Great Gatsby from Highlands Bar and Grill (Grapefruit Lillet Cocktail)

Great Gatsby from Highlands Bar and Grill (Grapefruit Lillet Cocktail)


I’m switching Cocktail Friday up a bit from here on forward. See, I noticed I’ve been trying a bit too hard to come up with my own wonderous cocktail concoctions. And I’ve had fun doing it and it’s been just lovely. But the truth is, I know next to nothing about mixology and have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to whipping up cocktails. My basic thought process when trying to determine what I’ll make is: “Do I want vodka, gin, tequila, or rum?” I’m fancy, huh? I’ve also noticed that since I’ve started Cocktail Friday, whenever I’m at a bar with friends, they tend to ask me about the cocktail menu and various drinks and spirits. And I’m always all, “Uh, I dunno?” Because like I said, I only really know vodka, gin, tequila, and rum. OK and maybe a little bit of whiskey. But nobody’s asking me about those.

So, instead of continuing to design my own libations, I’m going back to basics and actually try to learn a thing or two. I’m going to follow some recipes and try some new spirits and expand my horizons. And I’m pretty excited about it. When I want to learn something, I really want to learn something and generally do everything I can to learn it all (except that time I wanted to learn Japanese and I got through one alphabet and about 30 words before it just kinda stopped). So, get excited for Cocktail Fridays that might actually educate you a bit. As I learn, I’m sure I’ll be whipping up my own concoctions here and there, as well. When I can handle it.

Of course, a cocktail making hobby can get expensive, so I might need to take it slowly. Plus, I’m going to need a whole lot more fun cocktail glasses in various shapes and sizes. So, we might need to update the wedding registries. And expand our kitchen, so that we can fit said glasses. In the apartment that we rent. Yes, this is going to be a long process. But we’ve got time, right?

I decided to start with a drink from Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. Mainly because it’s called the Great Gatsby. Which, you should know, is on my list of Top 3 Favorite Books of All Time. But also because it involved grapefruit. And a libation other than vodka, gin, tequila, or rum. Lillet blanc. Thank you, Serious Eats for posting a whole array of citrus cocktails that I can get down with. And for also reminding me I really need to get my hands on some bitters. Like, really really.

Great Gatsby- Grapefruit Lillet Cocktail (makes 1 drink):
From Highlands Bar and Grill via Serious Eats
Print this recipe!

  • 1 oz. good vodka
  • 1 oz. lillet blanc
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • Orange zest for garnish


No, I have never purchased lillet before and am thrilled to add it to my liquor cabinet (or probably the kitchen floor since my liquor cabinet is currently overflowing). It actually took 3 liquor store stops before I could find it. The first was sold out and at the second, I kid you not, nobody had ever heard of lillet before. Excuse me? I was starting to doubt my whole mission at this point. But then remembered I was at Blanchard’s in Allston where it’s basically kids selling alcohol to kids. They have a HUGE selection of alcohol, but something tells me most customers are sticking with Keystone Light. Yum. Then i went to Comm Ave. Wine and Spirits and the employees not only knew where the lillet was, but actually described the various types to me. Thank you!

So, since we’re here to learn, want to hear a little bit about lillet? Basically, it’s an aperitif from the Bordeaux region of France that’s in the same family as vermouth. It contains wine, orange peel, and quinine, which is what gives it the bitter kick. While you can add it to cocktails, it’s also said to be quite delightful over ice with a little orange slice. My particular bottle says it’s perfect for “those special times when day turns to evening and evening turns to night!” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds quite nice.

Also, the bottle makes me happy.


On to the Great Gatsby! Start by juicing your grapefruit. I couldn’t believe how juicy this grapefruit was! I just read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for my book club and had the most difficult time at Whole Foods seeing where all the delicious-looking fruits came from and not feeling bad about eating fresh produce that was obviously shipped to snowy Boston. But the grapefruits came from Florida, which is a whole lot closer than say, Chile.


Now, into a shaker 1/2 way-filled with ice, add 2 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice, 1 oz. vodka, and 1 oz. lillet blanc.

In case your’e in the market for a good cocktail measuring tool, I highly recommend this little measuring cup (er, measuring 4 T?) from OXO. It allows me to measure my ounces out perfectly. Which I think is pretty essential when first learning the art of cocktails.


Once all the ingredients are in the shaker, shake them up.


And pour into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with some orange zest for a little bit of extra citrus flair.


I loved this drink! Chris said it was one of the best I’m made, which I’m assuming is because I actually followed a recipe instead of trying to do it all on my own. Go figure.


I’m not typically a white wine fan, which is why I think I like the fact that the lillet was added to a cocktail (with vodka!), but I’m actually excited to sit down with a glass of lillet on the rocks just to see how I like it. I do love me a good bitter sipper.

And I totally get why this is called the Great Gatsby. As Frank Stitt told Serious Eats, “…it makes you feel on top of the world, kind of like Gatsby.” Agreed.


And now I’ve added a new libation to my cocktail knowledge database. So, when contemplating what type of cocktail to make, I will now think, “vodka, gin, tequila, rum, OR lillet?” See how that works? But first, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to make Chris James Bond’s Vesper with the lillet. It’s a martini consisting of gin, vodka, and lillet. Sounds a little intense to me, but if James Bond can handle it…

Nevermind. I should probably stick to lillet on the rocks.

Do you consider yourself knowledgeable about cocktails and spirits?


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13 Responses to "Great Gatsby from Highlands Bar and Grill (Grapefruit Lillet Cocktail)"

  1. Amy says:

    My boyfriend and I have been getting into learning more about cocktails over the last few months and having fun doing it! We bought a book called Bitters, which is chock full of info plus some great recipes. We also just took a class at The Boston Shaker (I’ll be blogging on that later) which was so informative! We learned proper stirring/shaking techniques and much more- you should check it out! While there we learned about another amazing must-have for the liquor cabinet: Luxardo Maraschino – it’s not sweet like the cherries- in fact if you’ve ever had a Hemingway Daiquiri then you’ve probably had this stuff. A month ago we didn’t know what it was and now we can’t imagine life without it!

  2. i agree! it’s been so hard to come up with new and fabulous drinks. this one looks wonderful, though!

  3. Looks so refreshing and delicious! I’ll take one please, I mean, it is past noon.

  4. Daisy says:

    i like lillet a lot! I recall first trying it a couple years ago in a drink at ten tables! your cocktail looks fabulous.

  5. Gia Grossman says:

    Such pretty pics! The drink is beautiful and I need to try lillet soon. Looks like my kinda drink!

  6. Barbara says:

    How divine! Fill me up!

  7. mary says:

    This sounds delicious and your photos today are wonderful. I’ll have to try one of these this coming weekend. Have a great evening. Blessings…Mary

  8. Abby says:

    So, I just got very excited to see you talking about Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham! One of my favorite Birmingham restaurants and where I read your blog (birmingham that is)! I can’t wait to try Lillet and Great Gatsby!

  9. skinnybean says:

    Love these pictures! The colors are fantastic! Nom!

  10. Shannon says:

    this sounds delicious!! and i’ve never heard of lillet, so i’m going to be learning along with you 🙂 let me know if you ever need another taste tester!

  11. Sues says:

    @Abby- That’s awesome! It sounds like a place I’d like to visit 🙂 I have another cocktail I want to try from another Birmingham bar, too! You guys must have some fabulous bartenders over there!

  12. Sounds so refreshing and great for spring! Brings back great memories of when I lived in Birmingham!

  13. Donna says:

    We had a Great Gatsby themed party last night and served this drink! Delicious!! A huge hit with all the girls. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

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