I remember the first drink I had with juice from a blood orange. It was in Sydney circa 2000, and it was mixed by the sure hands of my friend Ben Davidson—one of the finest barkeeps to emerge from Down Under.
The cocktail was a Blood Orange Margarita with just a whisper of Campari thrown into the mix, and it was nothing short of a revelation. So much so that I’ve, ahem, “borrowed” it for several different bar programs I’ve set up since. It’s the kind of drink I know that everyone will like; it’s that darn good.
The dark-crimson blood orange—a mutant variety of the familiar juice orange whose flesh produces extra anthocyanin pigments—is abundant right now. Perhaps because they’re ripe for such a fleeting moment, blood oranges are among bartenders’ most sought-after and anticipated ingredients. It’s a sad day when the last one disappears from the market.
While I’ve sometimes found regular oranges to be rather boring in cocktails, offering little in the way of character or body (yes, the Bronx is a boring drink—there, I said it), blood oranges, on the other hand, have a lovely richness and deeper flavor that lends itself to pairings with a wide range of spirits and liqueurs. The fruits often have subtle notes of raspberry, which means they marry beautifully with sparkling wine.
Blood oranges are the most common variety of orange grown in Italy (predominantly in Sicily) and are also very common throughout southern Spain and the US, notably in Texas and California. Depending on where they come from, blood orange season can last from November or December until the early spring, making this time of year the peak.
The fruit’s flavor profile has become so popular in fact that William Grant & Sons introduced a blood orange liqueur from Sicily called Solerno a few years ago. And San Pellegrino’s Aranciata Rossa soda is absolutely delicious, especially with a big slug of your favorite gin.
But while it’s blood orange season, you need to use them fresh. Here are four truly amazing recipes from several of the world’s top mixologists.
Blood Orange Margarita
Contributed by Ben Davidson
- 1.5 oz Blanco tequila
- .75 oz Combier
- .25 oz Campari
- .75 oz Blood orange juice
- .75 oz Lime juice
- .25 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
- Garnish: Blood orange slice
- Glass: Rocks
Coat the rim of a rocks glass with salt, fill with ice and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a blood orange slice.
Contributed by Marco Dionysos
- 1.5 oz The Famous Grouse Scotch Whisky
- .5 oz Fresh lemon juice
- .5 oz Fresh blood orange juice
- .25 oz Bénédictine
- .25 oz Cherry Heering
- Garnish: Brandied cherries and a flamed blood orange twist
- Glass: Cocktail
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with brandied cherries and a flamed blood orange twist.
Contributed by Ryan Magarian
- 2 Sage leaves
- 2 Blood orange wedges
- 2 oz Aviation Gin
- .75 oz Lime juice
- .75 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
- 1 Egg white
- Garnish: Sage leaf
- Glass: Cocktail
In a shaker, muddle the orange and sage. Add the remaining ingredients and shake without ice. Fill with ice and shake again, very hard. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a sage leaf.
Contributed by Julie Reiner
Add all the ingredients except the Champagne to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a wine glass filled with fresh ice. Top with the Champagne and garnish with a blood orange wheel.
Naren Young is the beverage director at New York’s Empellón Cocina and Empellón Taqueria.