52 Foods Week Two: Oranges

Story time: Every summer growing up, our family would pile into an often comically overstuffed car and drive 5 hours North of the Bay Area for Feather River Camp. The final 45 minutes of the drive were awesome: A tight, winding road cut into the sides of the Sierra Nevada mountains with multiple bridges that seemed to soar over the rocky river below. The four hours before this were pretty dull. One of my favorite diversions during the interminable drive was passing the many orchards. I loved to watch the perfect grids of fruit trees converge into straight lines then scatter back into a wall of leaves as we passed them at 60 MPH. It’s an effect that can still distract me on long drives.

I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the orchards I marveled at as a child belonged to Sparks Ranch, in Winters, from whom I recently acquired 10 pounds of oranges.


I love oranges, and especially fresh squeezed orange juice. It’s one of the few citrus drinks I enjoy. Similarly, about the only cocktail I’ll order that’s made with citrus is the Blood and Sand, a classic cocktail made with scotch, sweet vermouth, orange juice and cherry brandy. Most recipes call for equal parts of all the ingredients, but I prefer mine heavier on the scotch and lighter on the cherry brandy

The Blood and Sand is great, but I wanted to come up with something new, so I set to work tossing 3/4 ounces of orange juice into a cocktail shaker with a vast conspiracy of ingredients before arriving at this lovely thing. Since one of my favorite things about ordering a Blood and Sand is the way it conjures Camus’ L’Étranger, and since it contains the French apéritif Lillet, and since this cocktail is basically a Blood and Sand with a couple of ingredients out of place I’m calling it L’Étranger. See how I did that?


1.5 oz. London Dry Gin
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
1 tsp. Cherry Heering

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

L'Étranger Cocktail

The Man Walks Into A Bar

One of my greatest discoveries this year was an appreciation for bitter apéritifs. It all started with a glass of Cynar, a bitter—but at the same time sweet—Italian liqueur made from artichoke leaves. According to the bottle, Cynar is traditionally enjoyed neat or on the rocks, possibly with an orange slice. I’ve had it this way, and it took me a very long time to get to the bottom of the glass. Cynar begins sweet, but quickly presents a strong, lasting bitterness that dissuades one from taking another sip immediately.

Portland’s great, new restaurant/bar, Beaker and Flask, features a lot of drinks using Cynar, along with other bitter liqueurs. Their cocktail list is very eye-opening, with much less citrus and sugar than any bar you’ve probably been in, and bitterness is often a delicious feature of their concoctions. I’m really not a fan of much sweetness or citrus in beverages, so I love what Kevin and his team do. It’s led to me picking up a few more European liqueurs for our home bar.

Last night, I built a cocktail around Cynar and Becherovka, and arrived at a surprisingly good recipe that I’ve dubbed the Man Walks Into A Bar. It has a slightly bitter, woody flavor with a light sweetness. It’s an excellent pre-dinner drink, with an elegant, light walnut color. This recipe makes 2 at once, for sharing with a barmate or your bartender.

The Man Walks Into A Bar:

1.5 oz each of Cynar, Becherovka, Limoncello and Vodka
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Angustura Bitters in each glass

Place two dashes Angustura Bitters each in two cocktail glasses.
Combine Cynar, Becherovka, Limoncello, Vodka and Lillet Blanc in a cocktail shaker with ice.
Shake well and strain into glasses.