My cat, Arlo, destroyed two glasses while I was making this Blood Orange Whiskey Sour. It’s a good thing it was so delicious. You don’t have to do much to make a blood orange sour sing besides add a little fresh-squeezed lemon juice to adjust the acid, a bit of simple syrup (I used champagne simple), whiskey, and bitters (completely optional). Fresh juice, as always, makes the cocktail. I always love the splatter of red juice in the kitchen as I’m squeezing fresh blood oranges.
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What is a Blood Orange?
Blood oranges are cultivars of oranges with a dark red, blood-colored juice. They’re easy to grow in the warm weather of the Mediterranean, where historians believe they were cultivated by Sicilians under Arab rule in the 9th and 10th centuries.
On the outside, blood oranges look similar to navel oranges, except they usually have patches of dark orange or red on the peel, and once you cut into them, you know you’re looking at a blood orange from the vibrant blood red pulp inside.
Their peak season runs the same as most fresh citrus in the US, December through April. For many cocktail enthusiasts, they’re a fun purchase because of their more bitter, vibrant flavor and that dark red juice. Clear spirits like gin and vodka turn dark red with blood orange creating a sinister and fun color.
The dark red juice from blood oranges gives the citrus fruit greater quantities of antioxidants than regular oranges, and like any orange, they’re very high in vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin A, and fiber. Are they healthier? Maybe. But we know for sure that the dark red color of the pulp and the peel means more antioxidants are present.
What’s in a Whiskey Sour?
The whiskey sour, that easy classic, is a great cocktail to mix up in a minute or two. The longest part of the equation is juicing the citrus. Originally created as a combination of watered rum, citrus juice and sugar to keep scurvy at bay in sailors on long sea voyages, over time it caught on on shore. In the mid 1800s sailors could find a comparable drink in port, and in the US whiskey was preferred because of its availability and likely lower cost.
With only three basic elements, spirit, sweet and sour, whiskey sours are an easy and fun cocktail to explore. The usual ratio is 2:1:1, spirit, sugar, and sour. If you choose to add an egg white as I did to make this a Boston Sour you’ll get a lovely cushion of foam at the top of the glass, and a softer, silkier mouthfeel. I love using egg whites or aquafaba to create sours because I can increase the sourness of the cocktail, but know that the egg white will meld the sweet and sour flavors together to tame them.
Using fresh juice is critical in a bourbon sour. Using blood oranges makes it doubly so. Because of their short season, get an extra bag or two, and if you have too many to use, freeze the juice in ½ to 1 oz cubes in the freezer and store them in double plastic freezer bags
Orange juice isn’t typically used in a sour because it’s very sweet without much acid. For a sour to balance, you need the acid. In this case, with fresh blood orange juice, we can add a bit of lemon juice to the cocktail to punch up the sour flavor.
For the sweet here, I could have used a plain simple syrup, but I had some Champagne simple syrup in the fridge and I love adding blood orange to bubbles. The flavor combination was a winner. The brightness of the blood orange matched some of the slightly sour/wine notes coming from the Champagne simple syrup.
How to Make a Blood Orange Whiskey Sour
Get out your cocktail shaker! Because we’re using fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, we’re shaking this one up. In your cocktail shaker add 1 oz of blood orange juice, ½ oz of lemon juice, 1 oz of champagne simple syrup, and 2 oz of your favorite whiskey. I used Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond.
I also added some Bittermen’s Tiki bitters. They create a bridge for the baking spice flavors from the whiskey to the citrus peel notes from the blood orange. Bitters created balance for me in the drink. If you don’t have Bittermen’s tiki bitters, any aromatic bitters would be a good substitute. Drop in your egg white (optional) and fill with ice.
If you’re making this without egg white, seal the shaker, shake for 10-12 seconds and strain into a rocks glass with ice.
But I’ll share my easy hack for that great head of foam on the cocktail with an egg white. Use a hand-held latte whisk (https://amzn.to/2MwA5CA) to get that foam creamy. After you shake the cocktail for 12 seconds to chill it, double strain it into a mixing glass and run the latte whisk on it for 20-30 seconds.
Pour right into your chilled coupe glass and serve with a fresh or dried blood orange wheel.
Creating that Champagne Simple Syrup
Need the recipe for Champagne simple syrup? Simply let a cup of champagne go flat. (I know, how is there ever extra champagne in the house?). Add a cup of sugar and stir until it’s dissolved and store in the fridge. This is easiest if the sparkling wine is room temperature.
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Blood Orange Whiskey Sour
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz fresh blood orange juice
- ½ oz fresh lemon juice
- 2 droppers Bittermens Tiki bitters
- 1 oz champagne simple syrup**
- 1 egg white
- Garnish: blood orange wheel fresh or dried
- Add ingredients to a shaking tin and fill with ice. Shake 10-12 seconds. Double strain into a mixing glass and use a latte whisk on it for 20-30 seconds (see description above) and pour into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a blood orange wheel.
- 1 cup champagne, flat, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar