Calling your inner child: Remember the Creamsicle®, the creamy orange ice cream pop that melted in your mouth all summer long? Well, now there's a grown-up (read: boozy) version, just right for making now, when summer seems so far away but winter citrus is at its flavorful peak. Call it orangecello.
You may be familiar with limoncello, a liqueur with roots in Southern Italy, where lemons and other citrus grow in abundance. Usually, it's made with a base spirit (often vodka or brandy), sugar and lots and lots of fragrant lemon peel. But why stop at lemons? You can also make 'cellos with limes, grapefruits or, yes, oranges.
Sebastian Zutant, co-owner and beverage director at The Red Hen in Washington, D.C., puts his own childhood-inspired spin on the liqueur. With the simple addition of vanilla sweetness, its flavor bears a surprising resemblance to the Popsicle for which it's named, showing just the faintest suggestion of creaminess, too. Though it's plenty sippable straight up, Zutant often sends a small portion out to guests topped with Prosecco as an aperitif.
"We started off making normal 'cellos [i.e., limoncello]," he says. "But I got bored and started playing around, thinking about kinds of things we enjoyed as kids." And thus, the Orangecello Creamsicle®—an easy DIY drink project—was born. Here's how to make it at home:
In a sealable container that holds at least eight cups, pour in one bottle of 80-proof vodka. Add the skins of five or six ripe oranges (any variety, Zutant says, just be sure to avoid the pith as it will make the 'cello bitter) and half of a Madagascar vanilla bean. (If you don't know what to do with the other half, consider burying it in sugar to make vanilla sugar.)
Seal the container and store it away from the sun. Check daily to make sure the vanilla is not overpowering the mixture ("Some beans are stronger than others," Zutant says). Remove the vanilla bean after three days maximum. Let the mixture continue to infuse with the orange peels, which will add more color and flavor. Continue to check daily to ensure that the flavor/color is to your taste, and after five to seven days total, strain the mixture.
Then make a simple syrup by heating two cups of water with two cups of sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add one cup of simple syrup to the 'cello, or more if you prefer a sweeter drink. Chill the entire mixture and serve cold. The finished orangecello will keep for several months and give you a taste of summer year-round.