Eying Oranges

Ah citrus season the only time of year I look forward to as much as Halloween. I love to see all the different types of citrus available for the juicing. Still how much do we actually think about the OJ that goes into our cocktails. I suspect the average American doesn’t give a second thought and simply grabs the bottled stuff, maybe even a few seasoned veterans. Still is fresh really that much better than bottled when it comes to oranges? Certainly bottled lime and lemon is useless, but many people agree on bottled orange juice being usable. However if you are going to juice your own what do you buy?

We’ll we here at Rated R Cocktails have always loved orange. The color, the juice, hell even the soda! Some of my fondest memories as a kid involved a two liter of orange soda and a MST3K marathon on scifi channel. As an adult and a professional I truly believe in the orange as a cocktail citrus and champion it’s unique flavor and color. So lets take a better look at winter’s citrus bounty of orangy goodness as we look at five ways you can drink your orange.



These are the oranges you see all the time and cut up for lunches. They are so plentiful you can even find them at good gas stations. They have a crazy high yield and from three of them we got nine oounces of juice. The flesh is bright orange and has a nice texture with little to no seeds or connective tissue to stick in your teeth. They have a crispish bite and a sweet sour flavor.


The juice is yellow and pale, and a little sour with not much outside of that in terms of dimension. It has an extremely mild sour aroma and an overall quick finish. It’s not a surprise then than navel’s are a bulk orange usually added to Valencia to give the juice more sour and more volume. Stick to snacking on them, and don’t bother juicing them. Honestly prebottled is a better deal in ease and taste so long as it’s a quality brand.



These have always been my go to juice oranges. They aren’t to hard to find year round and they have nice yields of about six ounces for three oranges. The fruit’s flesh is so light orange it’s almost yellow and so is the juice. The skin is smooth and often slightly patchy and the connective tissue is thick, hard to eat and filled with seeds.


It has a slightly waxy aroma with notes of sweet but subdued orange blossoms. It’s got that classic orange juice flavor with almost no acidity, just a little bit at the end. Most of it is an almost butter sweet full flavored orangeyness. It’s got a very full body overall with balanced sweetness and a very light almost vegetal sourness at the end. Still the whole affair is very mellow as if the orange is trying not to offend me.


Blood Oranges

The oranges themselves seemed rather firm and I didn’t notice much in the way of seeds or pulp really. The skin is abit drier and more rough than Valencia or Cara Cara. The skins tore so easily when I juiced them they ripped apart. The fruits were nice and tart with a firm flesh and a tart orange taste with a very mild bitter finish. Perhaps it was the fact that I did these in a press but we got less juice from these than any of the other selections. Out of three oranges all we got was four ounces of juice. Now of course juice varies with the fruit so these could have been stingy. And these are the first of the growing season we’ve seen. Still it was a little surprising. We all envision that deep blood red fruit we see in ad’s and packages but sometimes they can vary in hue as we show with these bisections of three Moro oranges all from the same bag.


The juice itself is reminiscent of grapefruit with a balance of sweet and bitter. Even the aroma is a bit grapefruity with perfumed hints. It has that signature tartness I look for in a good orange but enhanced with an almost salty umami finish. The juice is definitely red, almost jasper or light garnet. It’s no wonder this ruby jewel of the trees is coveted by the cocktail set, however not much has been done with them in the way of Tiki. Something we plan to remedy this season.


Cara Cara

Honestly I didn’t know much about this orange going in. I’d seen them marketed as energy packed power oranges but last year I was to obsessed with Moro’s to really stop and Cara at all. So I was eager to try them when they came back around. This is a very smooth skinned orange but there’s kind of a surprise inside. The pith and connective flesh is the color of turmeric and the flesh of the fruit itself is very pinkish. A few shades lighter than a ruby grapefruit. It had a decent yield of about five ounces of juice from three oranges.


