The Grapefruit Martini
Updated: May 1, 2019
The Grapefruit Martini could very well be my favorite all-around cocktail because of its perfect balance, its lighthearted charm, and its sunny disposition. Nothing quite says the work day is over and its time to shift gears like this blonde beauty.
I cannot emphasize enough how every single ingredient matters here. For many cocktails, a variety of versions of a given spirit or other ingredient works fine but not here, at least not to tease out the perfection of which this drink is capable.
Starting with the gin, use Hendrick’s and nothing else. Being a believer in exhaustive experimentation, I have tried mixing this up with a number of different gins and none does the trick like Hendrick’s because of its ability to integrate perfectly with elderflower and grapefruit. Speaking of elderflower, I also once made the mistake of using a less expensive elderflower liqueur and the resulting potion was virtually undrinkable. In other words, it’s St. Germain or nothing.
I understand that pink grapefruit is far easier to come by than white grapefruit but if you can find it, by all means go with the white. Try both and you will see what I mean. It’s not that pink grapefruit is unacceptable or that you should forgo the drink if you cannot find the white, but the difference is palpable. What you must never, ever do is substitute any form of canned or carton grapefruit juice for fresh squeezed, because this actually is a deal-breaker.
Finally, never skip the lime zest garnish on the surface of the drink because it wakes up the senses perfectly even before bringing the drink to your lips. I first tasted a version of the grapefruit martini at Nobu restaurant in Tribeca. I went back to Nobu after making the drink for a year, never satisfied that I had mastered it. It turns out the lime zest was missing, and made all the difference.
Below I will approximate the relative portions of the ingredients, but the truth is I never make this cocktail exactly the same twice and it’s one of those drinks that does not require measuring. It all depends what you want to emphasize. I do have my standard eyeball proportions but I will deviate as the mood hits me. Once you have the ingredients right, this is a winner.
- 3 parts fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (white if possible)
- 3 parts Hendrick’s gin
- 1 part St Germain elderflower liqueur
- shaved lime zest
Fill a large shaker three quarters full with ice. Pour in the juice of either a half or a whole grapefruit, depending on how fruity you would like it (these days, I prefer the whole grapefruit). Pour in Hendrick’s gin until the shaker is four-fifths full. Fill what is left nearly to the rim with St. Germain. Shake aggressively until the mixture is ice cold. Pour into martini glasses or coupes. Zest a lime generously over the poured cocktail and leave it floating on the surface.