The first Thanksgiving with the extended New Orleans family after my 21st birthday was a bit surreal: my Uncle was mixing Mimosas but the carton (pour out a third of the juice, fill with Champagne, shake and pour) and offered me one. I think it took my mother by as much surprise as it did me!
Orange juice is one of the most common mixers in cocktails though I’ve never been fond of it’s most common pair-up, Vodka, in the Screwdriver. Of course, that has a lot to do with early vodka experiences and low-quality product. Taken a step further, there are a variety of orange alcohols and liqueurs available: from the orange-infused vodkas and rums to Grand Marnier and Triple Sec (which comes in a variety of brands).
At the Plantation, we used a lot of Grand Marnier in both the truffles I made to go out with the checks or as turn-down treats as well as in the Creme Brulee desserts (at least, that is, until I got them to agree to chocolate creme brulee… mmmm, Godiva!). Meanwhile, the stronger, pushier Triple Sec stayed in the bar.
Even though it appears in so many cocktails, Triple Sec is a tough taste to balance. Like I said, this is one pushy orange and many times it’s inclusion in a cocktail means that’s one of the few flavors you’re going to get. Not only has this spirit disrupted a pomegranate martini in the past (I know, what were they thinking), too much of a “good” thing can ruin an otherwise drinkable Cosmopolitan.
While on our cruise this past January, our itinerary took us to Roatan, Honduras, where I picked up a small bottle of Vaca Negra Tangerine Liqueur. It smells like concentrated orange soda and, straight, has a lightly orange flavor with a warm base–much like the brandy-based cordials friends had made. And, since I was thinking Cosmo (which, at it’s most basic, is vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice) I decided to give the Vaca Negra a try in place of the usual. The result was tart, refreshing, and not at all overpowering in the citrus department–just enough for flavor without going overboard. (Okay, the vanilla vodka didn’t hurt, either.)
CHF Cultural Cosmo
2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Vaca Negra Tangerine Liqueur
1 oz Lime juice
2 oz Cranberry juice
Shake everything over ice and serve in a chilled martini glass with an orange twist.
Now, even though the label on my Vaca Negra mentions a States-side importer in Metairie, Louisiana, I’ve been unable to find any leads online of where to order it. Still, it’s possible to make your own if you’ve got a few tangerines and some time to make an infusion. Pierce a few tangerines and cover with vodka or brandy (my vote is for the latter) for up to 2 weeks. Then, strain off the liquor and let sit for a month before using.