Sit! Drink! 

Canine cocktails to celebrate the Year of the Dog.

Last Friday, the world ushered in Chinese New Year, kicking off a two-week celebration for the Year of the Dog. The 11th animal on the Chinese zodiac, Year of the Dog people are loyal, popular, honest, and just. They're tenacious and they never, ever give up. I'm happy to say that I'm a Dog, just barely — I was born in late January 1969, which places me in 1970 on the Chinese calendar.

So, last week I decided to toast myself with a series of Dog-worthy cocktails, starting things off with a classic: The Greyhound, a tart and simple combination of vodka and grapefruit juice, served over ice. The Greyhound is an old drink. It first appeared in Harry Craddock's Savory Cocktail Book in 1930, which makes it over 600 years old in dog years! I made mine with a new organic vodka, Leaf, made from Alaskan Glacial Water, and a splash of my favorite pre-squeezed grapefruit juice, Indian River Select. From there, I migrated to a Salty Dog, using pink Himalayan salt on the rim of my glass.

Since I still had most of a bottle of grapefruit juice on hand, it was a no-brainer to mix up a round of Salty Chihuahuas a few nights later. All I had to do was substitute tequila for vodka. My brand of choice, the clean-tasting El Jimador, made for a delicious citrus cocktail on a rainy February night.

click to enlarge Salty Dog - IVAN MATEEV | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Ivan Mateev | Dreamstime.com
  • Salty Dog

A few days later, I switched things up with the Pomeranian, a rose-hued drink made from vodka (pomegranate vodka is recommended, but I used an unflavored variety I already had on hand), triple sec, grapefruit juice, and pomegranate juice.

Online, I found one more canine-themed grapefruit cocktail, the Pit Bull. The drink combines vodka, fresh-squeezed lime juice, grapefruit juice, and lemon-lime soda (I used Sprite Zero). I couldn't find out the pedigree for this drink, although a quick Google search yielded the horrific sounding Pitbull On Crack, which combines half-shots each of vodka, Jagermeister, Bacardi 151, and Wild Turkey bourbon. I prefer my drinks leashed. Because I'm an honest Dog, I'll admit that I didn't have the bodaciously botanical Bulldog Gin in my liquor cabinet, although the complex-tasting, quadruple distilled boutique gin is readily available at local stores. That didn't deter me from serving a few rounds of French Bulldogs to a friend who came by for, uh, Yappy Hour. The drink consists of Bulldog gin, elderflower syrup, simple syrup, crème de cassis, and sage leaves. I substituted Tanqueray and used Monin Elderflower Syrup — the latter was purchased on Amazon — and both, combined with the fresh sage, created an aromatic cocktail that took just a few minutes to shake and strain into lowball glasses. Maybe mine is more of a mutt, but the recipe adds some much-needed variety to my home bartending repertoire.

I'm not a big whiskey drinker, but if it's your thing, there are plenty of canine cocktails to choose from, including the Hound Dog, found on Bon Appétit, the Bulldog Smash, a peachy variation on the traditional Whiskey Smash, and straight shots of Jameson's the Blender's Dog, a fruity Irish whiskey.

I'm not known as a martini lover, either, but I have to award the Bloodhound, a cocktail even older than the Greyhound, best in show. The drink, which first appeared in the 1917 recipe book The Ideal Bartender by pioneering African-American bartender Tom Bullock, the son of a slave and an ex-Union soldier, is currently enjoying a resurgence. It's an easy recipe to master: Simply shake Dry Vermouth and Sweet Vermouth with gin, ice, and a few crushed strawberries, then strain the concoction into a coupe and garnish with a fresh strawberry.

When it comes to wine, dogs rule, too. At local shops, I found an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon called Yard Dog Red, and several varieties of white and red wines hailing from a Virginia vineyard called Chateau Morrissette. The winery welcomes dogs, hosts an annual Black Dog Summer Music Festival, and bottles up popular red and white varietals, including a Riesling blend called Our Dog Blue and a spicy, smooth Black Dog Red. Now, that's something to bark about!

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