Friday, March 30, 2012

Cocktail of the Week: The Blinker

Me: I’m in the mood for grenadine.

Rosemarie: Don’t forget there’s a grapefruit in there.

Thus is inspiration born in Chez K.

Note that we never seriously considered the notion of grapefruit qua grapefruit. For the longest time I wasn’t a fan of them. Too many grim childhood memories; we only had them on hand when someone in the family was dieting, so I associate their tangy flavor with heartache and cartons of spoiled cottage cheese. When forced to eat one I would enjoy it Homer Simpson style. (Clip not available.) In recent years I’ve mellowed toward them, thinking of their taste not so much as sour but piquant.

Still, we bought this grapefruit primarily to work it into a cocktail. Trouble is, there aren’t that many drinks to choose from. The first that comes to mind is the Greyhound, which wouldn’t work because a) it’s made with vodka, and b) the mere mention of the name makes me think of Artie (Rip Torn) from The Larry Sanders Show, who prepared them with so much salt that the olive floated on the top. I do like the Brown Derby, with bourbon and honey, only I didn’t have any honey syrup. And, as mentioned, I had a hankering for grenadine.

I paged through The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan, which in only a few short months has become indispensable, and struck pay dirt with the Blinker, first cited in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s 1934 bartending manual. The cocktail requires rye, grapefruit juice, simple syrup and “1 barspoon of Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves.” Which I didn’t have, either. And I had the feeling that my Trader Joe’s raspberry preserves – now with more seeds! – wouldn’t make a suitable substitution. (I have seen alternate recipes suggesting raspberry syrup.) Grenadine it would be.

The resulting cocktail was a treat, the sprightly note of pomegranate balancing the grapefruit’s tartness. Keenan, I thought, you’ve done it again, putting your own unique spin on a vintage favorite. I started thinking up names. The Slow Left Turn, maybe.

Then I opened David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. I yield to no one in my admiration for Mr. Embury’s wisdom. He also included the Blinker in his seminal 1948 book. His recipe called not for raspberry preserves, but grenadine. Far from concocting anything new, I’d reinvented the wheel. Herewith, the extent of Embury’s comments:

One of the few cocktails using grapefruit juice. Not particularly good but not too bad.

Notably missing from Embury’s take, though, is simple syrup or any sweetener, which seems essential. Something’s got to play peacemaker, standing up to the sharpness of the grapefruit and getting all sides talking. I intend to try this drink with the raspberry preserves. But this version, threading the needle between Meehan and Embury, works just fine for me.

The Blinker (modified original)

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. grapefruit juice
¼ oz. simple syrup
1 barspoon grenadine

Shake. Strain. No garnish.