Food & Drink

Let It Pour: The humble grapefruit’s hidden charms

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA adds a fruity note to an already-loved beer.
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA adds a fruity note to an already-loved beer. TNS

The grapefruit has always struck me as the dowdy maiden aunt of the citrus family.

Lumpy with a thick skin and sour at first blush when you wish she were sweet, she is too awkward to gracefully garnish a cocktail, too cumbersome to beckon from a bowl. It’s a fruit you eat because you’re supposed to, because of its high vitamin content and its sly promise of miraculous fat-burning properties. Presented with the task of eating an entire grapefruit, I’d rather sit down and write a thank-you note for a present I didn’t like.

So it has been with great surprise that I’ve come to realize the grapefruit’s many hidden charms this summer as I stumbled upon a healthy array of drinks made with it. It’s been a bit like being forced to vacation with that maiden aunt and discovering that her story is much more interesting than you ever suspected.

It was the grapefruit-tinged beers that first turned my head. I came across a grapefruit summer shandy in a variety pack of Leinenkugels, then tried a heartier grapefruit sculpin from Ballast Point. The shandy was light and likable, with a lot of citrus in the nose, while the sculpin, an IPA, was good but more complicated with lots of bitter notes from the hops and the citrus peel accompanying the ale. But it was when I found the Schilling & Company grapefruit cider, available at Whole Foods and World of Beer in Cary, that I fell a little bit in love.

This cider calls itself a “summer radler,” which is reason enough to give it a try, since it sounds like a weekend trip via rumble seat to some forgotten, enchanted country place. (It’s actually the term Germans use for beer mixed with lemonade.) The aroma of this radler is pure grapefruit, all citrus and dusty spice. The cider itself is made of apples, and when tempered by the sour and bitter notes of the fruit, it loses any thoughts of cloying sweetness. In short, if you’re hot and thirsty, go get some.

While I might have been perfectly satisfied to simply drink grapefruit cider for the rest of the summer, a note on the bottle warns that it’s a seasonal product, which means it might disappear from shelves without notice. Like most Americans, I cannot abide the thought of any commodity being in limited supply. Certainly, I reasoned, if someone is out there blending grapefruit with beer and grapefruit with apple cider, someone must be out there blending grapefruit with wine.

Sounds terrible, you say? But what if I told you it was French?

Because, oui, it is.

Apparently, younger French wine drinkers are lapping up fruit-flavored wines, with one called Rosé Pamplemousse among the most popular of the options. Alas, the closest I got to a bottle of grapefruit rose was a listing on a Connecticut wine seller’s website. I could find none closer to home.

Undeterred, I employed American ingenuity and squeezed some grapefruit juice into a glass of rosé. Turns out, it’s wonderful.

Rather than fighting one another for control as I feared they might, the light, dry flavor of the rosé and astringent flavor of the grapefruit complement one another to build a sturdy but smooth, unique profile that highlights the sweetness inherent in each.

As is so often the case, there’s nothing like a little wine to coax a seldom-seen side from a character I presumed I knew. And it’s good to know that even the dowdiest of fruits gets its season in the sun.

Amber Nimocks is a former News & Observer food editor. Email her at ambernim@yahoo.com.

Sip tip

For your own version of pamplemousse rosé, choose a rosé from the south of France. I used WYSIWIG Rosé, a cheap ($6.99 at Total Wine) 60-40 blend of Grenache and Cinsault. I added the juice of half a grapefruit to 3/4 of a glass of wine. Splash a little club soda in if you’re feeling like bubbles, but it’s just as good without.

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