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How To Make a Salty Dog, a Classic Gin Cocktail

Grapefruit salty dog cocktail with ice in glass on gray stone background

The greyhound’s briny cousin, the Salty Dog is a classic gin cocktail you should have in your repertoire. It’s a drink estimated to be about a century old, born during the cocktail boom of pre-Prohibition America.

The Salty Dog originated as a gin drink but is often made with vodka today. The drink’s calling card is the salted rim, a powdery halo that affords a nice look as well as a nice counter to the tartness of the grapefruit juice. This trademark touch is arguably the most complicated part of the relatively simple mixed drink.

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When it comes to properly rimming a glass, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, don’t use standard table salt. Instead, go for flaked salt. The flavor will be better and you’ll get more purchase in terms of salt adhering to the glass.

The Cocktail Codex offers some great insights on rimming. “In most cases, we use a citrus wedge to wet the rim of the glass, preferable the same citrus used in the drink,” it says. Wet the outside of the glass and roll the glass in the salt. Make sure the salt is spread evenly on a flat plate (or something level) to get an even application. “Then, after rimming the glass, we hold it upside down and tap it lightly to shake off any excess granules,” the book suggests.

As the book suggests, you can up your rimming ingredients, too. Standard salt is typical for this recipe, but play around with other options, like salt and fennel pollen, salt and celery seed, or pink Himalayan salt.

salty dog cocktail grapefruit
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Beyond that, the drink is about as simple as they come. Focus on the best options among the remaining ingredients. For grapefruit, purchase fresh and squeeze your own juice, if possible. Look out for heavy, aromatic grapefruit at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. These qualities tend to reveal not only ripeness but a high juice content.

You can go with vodka, but we believe gin to be a bit more dynamic here, the botanical notes playing off both the salt and the citrus. What gin to select? There are countless options, but we really like a standard-bearer like Tanqueray. If you prefer a touch of sweetness, opt for something like Barr Hill, made with wild honey in Vermont.

Some recipes call for shaking the contents of such a drink but why exert the energy when it’s not necessary. A simple stir more than does the job here, so put the tin away and reach for your best bar spoon. Because fresh grapefruit juice will likely have some pulp, you may want to strain, but that’s entirely up to you. In the end, you’ll be greeted with a salmon-hued wonder that’s at once, salty, sour, and scintillating.

Classic Salty Dog

  • 2 ounces gin (we suggest Tanqueray or The Botanist)
  • 3 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
  • ice cubes
  • coarse kosher salt

Method: Pour coarse salt onto small plate. Moisten rim of a highball glass. Gently dip rim into salt to coat lightly. Fill glass with ice cubes. Pour gin over ice, add grapefruit juice and stir. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Read more: Easy Cocktail Recipes

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