The Italian Greyhound, elegant with flavors of citrus and herbs. (By Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)
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By Jason Wilson
Wednesday, December 26, 2007; Page F05

It is an immutable law of lifestyle journalism that all articles about booze appearing in the run-up to New Year's Eve must give tips on either avoiding hangovers or curing them.

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The advice is usually breathless and obvious: Drink slowly! Drink lots of water! Don't drink on an empty stomach! Take plenty of vitamins B and C! Or it is ridiculous and obscure: Reports this year call for eating slices of cactus and persimmon or undertaking ayurvedic treatments.

My feeling is, if you're so darn worried about a hangover, don't drink in the first place. As Frank Kelly Rich of Modern Drunkard Magazine states in his "86 Rules of Boozing": "Learn to appreciate hangovers. If it was all good times every jackass would be doing it."

As far as the dreaded New Year's Eve overindulgence is concerned, I've never understood why a responsible adult would end up drinking significantly more on that particular night than on any other night of the year. I generally awake on New Year's Day as fresh as a daisy.

Which is why, instead of dealing with hangovers, I would like to talk about something sunnier and more positive. Like fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, my favorite new cocktail ingredient for 2008. This, of course, means I'm transitioning to that other reliable workhorse of New Year's lifestyle journalism, the Hot Trend Forecast.

I would like to amend a prediction I made a few months ago that elderflower would be the hot flavor of 2008. Not quite accurate. In my recent travels, I've been noticing a lot of grapefruit cocktails. It seemed to start when Finlandia launched its grapefruit-flavored vodka several months ago. As skeptical as I am about new flavored vodkas, even I have to admit that Finlandia grapefruit is a very tasty spirit. The January issue of Food & Wine hypes a grapefruit-and-tequila-based drink called Punto Pomelo ("Point of Grapefruit") as a perfect pairing with spicy foods.

Now that we are nearing the height of the citrus season, it makes me glad to see grapefruit juice -- too long neglected -- perhaps making a little comeback.

I often find grapefruit juice, with its tartness and subtle underlying bitterness, to be a more complex and sophisticated mixer than orange or lemon juice. The trick is to balance it with a little sweetness or saltiness, or with an herbal infusion.

There are so many ways to experiment with grapefruit juice. Certainly the Greyhound (vodka and grapefruit juice) is a delicious old standby, as is the Salty Dog (which I prefer to make on the rocks with gin, grapefruit juice and a salted rim). And last summer I recommended the fabulous Antibes cocktail, which combines gin, Benedictine and grapefruit juice. I've also been experimenting with the Grapefruit Cocktail (gin, grapefruit juice and a dash of maraschino liqueur) and have found it to be an elegant variation on the Aviation Cocktail (the same idea, except with lemon juice).

But my absolute favorite grapefruit-based discovery is the Italian Greyhound, which I have adapted from the cocktail list at No. 9 Park in Boston. The Italian Greyhound replaces vodka with Punt e Mes, a unique Italian vermouth with an extra half-dose of bitters.

On its own, Punt e Mes tastes somewhere between a traditional sweet vermouth and Campari. Combined with grapefruit juice and a salted rim, it's a surprising, balanced drink. And Punt e Mes is 32 proof, meaning this low-octane cocktail is only slightly more alcoholic than a glass of wine.

Which, if we were actually talking about hangover helpers, would make the Italian Greyhound, with its herbs and citrus, a lovely morning-after drink. I might even call it a fine "hair of the dog," if I happened to be the sort of columnist who is into corny puns as well as breathless, obvious advice. Which I am not. Happy new year.

Jason Wilson's Spirits column appears every other week. He can be reached athttp://food@washpost.com.


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