Tart With a Heart

The fresh-squeezed grapefruit cocktail is a rare treat.

By Mara Zepeda
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted May. 16, 2007

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Can the can: Processed juice is no match for the real thing.

In 2003 the Citrus Growers of America devoted $3 million to making grapefruit sexy.

They adopted the motto "Sass in a Glass," and enlisted celebrity mixologist Dale DeGroff, author of The Craft of the Cocktail, to develop drinks and add to the limited repertoire of classic grapefruit cocktails like the Greyhound (vodka or gin with grapefruit juice) and the Salty Dog (a Greyhound with a salted rim).

Bur four years later Philadelphia remains strangely resistant to grapefruit's charms. Here's a rundown on Philly's limited grapefruit cocktail offerings:

World Cafe Live expunged the Ultimate Greyhound from its cocktail menu. Nonetheless, on a recent visit I ordered the drink of yore. "It's really grapefruity," the bartender warned, shaking a small can of jaundiced-looking juice made from concentrate. Turns out "grapefruity" means "battery acidy." Thumbs up to whoever removed it from the menu.

Jones reimagines the mimosa as a drink called the Morning Glory (Ocean Spray juice, Absolut Grapefruit and champagne). Served tepid in a tulip glass, it's uninspiring with a disarmingly bitter, wasabi-like aftertaste.

Estia serves up the Hera, which--although mixed with store-bought juice--is a refreshing, woodsy combination of Plymouth gin, port and a rosemary sprig over ice.

At Southwark--that trusted bastion for fresh juice--grapefruit, alas, is the only citrus they don't squeeze. It's apparently not worth the effort for the only occasionally requested Hemingway Daiquiri or Seabreeze.

Yet grapefruit is as deserving a candidate as its more popular tangy counterparts: pomegranate and cranberry. It's a sad fact of manufacturing that the fruit's complexity can't be captured in a cardboard box. Commercial grapefruit juice bears almost no resemblance to what can be garnered from a ripe ruby red with a $5.99 juicer. The former is opaque, syrupy, saccharine, laden with preservatives and--when lukewarm--gag-inducing. The latter is translucent, complex and an unusual balance of sweet and bitter that--when served cold--is perfect for lawn parties and summery punch.

DeGroff likens the fresh juice movement (snail-paced here in Philadelphia) to the sea change that's taken place in the food industry: "People are about real, and they want real ingredients in their drinks too." It's a shame you can count the number of Philly bars serving "real" on one hand.

So, home bartenders, ready your juicers and an arsenal of sweeteners--diluted honey, simple syrup and agave nectar--to counterbalance the grapefruit's tartness.

There's a shining light at the end of the dark juice concentrate tunnel: Swann Lounge at the Four Seasons has added a Spring Fling to its menu. Here Grey Goose L'Orange is a citrusy counterpart to fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Sour mix offsets the bitterness, and the Sprite finish adds the perfect amount of sweet and fizz. It's garnished with a wedge of fresh grapefruit. Served over ice, the drink thins out and the flavors meld.

Complementary savory snacks, a gilded ambience and model bartenders make the drink's $11.25 price tag an absolute bargain. Then again, grapefruit are five for a dollar at the Italian Market. Sass in a glass either way.

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