The Gin Hound. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.


I awoke to a morning so deathly gray I felt I’d awakened in a cave. It wasn’t early, 7:30, not school-time early as spring break is still in effect. So the sun had surely risen but had there been no clock, it would have been anybody’s guess.

Deep Cleveland winter drags on. Donna, light-sensitive and not used to such long sun withdrawals, is particularly affected by that light disorder thing, whose acronym I don’t even like to write, and wants to hibernate like a bear till May. Skip the cruelest month altogether. The grayness not only deepens the hay-hue of dull dead grass, freed from the snow at last, the brown tree branches, it dulls the senses as well. The wind outside my window, and inside my chest, blows with a kind of Last Picture Show desolation.

I have no desire to work—make the final edits of a cookbook review for the Wall Street Journal, proof the final words of a new manuscript, begin reading first-pass pages of the next book, which remain contained by large rubber bands I have no interest in removing.

Turning to the op-ed pages of The Gray Lady, I find a fellow, but nonnative, Clevelander, novelist and teacher Alissa Nutting, writing about her own attempts to supplement a light-deprived soul. Her verdict: the “happy lamp” helps a little but nothing can replace genuine sunlight. The real deal. The life-giving sun.

So today’s cocktail is a bitter one, the grapefruit of winter, but the auspicious sunniness of lemon juice, balanced with the sweetness of vermouth. I’d come across this elixir just yesterday, while perusing Food52, a site whose design I adore and whose content I admire. Created by Julia Davis, a Bay Area transplant who works at Citizen Engagement Lab, this cocktail seemed to be the perfect blend of winter and hope (I’ve upped the sweetness slightly). Even the name, Gin Hound, playing on the Greyhound, has a kind of hangdog feel to it. And yet the gin is bracing, the citrus refreshing, and end notes of bitterness all too appropriate for the season.

Cheers to all, and dammit, at least it’s Friday!

The Gin Hound

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 2 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • lemon slice for garnish
  1. Combine the liquids in a double old-fashioned glass, add ice, garnish with lemon.
  2. Flip winter the bird.

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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.