The juice is unbelievably flavorful and very well balanced with sweetness coming up front and being balanced by a tart acidity in the middle and at the end with even a light bit of very mild almost pepperyness. The color of the juice is commercial quality, like that perfect orange color one imagines when they think of the color. The nose is very mellow and welly clearly orangey, but not in a light sense. All in all this is the most orangey orange I think I have ever tasted. Cara Cara’s blew me away pretty damn well and might replace Valencia as my go to juice orange.


Bottled Orange Juice

Here we go, here’s where the cocktail geek bashes my bottled orange juice. Well…yes and no. Believe it or not I keep some bottled orange juice in case of hangovers or for those morning I have time for breakfast. I even used to put it in cocktails before I gave juicing my own a try. So I put that ball in your court. Compare juices just once, and See if your proud of popping the top into your shaker when the fresh stuff is so easy and readily available.

That being said bottled OJ has consistent color, definitely easier if your working a high volume bar. Also unlike bottled lime or lemon juice it’s actually acceptable to most people. It’s aroma’s slightly nutty with expected mellow orangey notes. It’s decently sour with a pretty flat abrupt finish balanced out by a similar sweetness. It’s what you expect, it’s designed to be consistent every time and it can be because it comes from a plant and will last about two months after you open it. There are a lot of positives here, but when it comes to flavor I still give the edge to fresh every time. There’s nothing wrong with average, which perfectly defines most bottled juices. I just never want to serve average to my customers. If you must select bottle orange juice for your cocktails we recommend high end brands. We’ve had success with the one pictured here as well as the “Simply” brand. It should be noted that just about all orange juice brands no matter how high end have sugar added to make them more palatable to mass markets. Cocktail makers should account for this by lowering the amount of simple syrup. Another reason I don’t use them is reducing the spiced Tiki syrups in my own work often throws them off even more. We recommend our fellow Tiki freaks squeeze all the more.


So what have I learned from all this?

More people need to use Cara Cara orange in cocktails. These things are dynamite.

Just because a Moro Orange isn’t ruby red when you cut it doesn’t mean the juice won’t be.

If juicing Valencia you might want to add abit of navel or Cara Cara for tartness. Perhaps in a 2:1 ratio.

Bottled orange juice does have some pluses unlike lemon and lime. But the extra effort is worth your time

 Cara Cara’s are awesome.

Well we hope you enjoyed this look into winter oranges. Have your explored some citrus previously unknown to you this winter? Let us know about it. Until next time…

“You Get Hammered America!”


About JFL

Joey or JFL as he is known by friends is a culinary trained mixologist from the Heart of Dixie Birmingham, Alabama. From a weekly column in the St. Clair News Aegis to his own experiments online JFL never stops doing work on Tiki and Cocktails. When he's not studying all things spirit, wine, and beer he's pursuing his own odd interests such as cartoons, cheesy old horror movies, horror punk, hair metal, and hockey
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5 Responses to Eying Oranges

  1. Dr Drake Remoray says:

    Since I started making cocktails I care more about the orange skin than the juice. Did you consider which variety had the best skin for zesting purposes?

    • JFL says:

      I did I think the most sought after component in the skin is the citrus oil. So you want a smoother and somewhat thicker skin I think. Moro skins are so dry and a little porous. I prefer to use valencia skins as I think they have a good bit of oil. Cara Cara peels were interesting to. now as much flare up when I flame them though.

  2. putneyfarm says:

    The blood oranges and cara caras are our faves, the extra tartness makes them better for cocktails (IMHO), great to eat on their own or make sorbet…

  3. Sarah says:

    I realise this blog is a bit old now, but I bought a tree and I am growing my own Cara Cara oranges and have been searching for more information. My first crop is 5 oranges and the first one I picked was a little sour, so I’ll leave the rest on the tree for a few more weeks. I’m in Australia, so our ripening time is opposite yours. If you’re after interesting peel have you seen Buddha’s Hand fruit?

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