Remix: A fresh take on the Salty Dog cocktail 

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This month's Remix candidate is an easy-drinking, summery classic: the Salty Dog. It's not a mixologist's dream – no obscure ingredients to track down, no murky mythology to trace – just a good ol' American highball. Like a lot of cocktails that are generally expected to contain vodka these days, the Salty Dog was originally a gin drink: grapefruit juice and gin, mixed and poured into a salt-rimmed highball glass. (Skip the salt and it's a Greyhound.) Whether you prefer vodka or gin, though, the Salty Dog is one of those drinks that just begs for a tweaking.

A casual drink deserves a simple Remix, so I didn't do much: just swapped the salt for pepper, in the form of a black-peppercorn syrup. It's not too sweet, but full of tingly heat that perfectly gooses fresh grapefruit juice. (This syrup is worth keeping around to spark a Bloody Mary or margarita, or just mix with seltzer and lime for a sophisticated soda alternative.) As always, I strongly recommend fresh-squeezed fruit juice. It's not that much of a hassle and the payoff is huge – fresh grapefruit juice tastes completely different, sweeter and more delicate, than bitter bottled juices. In such a simple drink, every ingredient counts, so I'd also recommend a high-quality vodka such as Tito's Handmade.

Here's to the fast-approaching dog days: Toast them with a Peppery Dog.

CLASSIC

Salty Dog

2 ounces gin
4 ounces grapefruit juice
kosher salt

Fill a saucer with kosher salt. Wet the rim of a highball glass and dip into the saucer to coat with salt. Fill the glass with ice, pour in the gin, and top with juice. Stir and serve.

REMIX

Peppery Dog

2 ounces Tito's Handmade Vodka
3 ounces fresh red grapefruit juice
1 ounce black pepper syrup (recipe below)

Stir all ingredients in a tall, ice-filled glass. Serve with a straw.

black pepper syrup:

4 ounces whole black
peppercorns
3 cups water
1.5 ounces sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Crack half of the peppercorns with the blade or butt end of a heavy chef's knife. Add crushed and whole peppercorns to 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a lively simmer and reduce the liquid by half – about 20 or 30 minutes. (Note: The pepper vapors may make your eyes water.)

Remove pan from hot burner and allow to cool to room temperature, then strain out the solids. You should have about a cup and a half of pepper-infused water. Pour the liquid back into saucepan, bring back to a boil, add sugar and stir to dissolve, then remove from heat. When syrup in pan has cooled to room temperature, add lime juice, transfer to a clean jar and store in refrigerator.

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