Archive for December, 2009

Oranges to Vin d’Orange

Posted in Exotic Citrus, Home Made Ingredients with tags , on December 27, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Following on my last post about calamondin, I explore a great use for another exotic citrus now coming into season, Seville oranges…

One of the blogs I regularly follow is simply called “Cocktail of the Day” where the bartenders at Range list their most recent cocktail inventions. These folks are prolific, inventing several new libations every week, often incorporating the local in-season produce. Every so often I find something which really turns me on and then I have to make it at home. [See note below]

A few months ago, they mentioned that the were making their own vin d’orange, an aperitif made by infusing dry white white, to which sugar and neutral grain spirits have been added, with sour oranges and spices like vanilla and/or cinnamon. Variations of it are made throughout France and it is, to the best of my knowledge, the inspiration for Lillet. With Seville oranges in season, I figured it was time to make my move.

To make my version, I did some web research and then settled on the recipe posted on Savuer Languedoc by a freelance food writer named Anne de Ravel. Here’s that recipe as I adapted it:

Vin d’Orange (after Saveur Languedoc)

2.5 lbs Seville oranges, washed and sliced
2 organic or pesticide-free lemons, washed and sliced
4 bottles dry white wine (I used Rosenblum Viognier and Qupe Marsanne)
2 cups 151-proof Everclear neutral grain spirits
1 cup Wray & Nephew overproof rum
1 cup grappa di moscato
2 vanilla beans, split in half
950 grams organic white sugar

Everything above is mixed together and stirred until the sugar is dissolved and then covered and let to stand for about 2 months. Anne de Ravel indicated she stirred everything once a day for the first month and then once a week during the second. After two months, the mixture needs to be strained, racked, filtered and bottled.

To make my life much easier, I used a white 2-gallon food grade container with a tight fitting lid instead of the recommended jugs. Cramming all that citrus into the small opening of a jug (and then getting everything out again later) just seemed like too much of a pain and unnecessary. It also meant I could slice rather than chop my citrus. Here’s a photo showing how pretty things looked inside the container during assembly:

If you compare recipes, you also note that I’m using much higher proof spirit than called for in the original. To be honest, that was really just a mistake on my part. I unthinkingly interpreted “clear unflavored alcohol” as Everclear, which I use for making tinctures. I imagine I can compensate for this if it proves necessary by adding some water but I’ll hold off making that call for a month. Do note however that the choice to use some overproof rum and grappa was deliberate. I thought these would add interesting complexity to the blend.

Two other modifications I plan to make to the recipe are as follows. After the first month, I’ll mix in a handful of charred french oak cubes for added flavor. These were purchased from a local beer and wine making supply. I’ll leave them for no more than one month. Second, after filtering and bottling, I’m going to try infusing a couple of liters of the vin d’orange with chinchona bark ala the ever elusive Kina Lillet.

I’ll let you know how things are going in a month…

NOTE: If you visit the Range cocktail site you’ll notice right away that they don’t provide measurements for any of the recipes nor how do they tell you to how to make special ingredients when these are required. The good news is that if you post a comment and ask, someone from the bar will respond. It may take a day or two so keep checking back.

Calamondin or Kalamansi?

Posted in Cocktails, Exotic Citrus with tags , , on December 5, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

So last winter I got very jazzed about exotic citrus varieties, especially all of the various mandarin/kumquat crosses. Their size seemed to make them perfect for muddling in a cocktail glass, capturing both the juice and the aromatic oils from the rinds. It turns out there are dozens of these hybrids, many of which originated in China. The only one I could find for sale, however, was the mandarinquat, which looks like a rather oversized kumquat but which is a bit sweeter. I made several very decent gin cocktails using these, mostly based on the template provide by Jimmy Patrick’s Madagascar Orchid.

The hybrid which I really wanted to find was the kalamansi which is sometimes called a Philippine lime because of its popularity in that country. However, despite bay area’s large Filipino population, I could not find these for sale in any of the many asian markets in Oakland and San Francisco. Possibly it was “out of season” though it seems to be one of those citrus varieties which bear and ripen fruit all year long. It also occurred to me that California might simply impose some kind of embargo on this fruit for agricultural reasons. The closest I came was a frozen kalamansi concentrate whose first ingredient was corn syrup. Fail. I also started looking for it under the other names it apparently sometimes goes by: calamondin or kalamondin.

In late spring I had a sudden brainstorm and headed down to a large local plant nursery. They had a large selection of dwarf citrus and there, among the conventional lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, I found a calamondin. It didn’t have any fruit on it yet but it was early enough in the season that I figured there was a good chance it would come into bloom. After some travails with chlorosis (leaves turning yellow) and an application of a proper fertilizer, my little calamondin bloomed and proceeded to set a couple dozen fruit.

As the fruit grew and the summer progressed, I continued to do research. One thing which became clearer and clearer to me is that the calamondin I had growing on my little tree, were not the same as kalamansi. For one thing, my fruit were much smaller and flatter than the pictures I’d seen of kalamansi, which are round. Second, as the fruit started to ripen, my calamondin were turning orange while ripe kalamansi are green, sometimes with orange streaks. Finally, after I harvested a few ripe calamondin, I discovered they are seedless whereas kalamansi always have seeds in them. (Here’s a link to a photo of an actual kalamansi, for contrast.)

So, while I am now enjoying fresh calamondin in my cocktails, I am still on the hunt for fresh kalamansi. Maybe this year?

[UPDATE: since drafting this post, I found that Berkley Bowl is selling calamondin, which is great as my little tree has only produced a handful of fruit thus far. The Bowl (as locals often call it) is also offering mandarinquats and Fukushu-quats. I'll be trying those, too, before they disappear.]


“These aren’t the citrus you’re looking for.”

3 small calamondin, quartered
2 strong dashes Scrappy’s chocolate bitters
1/2 oz. Navan vanilla cognac liqueur
2 oz. Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon
2 barspoons agave nectar

Put the calamondins, the bitters and the Navan in a mixing glass.
Muddle firmly, pressing the calamondins to extract all the juice from each segment.
Add the bourbon and the agave nectar.
Shake hard with cracked ice.
Fine strain into a chilled coupe.

NOTES: Try with a few drops of chili tincture for a lovely contrast against the sweet/tart calamondin.

Scurvy Bane

3 small calamondin, quartered
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 oz. St. Elizabeth allspice dram
1 barspoon simple syrup
1 1/2 oz. Smith and Cross Jamaican pot still rum
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc

Put the calamondins, the bitters, the dram and the simple syrup in a mixing glass.
Muddle firmly, pressing the calamondins to extract all the juice from each segment.
Add the rum and the Lillet Blanc.
Shake hard with cracked ice.
Fine strain into a chilled coupe.


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