As recently as a few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find any citrus fruits that went beyond your basic lemons, limes, navel oranges, and grapefruits save for a few short weeks a year. Much like ramps in springtime, you’d be forced to overload on as many blood oranges, Meyer lemons, kumquats, pink lemons, and Cara Cara oranges as you possibly could and figure out ways to use them as quickly as possible. With some of those fruits that limited window of availability is still the case, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some blood oranges not only in stock, but on sale a week or so ago at Fairway. In March, no less!
I had it in my head to make a batch of limoncello (or any other kind of citrus-based digestive) as it’s been years (literally!) since I made polpelmocello back in New York, but I wanted to do something different yet again. Blood orange ‘cello crossed my mind more than once, but I was worried that I had missed that particular train by the time I had the time to give it another try.
And then blood oranges went on sale for $1.99/lb a couple of weeks back, and I knew that it was time to make it.
The one thing you really need in order to make any sort of citrus-based digestive is time to allow the alcohol to absorb as much of the oils from the zest as possible. It’s a very hands-off kind of process though once everything is combined in a glass jar for steeping, so while you need to plan ahead if you want to have this around for a specific occasion or to give as a gift, all you really need to do is set aside about fifteen to twenty minutes to carefully zest the fruit of your choice.
This recipe is adapted from Mario Batali’s take on the digestivo, only we reduced the sugar a bit. This will make quite a bit of the stuff—nearly two quarts if you follow his recipe—so you’ll need to plan better than I did this time around and not rely on a 1.5L wine bottle to hold everything (especially after you add in the simple syrup, because I ended up not using about ¾ cup of it). It has a bit of a bite to it, so plan accordingly if you would prefer it to be a little sweeter.
Honestly–if you end up making this, please let me know what you think. Of all of the recipes I tinker with, this one always feels very much like a work in progress.
Arantacitacello (Blood Orange Digestive Assistant)
adapted from Mario Batali
- 4 cups vodka (100-proof or 80-proof)
- Zest of 10 blood oranges
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 ½ cups water
Combine the vodka and zest together in a large, sealable container and let stand in a cool place for four or five days. Then, make the simple syrup: combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, and cook for five minutes. Let cool, then add to the vodka and let stand for another day.
Using a funnel that is lined with cheesecloth, strain the arancitacello into clean bottles and chill in the fridge. You can serve once it’s chilled, but letting it stand for a good week is a good idea too.