How to Use Oranges to Change up Old-Fashioneds and Margaritas


Although being a good barman requires an appreciation for time-tested recipes, few can get by without being able to improvise. While he was bartending his way through college and grad school, Jesse Santamaria, bartender at Hill Country Barbecue Market in Brooklyn (345 Adams Street, Brooklyn; 718-885-4608), developed an appreciation for a good old-fashioned as a base for experimentation.

A decade spent behind the bar taught Santamaria many things, one of which was “the confidence to taste and know what mixes well,” he says. He came across a few blood oranges in those early days, and he decided to take a calculated risk, mixing them into an old-fashioned. The result spoke for itself — the drink is now his preferred go-to.

“I think there’s a reason classic cocktails have a certain recipe, and they shouldn’t be messed with too much,” says Santamaria. “It takes away from the essence of the cocktail.” But the addition of the blood orange helps “make the contrast more intriguing than anything else.” It’s a beautiful drink to look at, too.

Playing off of oranges and classics, Santamaria also tossed around the idea of smoking oranges and throwing them in a margarita. “Smoked oranges are pretty delicious,” he says, although he suggests ordering the drink when pairing it with barbecue, as it’s not a tipple you would want to order too frequently.

Blood Orange Old-Fashioned

Santamaria enjoys grabbing these atThe Randolph down in Soho, which he says offers one of the best old-fashioneds in the city.

His specs:

“My personal choices are a sweeter bourbon (Bulleit, Maker’s, Eagle Rare), a slice of blood orange, 2 sugar cubes, and Angostura bitters.”

Muddle sugar cubes, blood orange, 2 dashes of bitters, and a little bit of water at the bottom of a stirring class.
Add ice to the glass.
Pour 2 to 2 1/2 ounces of bourbon into the glass.
Strain into a double rocks glass filled with ice — the bigger the cubes, the better.
Rim the glass with an orange peel and then place peel in the drink as a garnish.

Smoked Orange Margarita

Start with tequila, triple sec, agave, lime juice, mint, and a smoked orange slice.

Combine mint, agave, and smoked orange (squeeze the smoked orange and add the whole slice) in a stirring glass.
Add 2 ounces of tequila, 1 1/2 ounces of triple sec, and 1/2 ounce of agave.
Add ice and shake.

Sick of your usual call drink? Try something new. In this series, we’re asking the city’s bartenders to name their current drinks of choice.