Blood Orange Liqueur

The first time I’d even heard of blood oranges I was in Rome on a school choir trip my senior year of high school. We had a free hour before dinner, and I’d tagged along with the coolest kids in my grade to the corner store for vodka mixers for a hotel room party. One of the girls bought a container of blood orange juice and it seemed proof positive of their cool superiority: they didn’t just drink screwdrivers, they drank blood orange screwdrivers.

I never actually got to taste it. It was a sopranos only party. This turned out to be a good thing because at the party one boy dropped a bottle of vodka down seven stories from the window and almost killed someone. Half the kids there got suspended. So for once being a loser stick-in-the-mud turned out to be to my benefit.

But who am I kidding…I still wish I’d been invited to that party. Blood orange screwdrivers, the popular kids, and nearness to manslaughter…it would’ve been the best night of high school. And probably also the worst. It would’ve made a better story all the same.

This liqueur is silky and sweet with a little hint of bitterness just to keep things interesting. The burnt umber color lights up the room and I’m looking forward to the bridal shower I’m throwing in May so I can make up a gorgeous blood orange punch.

This recipe isn’t difficult but it is arduous. I’ve got an electric citrus juicer and I was still stiff-muscled in the wrists the next day. Juicing zested oranges is a serious pain.

Make sure you keep it infusing for the full six weeks. It makes the vodka nice and silky.


Blood Orange Liqueur

8 blood oranges

4 cups vodka

2 cups sugar

Half-gallon wide mouth jar with lid.


1.) Wash and dry the oranges thoroughly. Peel off the zest with your best peeler, peeling off the strips as long and thick as possible so it’s easy to scrape any pith off with a paring knife when you’re done.


2.) Set aside the peel and juice the oranges.


3.) Add vodka, sugar, juice, and peels into the jar and shake for 30 seconds.



4.) Put jar in a cool dark place for 6 weeks and shake once a week.


5.) Strain the mixture first through cheesecloth, and then through a coffee filter into a swing top glass bottle.




I’d bought the last of the summer plums at the farmer’s market and hauled them home. I’d combined them with sugar, vodka, lemon peel, and spices, and then waited the long 3 months and two weeks for the fruit to infuse. Before I’d tasted the liqueur I’d just hoped it wouldn’t kill me. It seemed that surely some crazy new bacteria that only exists in basement apartments in Brooklyn had gotten into the infusion. But then I tasted it. My first thought was that it didn’t taste much like plums; it was more like strawberries, but not even strawberries: strawberries that have been liquified, boiled, turned into a gas, and then inhaled as a vapor. It tasted sweet and pure and profound. It tasted like what you imagine wine to taste like before you’ve ever tasted it: like the word ‘wine’ as the word is slipping from your tongue.

Make this for Christmas. Or actually, screw Christmas, make it for yourself and hoard it and hide it from your friends.


Adapted from The Washington Post

2 ½ lbs prune plums

1 ½ cups sugar

2 1-inch pieces lemon peel

4 cups vodka (plus more if needed)

2 wide mouth half gallon jars

2 cinnamon sticks

1.)    Making sure each fruit is perfect and without bruising before cutting, pierce each fruit to the put with a knife, cutting each plum several times.

2.)    Pack fruit into jars and add sugar, cinnamon, and peel. Pour in enough vodka to cover plums completely and secure lids on jars.



3.)    Keep jars in a cool, dark place and turn them once a day for two weeks until the sugar has dissolved.

4.)    Keeping them right side up, leave them in the cool, dark place for 90 days.

5.)    Strain first through a cheesecloth, discarding fruit, peel, and cinnamon, and then strain the liquid  through a coffee filter.