Here's another one of those classic cocktails that's not super popular, but never really went away. Why? Because it's really weird. Rye, grapefruit and grenadine sound reasonable enough, but in wacky proportions it might be hard to decipher what this drink is about. On the surface it's just another cocktail from another old book of cocktails that delivers all the oddness we find through a 21st century lens, but unlike alot of those old recipes, this old recipe, believe it or not, works as described.
First appearing in 1934, as far as we know, in Patrick Gavin Duffy's "The Official Mixer’s Manual," the Blinker doesn't really stand out. Sure, it hung around, appeared in other books, but that doesn't mean it's anything special. Those old books are mentioned and revered not for what they are, but as we want them to be in an age of media saturation and attribution for even minor accomplishments laid at the feet of every celebrity chef, and now bartender, desperately laying claim to things that just exist. The recipe for Beef Wellington existed long before Gordon Ramsey decided it was his, and now try to find a recipe that isn't Gordon Ramsey's Beef Wellington. The same goes for Alton Brown's Daiquiri. It's a Daiquiri. You can't sign your name to it, yet we all do.
That's not what old cocktail books are. Those old drink manuals are like old recipe books, the ones full of all the dishes every grandmother and line cook can make because they're more like tribal knowledge. Same goes for cocktail recipes, collected in books by writers, bartenders, people of fame, and enthusiasts, but just because they are in a book doesn't mean they are the creations of the books author, even if some of them may be. It was a time when the publication was about recipes, and maybe they are original and maybe they're not, but, in the end, it doesn't matter. It's really about what's in the glass, not the first person who decided to put it there.
The Blinker is one of those drinks. Sometimes they evolve. Did Duffy invent it? Who cares. It's just an intriguing non-standard formula that, on the surface, looks like any other sour. Fair enough, but we can subsequently trace the evolution of the Blinker across the years and notice how the recipe becomes, on paper at least, more standard. Hang that one on Ted Haigh, Mr. Cocktail himself who included the Blinker in his 2006 book of classic and forgotten mixes, but with raspberry syrup instead of grenadine, and standard sour proportions. In other words, Haigh's Blinker is more 2-1-1 standard sour than the old recipe, but it doesn't work. Even though it looks like it, the Blinker isn't a sour.
Robert Simonson writes of the Blinker, "its true identity is as a sort of proto-Greyhound highball." This works. The Blinker features grapefruit juice, and while there are drinks such as the Brown Derby that have more reasonable proportions of grapefruit juice, they never really work without some help. Grapefruit doesn't have enough acid, and when used in small measures it's often with more acidic juices, such as lime in a Hemingway Daiquiri. On its own, you need alot of grapefruit juice to get enough acid to balance a drink.
The Blinker works because it uses alot of grapefruit juice. Haigh's version is better with some lime added to bring the acid up, but we'll stick with the original because grapefruit juice is just that tasty. The downside is that, unlike lemons and limes which will vary a bit from one to the next in terms of sweetness etc., grapefruits are all over the place when it comes to sweetness and acidity, and grapefruits are naturally bitter. Lemons and limes may be tart, but they're not really bitter. Grapefruit isn't at all tart, but it sure is bitter. This works to our advantage, especially with the tart sweet of grenadine, but watch the sweetness. Taste your juice and adjust your sweetener accordingly.
The sweetener in this case is grenadine. Simonson asserts, with our approval, that homemade grenadine is preferred, and there are a number of recipes out there if you feel so inclined, however, you don't have to. A quality grenadine will serve perfectly well, as will raspberry syrup, but the latter will give you a different drink entirely. Raspberry and grenadine are often used interchangeably in cocktails, but one is always preferred. A Clover Club can be made with grenadine, but lacks the delicate brightness of fresh raspberry syrup. The same holds true with the Blinker. Grenadine works better because it has a tartness that grapefruit and raspberry don't have, so we stick with the OG and use RAFT Grenadine, a local Portland product and the best grenadine apart from house made.
In the end, logic is your enemy. Turn your brain off, and pour the drink as it was done in the 1930s, with lots of grapefruit and lots of grenadine and an overproof, assertive rye such as James Oliver. There's alot of juice in there, and a timid whiskey just sort of wouldn't make it, and since this is a whiskey cocktail, we'd like it to take center stage, please. Even if it takes alot of juice to do it.
Shake with ice and serve up. No garnish.
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