The Salty Dog cocktail has stood the test of time, maintaining its popularity over the decades. For those with a history of cocktails, tracing the origins of the Salty Dog provides insight into its evolution from the initial mixing techniques employed by the first bartenders.
There are several origin stories in circulation about this cocktail’s birth. According to some accounts, the first iteration of the Salty Dog dates back to the 1950s. The story goes that a man named George Jessel made a crucial addition to the Greyhound Cocktail by introducing a salted rim. This singular modification altered the entire character of the drink, prompting Jessel to christen it with a new name. Given its innovative departure from the classic Greyhound, he aptly coined the cocktail Salty Dog. This twist on the original cocktail not only introduced a distinctive flavour but also gave rise to a name that would endure in the cocktail lexicon.
The Greyhound, considered the precursor to the Salty Dog, is believed to have originated in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Harry Craddock, a bartender from Britain who moved to the United States and worked at the Savoy Hotel, is the one we can thank for the Greyhound recipe.. Prior to his move, Craddock had already established himself as a bartender in his native Britain.
While some speculation suggests that the first Greyhound may have emerged in the 1920s or even earlier, this is deemed improbable due to the absence of grapefruit at that time.The exact date when the Greyhound was first made is not officially recorded. Interestingly, the Salty Dog, known for its salted rim, wouldn't come into existence until two decades later.
The journey from the Greyhound to the Salty Dog included a change in the choice of alcohol. The original Greyhound, enjoyed in the 1930s to the 1950s, had gin in it. As preferences changed, bartenders started using vodka, which, being milder in taste, allowed the grapefruit flavor to shine through. While some stick to the traditional gin version, both gin and vodka variations are considered acceptable.
The credibility of the Salty Dog's origin story aligns with the historical context. The cocktail could not have been conceived before the 1930s, coinciding with the emergence of grapefruit as a popular juice. The grapefruit itself resulted from a crossbreeding event in the 1930s, marking the fruit's ascent to popularity.
To make a Salty Dog, a highball glass is dipped into a shallow dish of grapefruit juice and then rimmed with salt. In a shaker filled with ice, gin and juice are poured, shaken vigorously for about 30 seconds, and the liquid is strained into the salt-rimmed glass. Optionally, the cocktail glass can be filled with more ice, and room can be left to top the cocktail with a hearty splash of soda water for a bubbly version of the Salty Dog.
Wet the rim of a highball glass and dip it in coarse salt.
Fill the glass with ice, then add the gin and grapefruit juice and stir gently to combine.
Garnish with a grapefruit slice.