The Grapefruit Rickey is one of those simple, refreshing cocktails you can make in just a few minutes. If you're a fan of grapefruit, it really shines in this drink! It's on the lighter side, too, without too much sweetness and with a little bit of seltzer for some bubbles.
This is the perfect drink for a hot afternoon, with lots of flavor from the juice and gin but without too much sugar weighing it down.
Another gin cocktail I highly recommend for hot weather is this Cucumber Gin Cocktail. It's written as a low-alcohol cocktail, but you can certainly adjust the amount of gin you use in either of these cocktails!
What makes a drink a Rickey?
A Rickey is a very simple type of drink. The traditional Rickey is a mixture of lime, seltzer and whiskey or gin. It normally has little to no added sugar, and even the alcohol is optional. So, this drink could easily be made into a mocktail by just substituting out the gin for more seltzer!
Since grapefruit juice is both sour and bitter, I added in a little more sugar than I normally would for a lemon or lime Rickey. Don't be afraid to try it out and adjust the amounts to your own taste.
The great thing about a Rickey is that it is so simple that it really allows the ingredients to shine. The flavors of the gin really come through, so pick a gin that will pair well with citrus.
There are just a few ingredients you'll need to make this cocktail. If you have bottled grapefruit juice, you can certainly use that, but fresh citrus is my preference for sure! You can also use a slice of the fresh grapefruit as a nice garnish.
Here are the ingredients you'll need:
- Gin - I went with The Botanist gin because it pairs so well with citrus. Bombay Sapphire gin is another great choice, with a little more juniper flavor to complement the bitter grapefruit.
- Grapefruit juice - preferably freshly squeezed. I highly suggest using pink grapefruit, since white grapefruit is much less sweet, but you can use either one you prefer.
- Simple Syrup - a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to water.
- Fresh grapefruit slice for garnish
With a drink this simple, substituting ingredients changes the drink a lot, but here are a few ways you can switch things up.
- Simple syrup - you can use maple syrup or honey instead, or just omit the simple syrup. To have some sweetness without the sugar, you can use a sugar substitute like this allulose liquid sweetener.
- Seltzer - you can use lemon lime soda or tonic water in place of the seltzer. If you do, omit the simple syrup.
- Grapefruit - you can make this with a different type of citrus, but you'll likely have to adjust the amount of sweetener you use.
- Gin - if you're really not a fan of gin, you can use vodka or white rum in this drink.
If this simple drink is not quite what you're looking for, try out these variations:
- Ginger & Grapefruit - substitute ginger ale for the seltzer in this recipe. You probably won't need the simple syrup, but experiment to find your preferred level of sweetness.
- Grapefruit & Grenadine - instead of simple syrup, try using grenadine or pomegranate juice to sweeten up this drink. You can garnish with a few fresh pomegranate seeds.
- Citrus Rickey - you can mix in orange juice, lemon juice or lime juice together with the grapefruit to get a different type of citrus flavor.
To make this drink, you'll need a few basic bar tools. Gather up a jigger or small measuring cup, a cocktail shaker, and a cocktail strainer. You'll also want a cocktail serving glass, and for this one a highball glass or a tall tumbler work well.
If you're juicing your own citrus, you can grab a juicer too. I used a citrus reamer because my favorite citrus press juicer is just too small for a grapefruit.
If you're using fresh grapefruit, start out by cutting up your grapefruit and reserving a slice for a garnish. Then, measure out the grapefruit juice and add it to your cocktail shaker.
Next, add in the simple syrup and the gin to the cocktail shaker.
Add ice to the cocktail shaker, seal up the shaker and give it about 15 to 20 hard shakes. This will chill the drink and also dilute it a little bit as the ice melts. The shaking also aerates the drink.
Then, fill your serving glass with ice and strain the drink into the serving glass.
Add in your grapefruit slice garnish and fill up the rest of the glass with seltzer. Give everything a quick stir with a bar spoon or a reusable straw, and serve.
Hint: the bigger the glass you use, the more diluted your final drink will be since you'll have room for more seltzer. The glass I used here is about 10 ounces. Pick your glass based on your own taste!
Frequently Asked Questions
The original Rickey was made in the 1880's in Washington, D.C. and named after Colonel Joe Rickey. Nowadays, a Rickey drink is known as a mixture of lime juice, seltzer and a shot of any plain spirit, usually gin or bourbon.
Grapefruit is a great cocktail ingredient because it is a strong flavor, but also because it naturally blends a little sweetness with sour and bitter tastes. It mixes well with really any kind of plain spirit, but particularly with gin and tequila.
It's important to note that grapefruit can interact with some medications. (Source: Grapefruit Medication Interactions or this Wikipedia article.) Check any medication you take before eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice. That said, it is fine to have alcohol with grapefruit juice, but be sure to note how much liquor is in each drink. Grapefruit hides the taste of alcohol very effectively.
This is a great drink for parties since it's so easy to throw together, and you can customize the amount of alcohol for each person. Just juice a bunch of grapefruit before the party starts.
I don't suggest mixing it all together in a batch unless you know everyone will like the same amount of alcohol in their drink. If you do batch it, just mix everything but the seltzer and chill it in the fridge. Then measure 3½ ounces per drink, pour it into your serving glass with ice and top with seltzer.
- Cocktail serving glass
- Knife and cutting board for citrus and garnish
- Citrus juicer optional
- Reusable straw optional
- Add the grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and gin to the cocktail shaker.
- Fill the shaker with ice and give the mixture about 15-20 hard shakes.
- Add fresh ice to the serving glass and strain the drink onto the fresh ice.
- Top the drink with seltzer and give it a quick stir with a bar spoon or straw.
- Add the grapefruit slice as garnish and serve.