As winter drags on, blood oranges are one of the few bright spots in the produce aisle. In season in the United States from late December to early May, their flesh ranges from orange with hints of pink to deep crimson. In addition to their jewel-toned color, blood oranges have an intense fragrance and vivid sweet-tart flavor, which makes them perfect for cocktails.
The thing is, even a fancy blood orange can't do all the work. One way I like to experiment with a new cocktail is to balance the flavors by using one part fruit juice, one part alcohol and a hint of something unexpected. We often use spices to bring depth and warmth to food, so why not try them in cocktails? I started thinking about recipes that use orange and spice as base ingredients and immediately thought about making pomanders—oranges stuck with cloves then rolled in spices. While they are usually used for their scent, I thought it sounded like a pretty tasty combination. A half hour later I had jar of cinnamon and clove simple syrup ready for action.
With both the fruit and a hint of unexpected flavor decided, the final step to making this little cocktail experiment a reality was alcohol. Rye or bourbon could work really nicely here, but I already had two strong flavors and I wanted to let them shine, so I opted for the neutral flavor of vodka.
The result was light and spicy winter cocktail. The cloves and cinnamon hit my nose first and brought a comforting taste while the blood orange brought a nice citrusy freshness to the palate. And of course the vodka warmed everything up, which in the cold of this first week of March was much appreciated.
- For the Clove and Cinnamon Syrup:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- For the Cocktail:
- 1 1/2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce blood orange juice (about 1 orange)
- 1/2 ounce clove and cinnamon syrup
- Dash of orange bitters
- Blood orange slice to garnish
For the Clove and Cinnamon Syrup: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir sugar until dissolved. Add cloves and cinnamon sticks and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain cloves and cinnamon sticks from the syrup and refrigerate (syrup keeps in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks).
For the Cocktail: Combine vodka, blood orange juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain liquid into a cocktail glass and garnish with a blood orange slice. Serve immediately.