Like I wrote in last week’s Daily Dinner, we love the colorful and bright fruits that come along with winter—even if winter itself isn’t always so great. It’s almost ironic that winter is the peak season for so much great citrus, as good citrus, with its neon color palette and zings of flavor reminds us so much of summer.
During the winter, we love buying huge bags of citrus so that we always have fresh juice in the fridge. It’s a nice pick-me-up for a gray day and always a perfect chaser to a cup of coffee in the morning.
We hadn’t mixed up a batch of cocktails in awhile, busy with holidays and travels and family, so when we finally got a moment to breathe yesterday, we stocked up on our citrus favorites, filled up our fancy new graffiti cocktail shaker (a Christmas gift to Ryan) with ice and went to work.
Blood oranges still rank as my favorite fruit in the citrus family, but I had never used them in a cocktail before. Their bright color and adaptable flavor is perfect for cocktails.
Inspired by a bit of Internet research, our finished blood orange cocktail consisted of 2 ounces of mezcal, 1 ounce of fresh blood orange juice, a 1/2 ounce of lime juice, a 1/4 ounce of Campari, and a 1/4 ounce of simple syrup. We shook it, strained it into a chilled rocks glass and then floated 1/4 ounce of Famous Grouse blended scotch for an additional smoky hit.
The drink was a perfect combo of tart thanks to the oranges, bitter because of the Campari and smoky, thanks to the mezcal and the scotch. It was an easy drinker and the neon hue would make it a cheery addition to a dreary winter day.
Our next drink was a complete experimentation, thanks to a newly discovered ingredient: finger limes. Have you heard of them?
The exterior of the limes more closely resembles a pepper (or a miniature cucumber) than a traditional lime and their dimpled, multi-colored skins have a wonderful herbaceous smell, almost akin to mint. Cut one open and you find hundreds of minuscule little pink or green lime “bubbles” that burst with tart flavor when you eat them. The interior is also called “citrus caviar,” and it’s easy to see why.
Not wanting to overwhelm the finger lime’s uniqueness, we kept it simple in this drink, choosing to riff on a classic lime gimlet.
I stirred two ounces of gin with a 1/2 ounce of lime juice and strained the mixture into a coupe, then topped with some Johnnie Ryan cane sugar soda that we had on hand.
Next, I sliced one of the limes into thin slices and then gave the rounds a good squeeze, letting the little translucent orbs fall into the glass. I dropped the slices in too and we were rewarded with a sweet, herbal drink punctuated by the citrus bite from Pop Rocks-like limes floating in it.
Cocktail or not, these limes add an interesting touch to any drink. Even a glass of tap water becomes playful and interesting with these floating in your glass.
Finally, with our grapefruits, we went with a brunch-time favorite, the Salty Dog. The Salty Dog is a very simple drink, and you may have to keep an eye out so that you don’t drink too many, especially if you love grapefruit juice as much as we do! (We can seriously go through gallons of it.)
Start off by running a slice of grapefruit around the rim of your glass to moisten it. Then, rim the glass with salt and a just a bit of sugar. We used sea salt here (which sometimes doesn’t stick as well), but any salt will work fine.
In a salt-rimmed Collins glass, add ice, 2 ounces of gin and top with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. Stir, then garnish with a grapefruit wedge and any other citrus you might have around. The sweet-salty-bitter combo is great, with or without the gin.
These cocktails also have a few legitimate health benefits, so if you’re sticking to a healthful New Year’s resolution, not all is lost by having one of these tipples.
Grapefruit is loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and lycopene, that handy antioxidant also found in tomatoes, whereas blood oranges have folic acid and anthocyanins, a natural anti-inflammatory that nutrition experts believe to help prevent cancer, diabetes and bacterial infections.
Cocktails that are good for you? Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all.
P.S. We get a lot of e-mails asking about what we use in each post: where we get our ingredients, what ice trays we use, etc., so when it’s applicable, we’ll be adding a “What We Used” at the end of each post with the links to the products we use and love.