This blood orange vanilla bean gin and tonic is a lightly sweet, thoroughly refreshing cocktail, and a perfect way to take advantage of the season’s blood oranges before they’re gone. Read on, or jump straight into the recipe HERE.
I think it’s safe to say, most of us have gotten used to fruits and veggies being available all year ’round. Tomatoes can be found in the dead of winter thanks to Mexico, lettuce from greenhouses, blueberries from South America… but there are still a few things that are completely seasonal, and blood oranges are one of them. While most citrus fruits can be found year round, blood oranges are one of the few that only show up for a month or two at the end of winter.
Of course, they are still oranges, and therefore you could use any orange in this recipe in their place… but there is something special about blood oranges. And I don’t just mean their fantastic color.
Blood oranges have a bitter/sweet flavor, a little moodier than your average bright, happy citrus fruit. That bitterness is perfect for this cocktail, almost like adding orange juice and a few drops of bitters.
And I mean, come on… that color is just too good to ignore. Citrus fruits are instant winter-blues killers, and blood oranges are no exception. Pink drinks get a bad rap for being, well, pink… but I’m tellin’ you, it’s hard to be in a bad mood with one of these in your hand.
To balance out the slight bitterness of the blood orange juice (and because I prefer my drinks on the slightly sweet side) I made a vanilla bean infused simple syrup. Sounds fancy, but it couldn’t be easier to make, and the subtle vanilla flavor is such a great compliment to the piney gin and sharp citrus.
The vanilla lends such a creamy smoothness to this drink, it almost makes them go down a little too easy. I made two for photo purposes, but then realized it was the middle of a weekday and I had no one to help me drink them. (Real talk, this is how a lot of my photos are taken in the winter, because the light goes away so early.) Long story short, I may have gotten a wee bit tipsy.
And when I say may have, I mean I was totally sloshed by one o’clock on a Thursday. Oops?
I’m guessing cocktail purists will flinch when I call this a gin and tonic, but since that’s the drink that inspired these beauties, that’s the name I went with. Now I’m thinking they need a fun, catchy title of their own. Naming rights go to whoever comes up with the best title in the comments below!
- 1 cup granulated cane sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- ¼ cup blood orange juice (about 1 blood orange, less if they are really juicy)
- 2 oz. gin (I used St. George, but any gin you like will work)
- ½ - 1 oz. vanilla simple syrup, depending on how sweet you like it
- Tonic water for topping off
- Twist of blood orange peel, for garnish (optional)
- Mint for garnish (optional, but recommended -- the flavor goes well with the rest of the drink)
- Add everything to a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour into a clean jar (I like to leave the vanilla bean in the syrup to steep) and refrigerate until needed. Syrup will keep for upwards of two weeks.
- Add the blood orange juice, gin, simple syrup, and a handful of ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake well, then strain into a large rocks glass with ice, or a collins glass. Top off with tonic water, to taste, and garnish with mint.