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All these ’20s era New Year’s parties got me thinking about prohitibion-era cocktails, and I have to admit they tend to be some of my favorites. Because of the limits in availability, liquors weren’t always super good during this time. The cocktails had to be balanced and flavorful. And they still stand up to the amazing alcohol we can get today. This bruleed grapefruit brown derby is a fun twist on a true classic, and a great throwback.

It’s kind of funny that I enjoy grapefruit-based cocktails, because I’ve never really been a fan of eating the fruit. I use our grapefruits spoons more to scrape the seeds out of squashes than to dig into that ruby red citrus. But for some reason, when you add a little liquor, I become a fan.

I think the bitter and tart balanced adds a depth to cocktails that you don’t tend to get out of other citrus. It works well paired with nearly any type of liquor. Here, I’m using my personal favorite – bourbon. But if you’re a tequila lover instead, check out my sweet and spicy paloma.

This cocktail is perfect for brunch or as an apertif beforehand. Hand a glass to your guests when they first arrive, and let them sip and mingle, while grazing a cheese board. Or serve up a big batch with the meal. Try it with these Greek yogurt lemon bars, or lemon curd stuffed lemon poppy seed muffins.

You may find that you need to balance this cocktail a little depending on your grapefruit or personal preference. If it’s a sweeter fruit, lower the amount of honey. If it’s extra tart or bitter, you’ll want to add more. Taste the juice on it’s own first to get an idea of the overall sweetness. The cocktail ingredients will add a bit, but not overpower the citrus flavors.

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5 from 5 votes

Bruleed Brown Derby Cocktail

A fun twist on an old classic cocktail, this bruleed version of the Brown Derby first broils the grapefruit and sugar before mixing with bourbon and honey.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2
Calories: 155kcal


  • 1 Grapefruit
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 3 Oz Bourbon
  • 1 Tbsp Honey


  • Place a rack in the upper part of your oven, and preheat the broiler. Line a sheet pan with foil. Cut the grapefruit horizontally into 2 halves and one thin slice cut from the very center around 1/4 inch thick.
  • Place the grapefruit halves cut side up with the ring on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the sugar evenly across all three pieces. Broil for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully, until the sugar has started to brown. It's best to check every two minutes, as broiling time can vary based on your oven.
  • Remove the the oven and allow the grapefruit to cool. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the two halves into a measuring cup until you have 3 ounces of juice. If you want a very grapefruity drink, you can use more. Halve the slice into two half-moons
  • In a cocktail shaker, add the grapefruit juice, bourbon, honey, and a handful of ice cubes. Shake vigorously, until the shaker is very frosty and the ingredients are well mixed.
  • Strain into two snifter glasses or coupes, and garnish with the grapefruit half moons and any burnt sugar that may have ended up on the baking sheet (you can easily peel this off once it's cooled). Serve immediately.


  • Like most cocktails, this scales pretty well. For each additional grapefruit, add 3 oz more bourbon and 1 more tbsp honey. Most cocktail shakers can only handle enough liquid to make two at once, so you will need to mix a few extra times. 
  • If your honey is cold, you may find it difficult to mix in the shaker. Be sure it's at least room temperature. If it's still difficult to mix, you can stir it into the grapefruit juice before adding to the shaker.
  • For the original Brown Derby cocktail, skip the cooking step completely, and use fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

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20 thoughts on “Brûléed Grapefruit Brown Derby Cocktail

    1. Whiskey is tough to replace for an alcohol free version, but I bet it would be tasty using some unsweetened iced tea in place of the bourbon.

  1. I got a full bottle of bourbon on New Year’s Eve, poured my husband and myself a glass, and then decided to commit to Dry January – so no drinks for me until February. However, the second this month ends, I’m definitely putting this cocktail to the test because it sounds right up my alley!

    1. Oh no, that sounds like torture, just having that bottle there tempting you. I’d be making a list of drinks to have in February too! This cocktail is perfect to break the alcohol fast, and I hope you love it.

    1. It is nice and refreshing without being overly sweet. It’s also a fun one to make and play around with, so your sister should love it!

    1. Oh no! You could probably try something similar with other citrus, but I’m not sure how it would affect the sweetness.

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