Blood Orangecello and Bootlegging

My beautiful bottles of Blood Orangecello Liqueur.

 Cold Blood Orangecello, Straight Up….

…or over ice garnished with berries & lemongrass. Very nice.

As it is Father’s Day I am going to tell this little story that has to do with my Dad.

I come from a family of bootleggers on my Father’s side of the family.  I suppose it is okay to say this out loud after all these years. One of my many not so child appropriate memories is of going to visit some elderly Great Aunts & Uncles up in the country near Dover. I have no recollection of any of the Aunts, nor their cakes & pies or other homemade goodies made for our visit. Nor do I have any recollection of the Uncles themselves, just of going to see their “still” deep in the woods somewhere close to their houses. That I recollect like a film strip. It was a hot day, close & sticky, a day of  mystery & deep greens. I watched quietly as Daddy & the Great Uncles studied the moonshine still and its’ output with reverence. There was a bit of tasting, but not for me. I liked the way the still looked, very purposefully random with copper tubing and large metal drums with pipes & drains, a gizmo to fascinate a curious child.On the way home I was cautioned to never mention to anyone about the still. I didn’t until today.

It must be in my blood as I so enjoy making batches of limoncello, vanilla extract, special cocktails in batches for dinner parties, turning fruit into liquers…this is what led me to remember going to see the still when I was a child. Just let me make this clear, in case anyone from the ATF is reading, I do not have  a still at my house, but that does not stop me from my work. I use large mason jars, high proof vodka, sugar & fruit. This is how I made this beautiful batch of “Blood Orangecello”.

It takes a few weeks or months to complete a batch, but there is little work involved, just a lot of waiting. The wait is worth it every time.  I start in deep Winter when citrus is abundant & cheap and by late Spring, early Summer my batch is ready to decant. Every now and then you need to swish it around in the jar and maybe take just a little taste to see how it coming along.

Here is what you will need:

6-8 ripe Blood Oranges

2 cups raw sugar

1 liter 100 proof vodka

Here is how you do it:

1. Wash & dry oranges. Carefully peel each orange taking care to not to remove any pith as you work.

2. Cut peeled oranges in half & juice each one.

3. In a large stockpot make a simple syrup using the 2 cups sugar & 1 cup water.Bring to a low boil, stirring until sugar is melted. Remove from heat.

4. Add the blood orange juice & the peels to the stockpot and stir to combine.

5. Pour the liter of vodka into the pot and stir to mix.

6. Ladle mixture with blood orange peels into a large glass mason jar. Cover with a tight -fitting lid. Place jar in a cool, dark place such as a closet floor for 6 weeks to 3 months.  Every now and then swish the mixture around in the jar……and wait. (The first 6 steps were done in March.)

March, April, May….June…..

Time to decant. A couple of years ago I purchased an inexpensive bottle capper from All Seasons Garden Shop (they also sell everything to make beer and wine at home) on 8th Avenue South here in Nashville. I also get my little bottles by the case from them.

7. First remove the peels from the jar & toss out, then strain the blood orangecello through a fine sieve to remove most of the debris in the mixture. You will notice the liqueur has turned a deep, deep red color. That is fine & beautiful.

8.Carefully decant into clean bottles & cap (or you can use corks if you do not have a capper). That is all there is to it.

Blood Orangecello is delicious icy cold. I keep a few bottles in the freezer always ready to serve straight up, or over ice topped with fizzy water as well as drizzled over homemade vanilla ice cream or pound cake.

I am sure the Great Uncles and my Dad would look on this as child’s play. They would no doubt be right.

49 thoughts on “Blood Orangecello and Bootlegging

    1. I think you just need a vodka that is at least 80 proof. Nothing fancy. I would not use real brown sugar as it would make the color murky, but whit sugar is fine and what most recipes call for. I just love raw sugar so I thought I would try it and it was delicious. Good luck.

  1. I think they are looking down on you with a smile and a nod of approval. I love the orangecello’s color and it must be tasty.

  2. Hi teresa, you are a star, I love limoncello, but the recipes I’ve seen require pure alcohol, which is hard to get hold of, and the process seems a lot more fiddly and longer. Could I swap the oranges for lemons in terms of number? and thank you!!

    1. You would need about 12 to 15 lemons. When I make limo cello that is about how many I use for one batch. You can definitely swap to lemons using the same recipe. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. they are beautiful bottles; I look forward to a sip. Indeed you have been most circumspect about your dad’s bootleggin’ days–(as the inscrutable one, I am impressed, all these years!) love the story.

    1. Yes, very circumspect indeed! I have quite a few stories in this genre. Every now and then something makes me remember them very clearly. It seems working on my blog is when it happens most often.
      A sip is being saved just for you!

  4. I love this post. Everything about it. I have never bottled anything and now i want to remember this come deep winter. I can only imagine how great it tastes as I love blood orange. This is bookmarked, no pinned.

