If you have to pick just one fruit that can jazz up a cocktail any day, it has to be orange. Winter being the season of orange, here is an aromatic, orangey melange for you
Like summer and mangoes, it is winter and oranges. Heaps of them, all over the place — with fruit sellers and juice makers, at the breakfast table, in bakers’ goodies and at salad counters and yes, in cocktail bars too. So fresh and juicy.
Seeing pyramids of oranges stacked with street side vendors, a memory often drifts into my mind. About many jaywalks I took as a little girl holding my grandfather’s hand through strips of orange trees in his orchard, stopping by ever so often to look up to an orange laden branch. It was in his orchard that I first saw little white orange blossoms ushering in tiny dark green balls, which would turn half orange with the gain of girth and then would catch the rich orange hue finally, ripe enough for our consumption.
Grandfather is long gone, and I am far, far away from his orchard by a quiet river in a sleepy village in Assam. But oranges remain a governing feature of my winter way of life. I eat and drink lots of it, don’t even throw away its peel, like so many of you I am sure. On a particularly tiring day, try taking a sniff of a fresh orange peel and you will at once feel revived.
But winter or not, orange is such a central feature of so many cocktails, the subject of this space. Almost every variety is used to jazz up bar brews. Blood orange, bitter orange, mandarin orange, bergamot orange, you name it and it has its use. In classic brews like Cosmopolitan, Screw Driver, Sidecar, Bronx, Sex on the Beach, Hurricane, or in innovations of bartenders from across the world, this gifted citrus fruit is amply used, as an ingredient, as garnish or both. Ask any bartender to name one fruit he would like to have it in his bar counter always and the answer would often be a juicy orange.
“Every part of it is interesting, the flavour, the taste…even the peel is useful,” says Amit Singh, the bartender at Firefly, a just-launched bar in New Delhi’s New Friends Colony. Firefly, by the way, is being promoted as “a neighbourhood bar” and as put by its co-owner Kingshuk Nagrath, “It is a space where a customer doesn’t have to dress up formally to enter it, doesn’t have to pay a huge bill to have a good time.”
Sounds good, isn’t it? This becomes a pull for me, and I land up at Firefly, in NFC Community Centre, to check it out. A new space is any day welcome and Firefly interestingly has kept a space for live band performances too. All the more better. It is a 30-cover bar and has an impressive food menu as well. I tell Amit, what better way to celebrate winter than have an orange-based brew! He rises to the occasion, whips up an Orange Caipioska for me, a drink which will soon be a part of the cocktail list at Firefly.
Amit brings to the counter two years of experience as a bartender (He was with The Lalit, New Delhi, before taking up the Firefly assignment). Like a pro, he yanks out a tumbler, drops 8 to 9 chunks of fresh orange, a bar spoon (about 15 ml) of brown sugar, a dash of Triple Sec “to enhance the flavour” plus 60 ml of vodka. He gives the concoction a vigorous stir before topping it with crushed ice. Ten to 15 ml of orange juice is added to the mix plus about 100 ml of lemonade.
A good stir is required before pouring it into a Collins glass. For garnish, he hangs a twirl of orange peel plus a sprig of mint. The drink turns out to be stimulating to the last sip.
Amit is in the process of finalising a bunch of signature dishes and infused drinks too, which will soon be available for his customers but that is another story, better kept for another day. To give you just a hint of what he is up to — and an orangey one at that, he is making orange marmalade at the bar kitchen to add it to tequila and Triple Sec to whip up a signature cocktail. Sounds cool!