Juiced Up

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The blood orange, that darling of the citrus family, makes for delicious crimson cocktails

The blood orange is an amazing fruit. Its deep ruby color comes from an antioxidant pigment, called anthocyanin, normally found in red flowers but not often in citrus. Blood oranges probably originated in Sicily, where the local lore says that lava is responsible for the fruit’s red hue. And perhaps there’s something to that since they grow in the ashen soil of Mount Etna and the surrounding valleys. While peak season runs December through March, when temperatures have the greatest variation between day and night, they are harvested here in the U.S. from November through May.

Thought to be a hybrid of the pomelo and the tangerine, blood oranges have many varieties. Three of the most common types are the Tarocco, which tends to be the sweetest; the Sanguinello, which usually has fewer seeds; and the Moro, which typically has more intense flavor and aroma. You can find the Moro variety, with its vivid crimson flesh and hint of raspberry, at retailers like Whole Foods. And if squeezing isn’t on your agenda, then you can also pick up pints of the fresh juice.

Blood oranges are high in vitamin C and are also a great source of dietary fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin A. The high levels of potassium and low sodium content make them excellent for combating hypertension, stress and heart disease. Their antioxidant properties are proving beneficial in blocking free-radical damage associated with cancers, and studies are being conducted on their effectiveness against diabetes and cataracts.

One needn’t struggle to fit this sanguine jewel into a regular diet. Excellent in salads, amazing as a sorbet, succulent in sauces, mesmerizing in smoothies, and well balanced for cocktails, the blood orange is ripe for the picking … and drinking! Try one in a mimosa, margarita or martini, whichever suits your palate.

For a sugared rim
2 T sugar
1 tsp. finely grated blood orange rind

Using a microplane or a superfine cheese grater, remove just the zest (orange skin) from the fruit. On a plate, mix zest with sugar. Rub a wedge of orange onto half of your glass allowing the juice to wet the rim on both sides. Dip the glass into the sugar/zest mixture coating half the rim with the garnish.

Sanguine Martini
1.5 oz. Belvedere Vodka
1.5 oz. fresh blood-orange Juice
1 oz. Grand Marnier
¼ oz. fresh Meyer lemon Juice

Squeeze the blood oranges for the juice after you zest them. In a mixing glass, add all liquid ingredients and ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled and garnished V-shaped glass. Sip and enjoy the aromatherapy, antioxidants and the sweet elixir you’ve just concocted!

Grand Ruby Margarita
1.5 oz. Patron Silver Tequila
½ oz. Grand Marnier
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. fresh blood-orange Juice
¼ oz. simple syrup

In a mixing glass, add all liquid ingredients and ice. Shake well and strain into your garnished rocks glass, add ice and voilà! Grand margarita heaven!