The Palm Beach Special

Returning once again to Ted Haigh’s essential Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, today we visit the Palm Beach Special, a simple gin-based cocktail that dates, according to Haigh, to the 1940s. He doesn’t offer a lot of information about it otherwise. But it’s a simple beverage, so a simple history seems fitting. As always, please use fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice here.

The Recipe:

2 1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce grapefruit juice

1/2 ounce Italian (sweet) vermouth

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Yep, that’s it.

Palm Beach Special

I don’t know about you, but I cannot find yellow grapefruits anymore. They’re all pink, with the Ruby Red variety absolutely dominating the market. There’s probably a good reason for this – pink grapefruits are notably sweeter than the yellow variety. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have numerous citrus trees in my yard, including a yellow grapefruit, and, while delicious, they were quite tart. On a recent visit to Palm Springs, I did see a number of yellow grapefruits growing in people’s yards, but as far as commercial growing operations go, yellow grapefruits seem to have all but vanished. This is, for the vintage cocktail connoisseur, an unfortunate development, as these drinks were designed with the tartness of yellow grapefruit in mind. So using pink grapefruits, as one appears to have to do now unless you’re lucky enough to have a backyard tree, is going to give you a slightly sweeter drink than originally intended.

That being said, this is far from a sweet drink, though not a tart one either. It’s extremely well-balanced, with all three ingredients blending together nicely while still being decidedly ginny. There’s a nice lingering finish with a lot of complexity as well, although I expect this is largely the result of the particular vermouth I’m using, Carpano Antica. Haigh suggests Plymouth Gin in this one, but I used a more traditional London Dry type, and it turned out just fine. Four livers – a good, solid, easy-to-make drink with ingredients you’re likely to have on hand. If you’re new to the home bartending game, this is a great drink to get started with.


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