Riff on a Salty Dog. That’s either an entirely perfect name for this cocktail or merely a lazy moniker. After all, half the fun of a terrific cocktail is a terrific name. Fuzzy Navel, Monkey Gland, Goats Delight. You get the idea.
So when I post an original cocktail here on this blog I struggle between giving it a SEO friendly name, or being clever enough that you’d wish you were me (just so you could crack yourself up)! I mean I could have called this drink a Grapefruit Guzzler, or something as esoteric as Imperfect God. But I didn’t.
What’s in a cocktail name? There are straightforward drinks that tell you exactly what you’ll be sipping– Gin & Tonic, Rum & Coke and even 7 & 7 leave little to the imagination. There are also classic cocktails whose names might seem strange to the uninitiated, but once you’ve sat on a few bar stools then classics like Manhattan, Margarita, and Martini will be as familiar as an old barbershop. Even their “new school” variations, like Cucumber Martini, Raspberry Margarita or a Muddled Manhattan have names that pretty much sum up what’s inside the glass. But I’d argue that the listing of ingredients followed by familiar moniker is a mangling of cocktail hierarchy. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you ever had to stare down at a menu and see the words, Chocolate Vodka Mojito brazenly printed across the page.
I didn’t want to be guilty of that crime when I developed this drink. So, while it would have been easy to call it Grapefruit-Infused Gin, with Cocchi Americano and Elderflower (which is very SEO friendly and exactly what this drink is). I thought it would be best to simply call it Riff on a Salty Dog. It sounds both sophisticated and whimsical. Plus I think it adequately prepares you for what’s in the glass. That is if you understand what a riff is and are familiar with a Salty Dog.
So here’s a little history.
In the lexicon of Southern California dudes, a Salty Dog is an old surfer. If you’re a 10 year-old boy, a Salty Dog is one who plunders the open sea and screams “aye matey” whenever possible. Neither of these salty dogs are the dog to which I refer.
To me a Salty Dog is a classic cocktail of gin and grapefruit juice served in a salt-rimmed glass. I believe it’s well enough known to the drinkers among us to need very little explanation.
When I say riff, I want you to know I have never been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where I’m sure they consider the riff to be a short, repetitive pattern of notes (sometimes called a lick).
However, the riffs I lick are served up in a glass. In the cocktail world riffs, like this Riff on a Salty Dog are modern cocktails that are inspired by classics.
In that case, I guess I really should call this cocktail Riff on a Riff on a Salty Dog because I first encountered something similar served up by Gabriella Mlynarczyk, at Chef Michael Voltaggio’s Ink restaurant here in Los Angeles. Gabriella was a contributor to my Savory Cocktails book, so I follow everything she does closely. GREG
Can I make this with vodka? Of course, that would be a different cocktail, name and all. I once overdid it on gin years ago, and never came back 😉
I love gin, grapefruit, and salt so i can’t believe I’ve never so much as heard of a Salty Dog. I’ll need to try one (as well as your riff on it) asap.
Love that short glass, too. Then stem is fabulous!
The idea of a Chocolate Vodka Mojito makes me kinda queasy. 😉 And this is a lovely cocktail — and a perfect name for it. The name gets you in the ballpark, flavorwise, but also prepares you for a changeup (trying to keep my metaphors consistent here). Good drink — thanks.
Jeez, I would love to get a peek at your hooch cabinet! It must be huge! And your glassware collection, as well. This is my first time hearing of grapefruit-infused gin. Mark is a gin lover, so I know this will be right down his alley. Perfect for the salt-loving pirate surfer dude that he is…
I’ve always been a fan of the Salty Dog, mainly because I love cocktails with a little smokiness to them. And I adore any drink with grapefruit in it.
The greyhound cocktail is a favorite of mine. I just love grapefruit in cocktails. I’ve never tried a salty dog though. This riff seems craaaaazy delicious. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find Cocchi Americano in San Diego. Perhaps I’ll grab a bottle the next time I’m in LA 😉
Ironic that you mention surfer as the only time I ever had or will have a salty dog was when i came home from surfing and picked up my best friend from his job at a golf course. He took me to the 19th hole where we could get served even though we were both under age (law had recently gone from 18 to 21 and we had missed the new cutoff for being grandfathered in). Not wanting to seem out of place like two underaged people in a bar, he ordered a salty dog so I followed suit. We got a few, 2 or 3, but the girl served them in full sized solo cups. Let’s just say I ended up in the bed of my truck later that night and “painted” the side of my truck. 30 years later, I can at least see the word “salty dog” and not have my gag reflex kick in, ha ha. Sigh.…us Florida boys, eh?
I love the look of this drink. I can imagine ending my day with a glass of this in hand. Definitely going to try it.
Sign me up for one of those! Looks very refreshing. Oh but, make mine without the salt (even if it IS fancy salt!).