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Grapefruit At The Bar Bittersweet, refreshing, and assertive

California Pizza Kitchen makes grapefruit vodka the star in its Socialite Cosmo, which also features orange blossom liqueur, cranberry and agave sour, topped with bubbles.

Craft cocktails often call on juices for support, turning to them for their bright flavors and premium freshness cues. Grapefruit’s bittersweet notes make it a go-to for mixologists today, looking for assertive, yet balanced flavors at the bar. The Paloma, that tequila-based drink with grapefruit soda, has also highlighted the refreshing side of grapefruit. Modern iterations replace the classic soda with fresh grapefruit juice and sparkling water. Interestingly, elderflower seems to be staking a claim as a good flavor pairing with grapefruit, perhaps because of its long, sweet finish.

  • Salty GF Shandy: Gose-style beer, gin, fresh grapefruit juice, elderberry liqueur and lemon
    —CBD Provisions, Dallas
  • Fox’s Wedding: Shirakabe Gura sake, Hangar 1 Citron vodka, cranberry, grapefruit
    —Top Knot, Dallas
  • French Blonde: Sipsmith gin, Lillet Blanc, fresh-squeezed grapefruit, St-Germain elder-flower liqueur, blistered lemon bitters—Rye KC, Leawood, Kansas
  • Take Me To Spain: Bombay Sapphire gin, ginger, Grand Poppy liqueur, lime, grapefruit, basil—Lilt Lounge, Kimpton Epic Hotel, Miami
  • Farmer #4: Hangar 1 vodka, lime, grapefruit, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, and Hophead grapefruit ice (grapefruit juice, bitters, Hophead vodka)—Urban Farmer, Philadelphia

Invigorating, refreshing, sweet-tart—all flavor cues that grapefruit offers up. Bar managers and beverage directors point to its versatility—how it can lift a drink up or play gently in the background when tempered with other flavors. From the Paloma and Greyhound to the Salty Dog and beyond, grapefruit is earning its keep at the bar.

“I love how grapefruit adds a bright punch of citrus and a touch of sweetness to any cocktail. We’ve added a grapefruit twist to the standard Cosmopolitan, in place of the more conventionally used lime juice. Our Socialite Cosmo is made with high-quality, naturally flavored Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka, which uses real grapefruit from Austin, Texas.”

Ashley Ceraolo
Senior VP of Marketing & Beverage
California Pizza Kitchen
multiple locations

“A simple way we’ve been able to show grapefruit off is with one of our winter sherry cobbler recipes: fresh grapefruit paired with Giffard’s grapefruit liqueur. Just enough sweetness to balance the dry sherry, with a big grapefruit oil aroma mingled with a hint of mint when you bring the drink near your nose.”

Jared Sadoian
Bar Manager
The Hawthorne, Boston

“We’ve used grapefruit during the warmer seasons because it is such a refreshing citrus that can brighten up any cocktail. Most recently we utilized it in Jem & the Holograms, a light prosecco cocktail with a touch of rose and elderflower liqueurs. Grapefruit also goes well with spicier flavors—our Buster’s Juice was a spin on the classic Paloma cocktail. We used fresh grapefruit juice and pierced Thai chiles to spice up the tequila.”

Kat Gordon
Bar Manager
Crave Fishbar, New York

“I enjoy using grapefruit in a shrub because it allows the brightness and flavor to come through and cuts down on the typical tartness of the grapefruit. The sugar and the acid in the shrub from the apple cider vinegar lift the grapefruit flavor. We make a grapefruit shrub for our Bit of Tongue cocktail with Aperol, absinthe and cava.”

Nic Christiansen
Beverage Director
Lola, Louisville, Ky.

“The La Sirena [with rum, grapefruit, sugar, beach plum liqueur and soda] is one of our most popular cocktails. We use fresh grapefruit juice, which adds a depth of flavor and a bright, invigorating citrusy bite. I add a pinch of salt to round out the slight bitterness and bring out all the flavors.”

Ashish Mitra
Bar Manager
The Hourly oyster House, Cambridge, Mass.

I love using grapefruit because it’s probably the one thing that plays well with any spirit from gin to vodka to Scotch. It has the acidity to keep drinks balanced, but also has a sweetness that lemon and lime don’t have, and a much softer flavor profile in cocktails. Besides using fresh juice and pamplemousse liqueur, we also take our oxidized grapefruit juice and make a house cordial using honey, vinegar and vermouth.”

Bill Brooks
Beverage Director
The Cannibal Liquor House, New York


About The Author


Amanda M. Westbrooks, Flavor & The Menu’s Digital Content Manager, knows her way around all things tech, enjoys working on farms, cleans her own fish, and sometimes wins writing awards.