I know it’s still very much winter out there, but I couldn’t wait to share this super easy, super summery pitcher cocktail with you all.
Now that I think about it, I guess I posted another citrusy cocktail recipe pretty recently didn’t I?
I think maybe this whole kitchen project has been driving me to drink! Thankfully I’m finally able to just sit back and enjoy the benefits of all my hard work! I guess this long, cold, wet, windy, snowy, awful winter hasn’t been helping either, and might be just as much to blame for driving me to drink too.
I always crave citrus in the winter, especially near the end. Citrus fruit is so bright and sunny and fresh that I can’t resist it when everything else is so dull and dreary and dead. Not only does this cocktail have citrus in spades, but it also has a really fresh summery feeling that I think most of us could really use plenty of right about now.
I first came up with this recipe for our wedding back in 2013. We were married outdoors on the first of June in a big white tent overlooking the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. We were serving two signature cocktails in big drink dispensers at the bar and, while our caterer was providing the bartenders, we were in charge of supplying the booze and all the fixins. I wanted the cocktails to be so simple that all I’d need to do is give the bartenders the ingredients and a spoon, and just tell them what quantities to mix together.
In the name of trying to please everyone (or mostly everyone) we served one signature cocktail with whiskey, and another with vodka for our friends and family who aren’t as crazy for the brown liquor as we are. The first was a bourbon spiked Arnold Palmer and the other was one of my favorite summery vodka drinks, a vibrant greyhound made with pink grapefruit juice. To really make it our own, we added some vanilla to warm it up, and some rosemary for a little fresh herbal depth. In honor of Doris (this was before Betty joined our family) we called it the little grey dog.
I was expecting the Arnold Palmer to be the more popular of the two drinks because most of our friends have the same penchant for whiskey that we do, but to my surprise our vanilla greyhound was a much bigger hit. In fact, despite bringing enough ingredients with us to fill our 2 1/2 gallon drink dispensers twice, we actually ran out of it before the sun went down! I think it may have had something to do with the fact that it was unbelievably hot that day, and that this greyhound is light and refreshing and oh-so-thirst-quenching.
The other day we were having some friends over for drinks to show off our fancy new kitchen. We wanted to serve something that might help take our minds off of the frozen muck and slush outside and I thought this would be the perfect thing for it. It’s easy to mix up in advance so you’re not stuck tending bar all night, and it’s so light and bright that you can drink a few without feeling like you’ve had a few too many!
The grapefruit juice really shines here so you want to make sure that you get a the best quality 100% pink grapefruit juice you can find. The addition of vanilla adds an unexpected homey warmth that doesn’t normally go along with grapefruit but somehow works really well. Despite the fact that grapefruit juice doesn’t taste all that sweet on it’s own, once it’s mixed with the vodka and vanilla it’s somehow perfectly (and surprisingly) sweet enough and doesn’t want for any additional sugar. For that reason, I’d advise against using vanilla flavored vodka for this, which tends to have artificial sweeteners already added.
Right at the end the whole thing gets just a hit of effervescent soda water to keep it feeling light and bright. If you’re only serving a few drinks at a time I think it’s best to leave the soda water out of the pitcher and just top off each drink as they’re served, but if you want to make this in a big ol’ drink dispenser, just mix it all right in. With volume in mind by the way, this recipe is easily doubled (or quadrupled in the case of our wedding).
If you have time, I think the rosemary comes through a little better if you let it infuse with the vodka and grapefruit juice overnight. If you have lots of time (and love rosemary) you could even let it infuse in straight vodka for a couple days to really extract it’s flavor. Really though, the rosemary isn’t meant to be the star of the show here and you don’t want to overdo it, so adding to the drink just before serving is totally delicious too.
Drink up y’all!
Vanilla Greyhound Pitcher Cocktail
3 1/2 cups pink grapefruit juice
2 tbsp vanilla extract
4 to 5 rosemary sprigs
1 cup soda water
Mix vodka, grapefruit juice and vanilla in a large pitcher and stir well. If you have time, I think the cocktail benefits from letting the rosemary infuse overnight. If serving immediately, you can add the rosemary to the pitcher or use a single sprig as garnish in each glass. Just before serving you can either stir the soda water into the pitcher, or you can top off each glass with about 2 oz of soda as the cocktails are poured. In a drink dispenser or punch bowl it’s best to just stir the soda in, but if you don’t want the soda to go flat over time, it’s better to top off each glass as they’re served.
Either way top off each glass with plenty of ice.