This refresher is a crisp palate cleanser for January: citrusy, aromatic, gently fizzy, pleasantly bitter and lightly sweet. A drab time of year for most fruit, winter is the time to drink in citrus in its juicy prime.
As much as I love the uncomplicated sweetness of oranges and tangerines, the intriguing edge of grapefruit – like bittersweet rinds in marmalade or sea salt in a buttery caramel – hooks me every time.
I first had this drink at a Japanese fusion restaurant, GocHi, last summer. I was charmed at being served the cocktail along with a freshly-cut half grapefruit and a porcelain juicer. I don’t normally want to work when I go out to eat – I like my salad dressed and tossed, and I don’t want to cook my own Korean BBQ meat – but I enjoyed squeezing every bit of juice from the grapefruit, fragrant oil from the rind scenting my hands and the air. When I poured it into the tall glass of sparkly tonic and shochu, the pink juice lifted the drink just up to the rim.
Shochu, more popular in Japan than sake, has been gaining popularity in the United States in recent years as a light alternative to vodka. A distilled spirit with a smooth taste, shochu is made most commonly from barley but also can be made from rice, sweet potatoes, or brown sugar. At around 25% alcohol vs 40% for vodka, shochu has only 1/3 of the calories.
Oddly enough, grapefruit can increase your body’s absorption of certain pharmaceuticals, including statins, so if you are on medication, consult your doctor before ingesting any grapefruit (or its daddy fruit, pomelo).
But grapefruit is also loaded with vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, and its beneficial effect on weight loss and insulin resistance spurred a grapefruit-diet craze a few years ago.
But I can’t get into study-driven eating. I just love the taste of grapefruit, and there’s something cleansing to me in the bitter edge that balances the sweetness.
This is an unfussy drink. Start with a tall glass of ice, spash in a shot of shochu or vodka, then add tonic water.
Did you know that quinine, the bitter element in tonic water, has fever reducing and muscle relaxant properties, and was used as a treatment for malaria from Roman times? Quinine also fluoresces, so if you put tonic water under UV light, it glows. (Remind me to bring some tonic water next time I’m at a bowling alley or skating rink.)
You could also start with shochu and juice, then top off with tonic. Or just enjoy a juice and tonic.
Children have twice the taste sensors of adults, so they are more sensitive to sharp flavors. Any other fizzy juice would pique the interest of my kids, but the double dose of bitter keeps this drink safe for adults, even in unspiked form.
Fresh Grapefruit Tonic
To emphasize its freshness, this refreshing cocktail is served at GocHi Fusion Tapas with half a pink grapefruit and a citrus squeezer for you to finish the drink yourself. Made with a clean distilled Japanese spirit called shochu, similar to vodka but lighter in alcohol and calories.
- 1.5 ounces (3 tablespoons) shochu or vodka
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 grapefruit (about 1/2 cup)
- Tonic water
- Fill a highball (12-ounce) glass with ice. Add shochu/vodka, grapefruit juice, and tonic water to fill. Or skip the alcohol for a juice-and-tonic refresher.
- Iichiko is a popular and well-regarded shochu brand.
- In California and New York, shochu is sometimes labeled soju (a distilled Korean beverage) because of less restrictive regulations for soju that allow it to be sold under a beer and wine license.
Here’s the link to a printable version.