It’s grapefruit and vodka’s season. But add some mint if you want the magic

By Ari LeVaux

Few methods of coping with winter are superior to sipping a grapefruit martini. Composed of grapefruit, mint, vodka and sugar, it isn’t your typical martini. In fact, by most martini standards, this drink would be disqualified on multiple counts.

I didn’t create or name it, but I am enthused by it. The combination packs a bright pizzazz that’s in short supply these days; if flavors were colors, this would be neon. The grapefruit’s bitterness softens the vodka flavor, while the mint sprinkles the experience with a diverse bouquet of aromatic components, adding a feeling of lightness. Some of the minty aromas and flavors combine with those of the grapefruit and vodka, creating altogether new ones.

In different ways, grapefruit and vodka are both in season in wintertime: grapefruit because it’s ripe and fresh, vodka because it is a known remedy for the winter blues. The other key ingredient is mint, which can be a wildcard in winter. Fresh is preferable, but dried will do, providing it’s dried on the stem with leaves intact.

I learned of the grapefruit martini at a local farm where I play hockey. There, the drink is as holy as hockey itself in the pantheon of winter delights. But alas, the vodka martini has also become a source of tension on the farm, thanks to that elusive mint.

The farm had a stash of properly dried mint, demand for which spiked with the rise in popularity of the grapefruit martini, pitting the martini drinkers against the tea drinkers. One enterprising farmhand tackled the shortage by purchasing several living mint plants from the supermarket—in the produce section, they come with their attached roots immersed in a plug of soil—and potting them on a window sill. But the harvesting pressure on those freshly potted sprigs was too much. Leaves were picked as soon as they appeared, leaving a denuded miniature forest of skinny green trunks.

On the Caribbean coast of Colombia, mint is called hierbabuena, which translates into “good herb.” The name is a nod to its many culinary and medicinal uses, which include antiseptic and antibiotic properties, as well as being generally good for the tummy.

On a visit there recently, I sipped a local drink called limonada de hierbabuena—or mint lemonade—and was hit with a spray of deja vu that took me back to my refreshing grapefruit martinis I drink at home.

Like the grapefruit martini, mint lemonade is citrus-based, with mint dominating the flavor. It’s a powerful combination.

In Columbia, lemonade (limonada) is used as a base for an entire category of cold drinks, including limonadas made with mango, passion fruit, pineapple and other fruits, as well as coconut milk. I bought a bottle of vodka and began playing around with blended versions of the grapefruit martini, Colombian-style.

Consider the Colombian version to be an extreme variation of a shaken martini, one that’s vigorously shaken and chopped with whirling blades.

The blended version is mintier than the classic Lifeline Farm Grapefruit Martini, which is shaken or stirred, because the blender atomizes the herb, releasing more mint aroma and flavor. Thus, it requires less mint than the classic version. (Back on the farm, this could be a game-changer.)

I have a hunch that my blended grapefruit martini will be as satisfying during a Rocky Mountain winter as it is in Columbia. Something this quenching creates its own thirst. Something this cold creates its own heat. I might have to add some vodka, though.


Blended Grapefruit Martini, a la Colombiana

Ingredients
1 red grapefruit
6 cubes ice
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, or a teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon sugar or sweetener
1 shot vodka, or to taste
1 cup of water

Process
Juice the grapefruit. If you don’t have a citrus juicer, cut the grapefruit in half, from the flower nub to belly button, and cut those halves into 6 sections each, for a total of 12 wedges.
Add the ice to a blender, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Taste, adjust with vodka, sugar and water as necessary. Strain out the mint particles.


Classic Lifeline Farm Grapefruit Martini

Ingredients
1 red grapefruit
6 cubes ice
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, or a tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon sugar or sweetener
1 shot vodka, or to taste
Splash of water or bubbly water

Process
Juice the grapefruit, as above. If juicing by hand, save the squeezed-out sections.
Muddle the mint, sugar, vodka and grapefruit juice together. Add the ice, bubbly, and, if you don’t mind a little more bitter, some leftover grapefruit wedges. Stir.