Sicilian blood oranges are one of the good things in life and something I look out for every January in my local market. If you have never tasted one before then you are in for a treat. They are so juicy and sweet and are intensely orange without the acidity of some oranges. Their flesh has variations from orange flecked with blood-red to some that are almost completely red.
Perfect peeled and eaten as they are, although I would recommend you eat one in the shower they are so juicy, I also squeeze them to drink their delicious red-orange juice straight. In fact, this juice is so delicious it got me thinking about how I could use it in a cocktail.
The obvious choice was an orange liqueur. Orange liqueur pops up in many cocktails in the form of Triple Sec, Curaçao, Grand Marnier or Cointreau, all variations on the theme of sweet orange liqueurs.
Ok, so your own homemade orange liqueur might not have the caché of a Grand Marnier with its cognac base but it will be fresh tasting and you have the satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself.
This recipe is my own and I have used it again and again. Each time the orange liqueur tastes pretty darn good. Made with care it will beat a bottom shelf cheap orange liqueur any day. I have given up buying the stuff.
And if you really want to you can call it Arancello!
How to Make Sicilian Blood Orange Liqueur
Tip: Blood orange zest is less candy-like than regular oranges and gives a finer flavour.
- Zest of 4 blood oranges
- Juice of 2 blood oranges (for the Sicilian blood orange syrup)
- 500ml vodka
- 1 whole clove (optional
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Begin by washing the whole oranges in hot soapy water to remove any wax coating. This also helps if they are organic oranges to wash the dust off.
- Dry the oranges then carefully peel the zest into short strips being sure to avoid the bitter pith. Put the peeled oranges to one side.
- Add the zest to a mason jar or similar screw-top jar.
- Some recipes call for drying the zest in the oven. Don’t do it. You will end up with a sweet caramelised orange flavoured liqueur very different from the bright fresh-tasting liqueur of this recipe.
- Add the vodka and give it a swirl. Make sure the vodka completely covers the zest. If the zest is left uncovered it will oxidise in the air and turn a nasty brown and spoil your liqueur.
- Place the jar in a warm dark cupboard. An airing cupboard is ideal. The gentle heat will speed up the process of infusion. I have also tried placing the jar on a warm radiator. It works as long as the radiator isn’t overly hot.
- Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from the peeled oranges and freeze.
- Check the infusion after a week. It should taste pleasantly of orange.
- If you like the combined flavour of orange and clove add a single whole clove now for 1 day only. If you are not keen on cloves leave this bit out.
- The following day strain the zest and clove out of the vodka. You now have an infused vodka.
- To turn your infused vodka into a liqueur you will need to add sweetener in some form or another. The simplest method would be to add sugar (granulated is fine) and let it dissolve in the infused vodka.
- Better still, make the sweetener in the form of homemade Sicilian blood orange syrup. For recipe click here.
- Take your orange zest infused vodka and carefully add the blood orange syrup in increments of 50ml, reducing to 25ml.
- Keep tasting until your liqueur is sweet enough (or not) to your satisfaction.
- I prefer my liqueur quite dry so it is more akin to triple sec.
- Finally, enjoy your homemade ‘Arancello’ in a cocktail.