I get really excited about recipes. That is no secret around here. So when I choose recipes for this blog I try to not talk them up too much and let the picture and recipe speak for itself. Sometimes a recipe comes along that I am particularly excited about and I can't help but to throw in a couple of you need to make this, stat!'s. My excitement and glee takes over and all I want to do is translate all of it to you, dear reader. I wouldn't want anyone to miss out or pass on a recipe that is a life changer. Yes, life changer. So I shout and use bold print and far too many exclamation points to get the message across. This is one such recipe. But I am going to pass on really hitting it home because I think this drink really does speak for itself. It's different, beautiful, easy, delicious, fresh and fun. It is also officially the best thing since sliced bread and has the capacity to elicit world peace. Point made. No exclamation points necessary.
They serve this cocktail at Rioja, one of my favorite restaurants in Denver. Rioja is hip and fun and the food is exceptional. I actually cried the first time I ate their artichoke truffle tortolloni. I was with my sister, Kaylee, who I had just picked up at the airport and friend Danielle. Kaylee spied my tear and yelled over her halibut "Omigosh, are you...crying?!?" She might as well have said "Get a hold of yourself, girl! You are an embarrassment to society". Danielle on the other hand was sympathetic and thought my tear was sweet. I suppose I was embarrassed because I made them swear to never say a word to anyone about it. I suppose I have come to terms since I can share it here now.
My husband and I went to Rioja again a couple weeks back before seeing Les Miserables. We sat outside and ordered preserved lemons with dipping sauce and a flatbread pizza with oven roasted tomatoes and homemade mozzarella to snack on. It was also the first time I ever looked at their cocktail list since I usually default to wine. I can't handle hard alcohol, even one, unless I can sleep in the next day or I'm feeling frisky and throw caution to the wind, or I'm at The Rio for a margarita. Either/or and all. However, this night I saw the grapefruit granita on the cocktail list. It was a mound of grapefruit granita flavored with vanilla bean speckles in a martini glass topped with crisp champagne. Granita is just frozen, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice mixed with a bit of sugar, water and in this case, vanilla bean and frozen in a tray. After a hour or so, you break up the mixture with a fork, then freeze again. Another hour later you break it up again. You do this another two times or so and are left with a slushy mixture that resembles snow cone shavings.
I made this cocktail the other night when friends came over for dinner. It tastes exactly like the one at Rioja. There was no shortage of oooh's and awww's over this thing. It's crisp and cool and so refreshing. When you pour the champagne over the grapefruit ice, it bubbles and fizzes gloriously, then finally settles in the glass dispersing the shavings. The shavings stay frozen in the glass a long while creating a icy cold slushy drink, slightly pink, with tiny vanilla flecks throughout. It a glorified mimosa only fifty times better, much more sophisticated and dressed for night time.
Vanilla Grapefruit Granita Cocktail
adapted from Rioja in Denver, Chef Jennifer Jasinski
makes enough for 8 drinks
2 cups fresh squeezed grapefruit juice or pink grapefruit juice
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
Chilled crisp champagne for serving (figure 5-6 cocktails per bottle, so buy accordingly)
Combine the juice and sugar and stir until mostly dissolved. Add water and seeds from vanilla bean. It's okay if the vanilla beans particles stay a bit clumpy and don't break up all the way. It makes for a pretty drink later. Whisk to combine. Pour liquid into a 8x8 pyrex dish or loaf pan and freeze for 1 hour. After an hour, use a fork to fluff up and break the ice that has formed on top. Freeze again. After another hour. Break the ice up with a fork again (it will be less liquid this time) Freeze again, for another 30 minutes to 1 hour and break up one final time. Place the dish back in the freezer until serving time.
To serve: Break up the ice chunks with a fork just before serving and put a heaping amount in a cold martini glass (about 1/2 cup each) and top with good quality cold champagne.
You can make the granita a day or two in advance. Once it has reached the ice shavings stage, it can sit in the freezer and be broken up again before serving the next day. The vanilla bean is pretty essential to the recipe. It rounds out the sourness of the grapefruit beautifully. And to those of you who swear you can't drink champagne because it gives you a headache, I say this: Cheap champagne causes headaches. It all has to do with the sugar content. Buy a bottle that's not sweet (stay away from rose champagne and prosecco unless you love it) $12 dollars or more a bottle and you should be home free. I'm sure there are more accurate rules to follow but I stick by these and have never gotten in trouble.