Cara Cara Cocktail
Happy Valentine’s Day!
The following post and recipe has little-to-nothing to do with the fact that I happen to be posting it on this, the 14th of February, but since I forgot to prepare anything heart-shaped or chocolatey in advance, let’s just pretend these cocktails are Valentine’s-Day-appropriate. (They are, after all, a little pink-ish, and– more importantly– best enjoyed with someone you love.)
Assuming anyone out there is even keeping tabs on me and my blog-related promises, you may remember back when I said some cocktails would be “coming soon” to my blog.
So… it turned out that was a lie.
I just know so little about fancy drinks or drink-making. My go-to cocktail (both at home and when I’m out) is a Gin & Tonic. When I want a little variety (and a little less sugar) then I order a Mojito or a Salty Dog instead.* But that’s about my range.
However, as fate would have it, two auspicious events led me to create the first cocktail to appear on my blog other than sangria:
- My friend Tarah gave me a Christmas gift of homemade grapefruit hibiscus bitters!
- I discovered cara cara oranges (and made a Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake).
It was meant to be.
As I rambled on about in my chocolate cake post, cara cara oranges might resemble rosy mini grapefruits when you slice into them, but they are sweet and floral with no hints of bitterness. They are also incredibly juicy– the better for making cocktails with!
I balanced the juiced cara cara oranges with the tartness of fresh lemon juice paired with vodka, but I think the bitters made the drink. (Tarah created them by infusing a high-proof alcohol with hibiscus petals and grapefruit rind.) Just a dash graced the cocktail with an enticingly bittersweet aftertaste; I should know, because I scientifically taste-tested the drink, with and without the bitters.
The refreshing drink is reminiscent of a Salty Dog (without the salt) or, admittedly, a screwdriver (without the… screw?). It’s like a sweeter, rosier Lemon Drop. (Have I mentioned that I don’t know much about cocktails?)
Since my Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake blog post, I’ve since learned that I was enjoying (countless) rather small cara cara oranges; some of them are actually much bigger. They’re not quite as large as a small grapefruit but they are hefty among their oranger relatives. This is why I’ve included the note about “1-2 oranges” in the ingredients lists below– it depends how big your oranges are!
If you’re up for squeezing your own orange juice (which takes several minutes) but not for making your own bitters (which takes up to several weeks), then any store-bought grapefruit bitters will do, hibiscus-y or not.
And don’t give up on making your own cocktails just because you don’t own a cocktail shaker– I don’t either! My solution? Pour all of the ingredients into a mason jar and add a few ice cubes. Close the lid, give it a few vigorous shakes, then pour the drink through a fine metal strainer (like a mesh colander or tea strainer). That seemed to work just fine!
This cocktail was such a hit that we sacrificed a grapefruit to make a second sour version, which was just as delicious, if not more so, than the original lemony rendition. (I’m not even going to tell you how many cara cara oranges we sacrificed, or how many of these drinks we’ve made…)
* I moved to Japan not that long after turning 21 in the states, i.e., with about zero knowledge of bars/bar culture (in the U.S., that is… let’s not bring up that semester I’d already spent in Spain!), so when I first discovered the delicious Japanese cocktail called the Soruti Doggu, a delightful mix of grapefruit juice and vodka with salt around the rim, I assumed it was, you know, a Japanese thing. Turns out Salty Dogs exist in bars everywhere… and that’s okay by me.
Print these recipes. (PDF)
Cara Cara Cocktail (2 ways)
Cara Cara Cocktail (The Instant Classic) – Ingredients:
~ 3 oz. fresh cara cara orange juice (from ~1-2 oranges)
~ 1 oz. fresh lemon juice (from ~½ lemon)
~ 1 oz. simple syrup (see below for instructions to make your own)
~ 1½ oz. vodka
~ 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
The Cara Cara Sour (not pictured) – Ingredients:
~ 2 oz. fresh cara cara orange juice (from ~1 orange)
~ 3 oz. fresh grapefruit juice (from ~½ grapefruit)
~ ¾ oz. simple syrup
~ 1¾ oz. vodka
~ 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
How to make it:
1. Make simple syrup: For approximately 2 ounces of simple syrup, combine 4 Tbsp. sugar with 2 Tbsp. water in a very small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring slowly, to dissolve the sugar into the water. Then bring to a strong simmer and remove from the heat. Allow to cool before using (transfer to a another container to speed up the cooling time).
2. Juice the cara cara oranges and lemon or grapefruit. Strain the pulp and seeds from the juice, or wait and strain the entire drink after shaking with ice.
3. Combine all ingredients and shake with ice in a cocktail shaker or a mason jar. Strain and pour into cocktail glasses with or without ice. Garnish with a cara cara orange slice.
Print these recipes! (PDF)