Before slinging mai tais at Austin’s newest hit bar Tiki Tatsu-Ya, Cory Starr worked at Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki bar in Chicago. While he was there, the bartender recalls a colleague who drove a truck down to Florida every December in pursuit of seasonal riches to stock the bar.
“[He] picked the cream of the crop citrus-wise; small crop varieties of oranges, mandarins, lemons, and, quite possibly my favorite citrus, the grapefruit,” Starr says.
But it’s not just the Sunshine State that’s known for its citrus. Texas grapefruits are some of the best on the planet, championed for their deep red interiors and begging to be plucked from their trees as cooler temperatures descend on the state.
“I have many memories with grapefruits,” says Starr. “My grandmother sprinkled sugar over a Texas Ruby Red grapefruit and ate with the cute grapefruit-specific spoons. And when I lived in Hawaii, the Kohala grapefruit season basically ruled my whole menu and I hand-squeezed grapefruit juice to order for seasonal tiki-style drinks. One of my favorite dive bars in the country squeezes grapefruits to order behind the bar, for one of my favorite drinks, the Salty Dog.”
Even though the cocktail calls for vodka or gin, Starr explains that you can easily swap in your favorite agave spirit (tequila, mezcal, sotol), or even an overproof Jamaican rum. “I think the real star of this drink is the grapefruit juice,” he says. “The one variation on this cocktail is changing out the salt. I’m using yukari, which is a tangy rice seasoning made with powdered purple shiso leaves and sea salt. Alternatively, you could use whatever salt you like, such as a spicy salt or a smoky Hawaiian sea salt.”
The Salty Dog
2 ounces vodka of your choice
4 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
Yukari (or any salt variation) for the rim
Shiso leaf for garnish
Rim a Collins glass with yukari. Fill the glass with cubed ice. Add vodka and juice, and give it a quick stir to incorporate. Finish with a shiso leaf on top.