Freshly squeezed orange juice offers a rounded sweetness and soft acidity that pair brilliantly with almost any style of whisky in cocktails beyond the classic scotch-based Blood and Sand, says Chelsea Gregoire, founder and owner of restaurant consulting company Drinkable Genius. Orange juice “tends to add a little bit more sugar than other citrus fruits like lemon and lime,” Gregoire says. “That little element of sweetness plays really well with the tannins in whisky, and can be used to complement or accent flavors of malt, baking spices, and red fruits.”
It’s essential to use freshly squeezed juice, says TJ Vytlacil of Brigade Society and former owner of the St. Louis, Missouri restaurants Blood & Sand and the since closed Death in the Afternoon. Precise measurement is also crucial, since too much juice can eclipse the whisky. And be sure to shake vigorously to integrate flavors and textures. “Some whiskies have more caramel, some have more vanilla, but in general, orange juice complements and highlights all of those flavors,” Vytlacil says.
A small amount of OJ is enough to temper high-proof bourbon, spicy rye, or even peated scotch, he adds. “As long as the proof of the whisky is around 100, it’s going to hold up really well.”
Four Bright Whisky and OJ cocktails
Blood and Sand: ¾ oz. blended scotch + ¾ oz. fresh orange juice + ¾ oz. sweet vermouth + ¾ oz. Cherry Heering liqueur
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with flamed orange disk or peel.
Blood and Famine: 1 oz. Redbreast 12 year old Cask Strength + 1 oz. fresh orange juice + ½ oz. sweet vermouth + 2 dashes mole bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
Created by TJ Vytlacil of Brigade Society in St. Louis, Mo.
100 Laurel Beach: 1 ½ oz. Laphroaig 18 year old + 1 oz. fresh orange juice + 1 ¼ oz. fresh apple cider + ½ oz. fig jam + pinch of salt
Stir all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat until warm. Garnish with a cinnamon-dusted apple slice.
Created by John Stefanski of Rocker Spirits Distillery in Littleton, Colo.
Sweater Weather: 1 ½ oz. Old Forester Straight Rye + ¾ oz. fresh orange juice + ½ oz. Amaro Averna + ½ oz. rosemary-infused brown sugar syrup* + 3 dashes Angostura Orange bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and double-strain (Hawthorne and fine mesh strainers) into a chilled coupe. Garnish with fresh sprig of rosemary.
Created by Chelsea Gregoire of Drinkable Genius in Baltimore, Md.
(*Rosemary-infused brown sugar syrup: Stir equal parts water and brown sugar over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to infuse as the syrup cools.