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The Salty Dog is a refreshing citrus cocktail that pairs grapefruit juice, gin, and a salted rim. It’s perfect for brunch or happy hour!

Salty dog cocktail
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Want a citrus cocktail with a salted rim that’s not a margarita? Enter, the Salty Dog! This cocktail’s got a unique name and a beautiful pale pink color. It’s really not anything like a margarita, aside from that salt rim! It’s tangy and refreshing, perfect as a brunch drink or for happy hour. It’s got a light summery vibe, but it works in winter when citrus abounds. Really, it works anytime! (Plus, how fun it is to say “Let’s make Salty Dogs!”?)

What’s in a Salty Dog?

The Salty Dog cocktail is believed to originate in the 1920’s. It’s similar to a Greyhound cocktail, which is essentially the same ingredients, without the salty rim! Here are the ingredients you need to make a Salty Dog (for exact quantities see the recipe below):

  • Gin
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Salt for the rim
  • Simple syrup or maple syrup (optional)
  • Lime wedge (optional)
Salty dog cocktail

Why is a Salty Dog served with salt?

Of course, you know it’s called a Salty Dog for a reason! But why the salt? According to some sources, during and after Prohibition, cocktails were often served with a sugar or salt rim to make up for the fact the liquor was sub-par. So, the crappy gin was covered up with a salty rim!

What’s the point of serving with salt today? Salt intensifies the sweet and sour flavors in the drink. It makes the sour seem brighter, which makes the overall drink experience more pleasurable.

How to make a Salty Dog (3 basic steps!)

There’s really not much to a Salty Dog. Outside of making the rim, it’s shaken in a cocktail shaker until cold, then served over ice!

  1. Rim the glass with salt. It doesn’t just look cute! The salt enhances the overall flavor of the drink. How to make the perfect salt rim? See below.
  2. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Take that gin and grapefruit juice and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes. We like adding 1 dash simple syrup or maple syrup, which rounds out the flavor (otherwise it’s very tart).
  3. Strain into a glass and add ice. Strain the drink into the glass and add ice. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge and you’re done!
Clear ice
We used clear ice to dress up this Salty Dog! It’s perfect for cocktails.

What drinks are related to the Salty Dog?

There are a few drinks that are similar to the Salty Dog, mainly because they use grapefruit juice as well:

  • The Sea Breeze uses vodka, grapefruit juice, and cranberry
  • The Greyhound cocktail also uses grapefruit juice and gin, just no salt rim.

Want more grapefruit cocktails? Try the Paloma, Hemingway Daiquiri, or Brown Derby.

Salty dog cocktail

Tips for making a salt rim

For the salt rim on this Salty Dog, we used flaky sea salt. You can also use kosher salt if you have it, which has large grains. Just don’t use iodized salt: it’s much too salt-forward! Here are a few tips to making a salt rim:

  1. Spread the salt on a plate in an even layer.
  2. Take a lime wedge and cut a notch in the middle: then slide it around the rim of the glass. This moistens the glass rim without having to use your fingers.
  3. To rim the glass, the salt should be on the outside rim the glass only, not the inside where it can fall into the drink. To do this, tilt the glass and gently turn so the outside edge goes into the salt.
  4. Shake off any loose salt into the sink.

Do I need a cocktail shaker?

Yes and no! If you make cocktails often, we recommend investing in a cocktail shaker: it’s inexpensive and makes mixing drinks a breeze! Here’s the one we have: Favorite Cocktail Shaker. If you don’t want to buy one: no problem! Use a glass mason jar to mix the drink! Put on the top and shake the drink with ice (or put your hand over the top). Then use a strainer when you pour out the drink to keep the ice in the jar.

Bottle of gin

What type of gin should I buy?

For this Salty Dog, you’ll want to use the high quality gin! The better the gin, the better the drink. The easiest way to tell if a gin is high quality? Don’t buy the cheapest gin you can find. Try to invest in a mid-price range gin: the drink will only taste as good as the gin you invest in! Also, be on the lookout for local gin, if you have distilleries in your area.

Should you add sweetener?

Officially the Salty Dog does not include sugar. However, it’s so tart without it that it’s traditional to add a dash of simple syrup. Here are two ways to sweeten this drink:

  • To keep things naturally sweet, Alex and I love using pure maple syrup to sweeten our cocktails. Not only does it provide a gentle sweetness, it gives a nuanced undertone (and it doesn’t taste like maple: promise!). Also, we always have maple syrup in the refrigerator!
  • Or if you prefer, head to How to Make Simple Syrup to make it in 5 minutes! You’ll only need a dash in this recipe.
Salt rim

When to serve a Salty Dog cocktail

This Salty Dog cocktail is no-frills and festive. It’s great as a:

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Salty dog cocktail

Salty Dog Cocktail

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The Salty Dog is a refreshing citrus cocktail that pairs grapefruit juice, gin, and a salted rim. It’s perfect for brunch or happy hour!


  • Flaky sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) gin
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon (1 dash) simple syrup or maple syrup
  • Lime wedge
  • For the garnish: Grapefruit wedge


  1. Cut a notch in the lime wedge, then run the lime around the rim of a glass. Dip the edge of the rim into a plate of flaky sea salt.
  2. Place the gin, grapefruit juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with 4 ice cubes and shake until cold.
  3. Strain the drink into the glass with the salted rim. Fill the glass with ice and top with a squeeze of lime. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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