While other bartenders might reach for that ubiquitous bottle of St-Germain or the sharp spice of fresh ginger—both dubbed “bartender’s ketchup” more than a few times—to reliably improve just about any cocktail, Shae Minnillo of Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere goes right for Giffard’s Crème de Pamplemousse Rose.
Just as a chef might rely on acidity by way of citrus or the umami hit of anchovy to balance fat or sweetness, every bartender has that one bottle that they routinely turn to in order to brighten, boost or otherwise enhance their cocktails.
“Sort of like cooking, you want to reinforce flavors over and over again,” says Minnillo.
Introduced to the U.S. market in 2013, Pamplemousse Rose is a newcomer to the lineup of Giffard liqueurs, some of which have been produced since 1885 in France’s Loire Valley. Its distinctive bittersweet flavor, obtained by extracting the fruit’s essential oils through steam distillation, has swiftly landed Pamplemousse Rose a spot on backbars across the country. Blended with neutral spirit, sugar and water, the end product boasts a viscosity and low alcohol content that, together, make for a versatile modifier.
While there are other pamplemousse liqueurs on the market—from Combier, most notably—it’s Giffard’s rendition that has become something of a secret weapon for bartenders. “The barbacks and other bartenders affectionately call it ‘mousse juice’ whenever I’m around,” says Minnillo. When he steps behind the bar, staff requests for “Shae’s mousse juice” can often be heard over the din of happy hour.
When it comes to a liqueur with a flavor profile as insistent as Pamplemousse Rose’s, the line between good and bad often hinges on as little as a quarter-ounce. For this reason, many bartenders use the liqueur like a seasoning, adding a splash here or there. Minnillo, meanwhile, deploys Pamplemousse as a counterweight to flavors you might expect to overpower the grapefruit liqueur, like overproof Cognac or absinthe, or as substitute for simple syrup in sours or coolers. “Pamplemousse has its way of popping its head up,” he notes—as if to say, “Here I am, don’t forget about me.”
Pamplemousse, Three Ways
In stirred drinks, Pamplemousse can add body and texture without pumping up the ABV. Here, the grapefruit liqueur stands up to three hard-hitting ingredients: blackstrap rum, overproof brandy and amaro. An amalgamation of many of Minnillo’s obsessions over the years, the stirred combination of fruity and bitter makes for an unexpectedly balanced drink.
As an ingredient in sours, Pamplemousse adds a subtle floral note to the tangy hit of fresh juice. This beefed-up version, built on a base of absinthe and brandy, features grapefruit three ways (a “grapefruit bomb” in Minnillo’s words), which highlights the ability of Pamplemousse to enhance similar flavors.
Swapping in Pamplemousse for simple syrup in any classic cooler construction lends an aromatic element to the sparkling standby. Here, Minnillo adds a slight citrus tweak to a timeless Collins combo of gin, lemon and soda water.