  5. My Dutchteam didn’t do well in the european soccer tournament ,
    so the orange are out and it is good to have very delicious tasting orange with some blood color, photo’s spectacular

  6. Teresa, I hope it’s not too late to ask a question about this great looking recipe. I see that you add one cup of water to the sugar to make a simple syrup and then add the juice from all of the oranges. I’m a little concerned about the total volume of liquid I will end up with since the quantity of juice could vary from batch to batch. Can you make an estimate as to the total amount of liquid to be added (juice plus water, excluding the vodka)? My personal preference would be to have as much orange flavor as possible while not diluting the proof of the final mixture. Thanks

    1. Allen, thanks for getting in touch. The truth of the matter is that it really doesn’t matter if you use exact amounts. You really cannot mess this process up. It is more of a process than a recipe. You can just use all juice if you like, either way it will just turn out great. Keep me posted. Happy New year.

      1. Thanks, Teresa. I obtained a lot of juice in the process and was hoping I could use most of it to intensify the flavors without dropping the alcohol content to the point that the mixture would partially freeze. Can you tell me why orange peel seems to be preferred over orange zest? It seems that zest would provide much more surface area for the infusion process. I’ve made lemoncello using the zest of 15-20 lemons and it was great. The majority of orangecello recipes, however, call for peel not zest. In fact, I saw one person actually say not to use zest but offered no explanation. I look forward to hearing from you.

      2. Well Allen you have presented me with some things to think about. I am not sure about the peel versus zest? In fact I am going to try this as soon as I have time. Since the liquid is strained right before bottling I really do not think it would make any difference at all. You may have rocked my “orangecello” & “limoncello” world. I will keep you posted on how it comes out…how could it not work? Thanks for making me think about this. Happy New Year.

      3. Thank you again, Teresa! Make sure you use a good microplane zester and take care not to zest any of the bitter, white pith. I’ve got two batches going right now using the zest of 9 blood oranges each. Not to further complicate things, but I’m also experimenting with an additional option. In one of my batches I am letting the extraction take place with zest and vodka only. I froze the blood orange juice from that batch and will add it along with the simple syrup after the extraction process (maybe two months). This minor variation could extract even more oil before additional aging of the total mixture. I’m not trying to change your outstanding recipe–just suggesting some options that I’ve picked up on in my reading. I’ll report back in two or three months. Happy New Year!!

      4. Teresa,
        As promised, I’m reporting back on the results of my first batch ever (1 gallon) of orangecello. It was outstanding to say the least, and I thank you for sharing the basics of this process. I varied things a little in order to get as much orange flavor as possible. For those interested in trying this variation, the following is a recipe for 2 quarts:

        –One 2 quart mason jar
        –Good quality microplane zester
        –Zest and juice of 8 or 9 blood oranges
        –1 liter of 100 proof Smirnoff vodka
        –1 cup water
        –2 cups sugar

        Zest the oranges applying light to medium pressure so that you don’t get into the pith. Place the zest and 1 liter of vodka in the mason jar and cap the jar. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and freeze immediately. Store the mason jar in a dark location for at least one month, and shake the mixture occasionally. After this extraction period, thaw the juice and make the simple syrup. When the syrup has cooled, add this to the mason jar first. Then add the thawed juice to completely fill the mason jar. Store the mixture in a dark location for two months and occasionally shake the jar. Strain through a mesh coffee filter, bottle, and place in the freezer.

        I have no idea how this process compares to your original recipe. It is certainly a little more trouble and may not be worth the additional steps. My objective was to expose as much of the orange peel surface area as possible to the strongest concentration of solvent (i.e., soak a pile of zest instead of a few strips of peel in pure vodka). I was amazed that the addition of simple syrup and juice finished filling the 2 quart jar exactly to the rim, and the finished product did not freeze or turn to slush. It was perfect! I believe that your idea to incorporate the juice is the secret to a great recipe regardless of which process is used. Thanks again.

      5. Oh Allen, thanks so much for sharing your results with me. I am so thrilled with your recipe and I am going to use your method next time. I bet it is really beautiful as well as being delicious.

  7. Thanks so much for this recipe. I made a batch last year and it was a big hit at a dinner party we gave. My husband loved it and asked me to make it again. I mentioned it in art class this week which led me to discover that one of my classmates has a blood orange tree in her back yard. This morning she brought me a bag of 32 oranges for a promise of a bottle of blood orange cello. What a deal. I’m getting right to work on it. Thanks ever so much.

  8. I just made Sangria, and marmalade with the blood oranges from my brother’s small orchard, before I remembered this recipe. I will have to beg him for more so I can try this too. Sounds delicious!

    1. Hi Kelly, Thanks for stopping by and leaving such as nice comment. I am crazy about Blood Oranges as we have such a short availability season. I will come over to visit you right now and see what you are up to.

  9. i did blood orange, lemon,lime and lemon and lime with good quality vodka, kept for 6 months before straining, and wow they were all magnificent, doing it again this year as it is a great talking point as well, make sure you have a good strainer to keep the product clear

    1. Yeah Gary, sounds like you have a “bumper crop” of “..cellos”. What fun to make all the various flavors..the colors must be fantastic. Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. Making another lot this year lemon, tangerine and manderine, orange, last years were a hit, making it for family as well its so popular

Leave a Reply