Compass Rose + blood orange syrup.
Blood oranges are a delicious fruit that at their best have raspberry-like flavours that ride on top of the usual oranginess, beautiful marbled flesh and peel that is often dusted with red flecks. But they have issues. You see, blood oranges only grow in quite specific conditions that require cold nights yet in a climate that can support orange trees. In Europe this means they mostly are grown in Italy where those conditions exist. This also means that blood oranges are very, very seasonal being available (in Europe at least) only from late January until mid spring. Damn. But they are in season as I write this so let’s make use of them while they’re here! I’ve always loved them for their garnishing powers, either as just swathes of the peel or dehydrated slices (which allows me to make a supply for the off-season) but I’ve been feeling I need to make better use of these magnificent fruity treasures so I made some blood orange syrup which borrowed from the super juice method to get the most from them. Method follows:
Carefully peel 3 large (or 4 smaller) blood oranges making sure not to get much of the white pith – a decent vegetable peeler being the best way IMHO. Keep the fruit. Cover the peels in 24g of citric acid crystals, stir in and leave for an hour stirring now and then. Squeeze the juice from the 3 naked blood oranges, sieve and add to the peels along with 400ml of water. Blend all of this for 15-20 seconds and strain what remains. Weigh this liquid and put in a clean pan. Add the same weight of white sugar and bring to the boil while stirring. Kill the heat immediately when it hits 100ºC or starts to bubble. Bottle in clean, still warm sterilised glass bottles – smaller ones will help preserve your supply. Fill those you want to keep longer right to the rim to minimise the air gap. They should keep at room temperature for quite a while if you do this right but this is my first attempt so time will tell (I’ll report back in due course). Refrigerate once you open a bottle. My yield was about 800ml and it makes a delicious soda syrup but we, being the evil little tinkerers that we are, will be using it for more nefarious purposes (heh, heh, heh).
Aeons ago, before I got into cocktails in the dying days of the 20th century the cocktailiest thing I did was to put some Myers’s rum and some ice into a glass of orange juice and damn if that was not pretty decent. I thought to use my blood orange syrup to re-create that nostaliga yet uplift it by a good few levels. And thus was born the Compass Rose. Yes, it’s an Old Fashioned variant which I feel I’ve not gone into often enough upon these pages. The rum is of course your choice but, if I may, I advise the following: Something from an island*, with no added sugar and a bit of barrel age in the 7-10 years bracket. Because of the citric acid content of the syrup we up the quantity a touch but again, personal preference applies. As to the bitters I found good ‘ole Angostura the most pleasing but feel free to try others – I know you will anyway you little monsters. And there’s little more to say – other than that Mrs Proof likes her blood orange syrup utilised in a Daiquiri. And she is never wrong**.
2oz/60ml aged Caribbean rum (See text but I used Appleton 8).
1.5 teaspoons of blood orange syrup (see above).
2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters.
Stir with ice and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass containing a large ice block or sphere. Garnish with a swathe of blood orange peel or if out of season a dehydrated blood orange wheel (as pictured) or just regular orange peel.
I toast DJ Steve my fruit-loving colleague who keeps me up to date on when and where to find the best blood oranges.
*This being my general golden rule for quality rummage, the sole exception being the Demerara rums of mainland Guyana.
**I am contractually obliged to state this.