What Makes The Classic Salty Dog Cocktail Unique?

If you love grapefruit, you'll probably appreciate a cocktail made with the sometimes pucker-inducing, but sometimes-sweet fruit. A Salty Dog is just that: a drink made with grapefruit juice and served in a glass that has a salted rim. If you leave off the salt, then you have a Greyhound, so for a true Salty Dog, the rim must be coated with salt.

While the original Salty Dog recipe calls for gin to be mixed with grapefruit and ice, the botanical alcohol is often swapped for vodka. And, of course, like all classic drinks, once you have the basic recipe to make the drink committed to memory, the platform is yours to put your own spin on the cocktail and experiment with variations that match every setting and mood. For hosting moments that find you searching for a quick, easy, and refreshing drink to pour for guests, a Salty Dog can be a colorful and appealing choice to serve.

The history behind the Salty Dog cocktail

Before there was the Salty Dog there was the Greyhound, a simple cocktail that served gin, grapefruit, and ice to drinkers as far back as the 1930s (if not further). The recipe was featured in cocktail books and began making the rounds in social circles, so in order to distinguish the saltless Greyhound from a drink that was served in a salted-rimmed glass, the Salty Dog was born.

The creation of the Salty Dog occurred around the 1950s and is often attributed to George Jessel who was looking to soften the tartness of the Greyhound's tangy grapefruit with the sprinkle of extra seasoning. It might seem counterintuitive, but when paired with bitter ingredients, salt can help reduce overpowering elements without dramatically impacting the recipe. As such, a salted rim can help round out the taste of cocktails such as the Salty Dog. If you want a bitter beverage, ask your bartender for a Greyhound, but if you're craving a smoother, fruitier cocktail, the Salty Dog is your answer.

How to make a Salty Dog

With fewer ingredients needed to make this cocktail, you'll want to make sure you're using the best of the best. The quality of the gin or vodka you use can make or break your finished Salty Dog, just as the kind of grapefruit juice you mix with your alcohol of choice can brighten or dull this drink.  

Ideally, use fresh grapefruit juice so that each sip is filled with crisp, bright citrus flavors. Packaged grapefruit juices may sneak extra sugar or artificial flavorings into your drink which will impact the overall taste. However much alcohol you use (a standard shot is one and a half ounces), double that for the juice (three ounces), and stir with ice.

If you want to get creative with the drink's garnish, experiment with different salts to see which texture and flavor bring the ideal finish to the Salty Dogs you serve. This cocktail is best garnished with a slice of grapefruit, although lime wedges and sprigs of herbs like rosemary and thyme are also used by bartenders who expertly spruce up their pours. For a spicy kick, top a Salty Dog with a sliver or two of jalapeño to add some heat to the drink. Once you've mastered the perfect Salty Dog, you'll have a few recipe variations to play with.  

Cocktail variations on a Salty Dog

Now that you know what a Greyhound and Salty Dog are, it's time to introduce the Dalmatian and Italian Greyhound to your make-at-home roster of drinks. The Dalmatian is a variation of a Greyhound made with vodka that also adds black pepper syrup to the drink. The black pepper lends the drink an earthy kick and deepens the drink's finish when paired with the citrus fruit.

To make an Italian Greyhound, use the basic recipe — gin and grapefruit juice — and add your choice of Aperol or Campari liqueur. For a sweeter, more elegant garnish, finely chop fresh rosemary and blend with sugar and use this mixture to rim glasses with to serve. The sweetness of the sugar will balance out the punch of the grapefruit and liqueur, and the garnished glasses make beautiful presentations. 

For a colorful twist on the Salty Dog, the Educated Barfly adds yuzu juice, simple syrup, and matcha powder to make a green version. Honestly, with so many options, you'll be able to impress guests with your various cocktail creations!