Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ode to the Blood Orange

It's fitting that blood oranges are in season the week of February 14th, because I am in love with them.

I love everything about them - the gradations of reds and yellows on their skin like a sunset, slicing them open to reveal that striking, sexy and luscious dark flesh on the inside, the surprise of its flavors. There is a cool citrus sweetness there, distinctly, well, orange. But then things turn up at the end into a sharp bite of bitterness, akin to grapefruit, but more focused and quick. "Don't mess with me," it seems to say. "Take me seriously. Treat me with respect." Like most great lovers, they're only around for a couple of weeks and then disappear. They return the next year, and all is forgiven, but fleeting. Squeeze them wrong, their juice sprays all over, and it will stain. As it should.

I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day. I never was, even in the times I've had a man to spend it with. Like New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day, it's one of those holidays accompanied with too much pressure. Nowhere is safe. Places normally of refuge - my favorite bars and restaurants, feel it's necessary to come up with some sort of love theme menu, at a "special" price to make it easier, take the guessing out of ordering. Doesn't it occur to them to NOT do that, for the people who are already in love, and know what they want, what their significant other wants? It's a favorite restaurant because they serve favorite foods, which is incredibly romantic. But no, on that night, you have to order something else. At a higher price.  Dessert isn't desired, it's settled upon, because it's included in the price. Bet you didn't realize Valentine's Day is actually a Jewish holiday in disguise.

Then there are the choices with anti-love themed items. Why does it have to be either or? Why can't I just be a person on Valentine's Day? If I'm not lucky to have someone to love, then why do I have to be made to feel a sociopathic response to it instead?

Don't get me started on the cocktails. Cloying, Gooey, sticky, fatty - an excuse to get rid of all the bottom shelf liqueurs. Yeah, that'll make you look super hot with your clothes off.

But back to blood oranges.

Bitter, sour, sweet, all at the same time. The embodiment of love and love lost. And being forced inside because nowhere is sacred. Enjoyed in privacy, letting that sweet juice run all over, and no one will care. Perfect.

For Valentine's Day, I wanted to create a cocktail with ingredients that frame the inherent flavors of that sensuous fruit, using ingredients that, like love, are rare and decadent in their own right, and rich in flavor but not heavy-handed. The Dell'Erborista amaro adds a drop of punishment, but used sparingly, keeps it sexy.

San Valentín Sagriento (My Bloody Valentine)

2 oz straight rye whiskey
1/2 oz Barolo Chinato Cocchi
1/4 oz Amaro Dell'Erborista 
1/2 oz fresh blood orange juice
1-2 bar spoons (depending on how much of a spanking from the  Dell'Erborista you can take) of good quality maple syrup
3-4 drops Bitters Old Men Macadamia 
1/2 wheel of the blood orange for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until joined and cold of heart. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Attempt to balance the half orange wheel on the rim, but it's Ok to let it fall into the glass. The greatest love is never perfect.


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