Winter Spiced Orange Mocktail

DrinkMocktailSeville Orange

This bubbly, just-slightly-bitter Winter Spiced Orange Mocktail is the perfect non-alcoholic aperitif to enjoy before dinner! It's made from a squash (the cordial drink, not the vegetable!) flavored with orange, cinnamon, anise, and allspice.

Photography Credit: Elana Lepkowski

Just because the holidays are over, don’t tuck away those baking spices yet! This bubbly, non-alcoholic squash mocktail infuses sweet and bitter oranges with rich, warm baking spices for a fresh take on an aperitif.

WHAT IS A SQUASH MOCKTAIL?

Do you know what a squash is? No, not the vegetable! I’m talking about the beverage “squash,” a non-alcoholic concentrated syrup made from sugar, water, and fruit juice that is typically mixed with carbonated water (for a mocktail) or alcohol (for a cocktail). You can also think of squash as a cordial, or just a fruity syrup!

The squash, or syrup, in this drink is made from Seville oranges, which impart a sour and slightly bitter taste. The syrup gives a bittersweet flavor to the drink, making this squash mocktail a lively start to your meal!

Squash syrup mocktail with orange and baking spices

WHAT IS AN APERITIF?

 An aperitif is a pre-dinner drink, as opposed to a digestif (which is an after-dinner drink), and are thought to stimulate the appetite. Aperitifs are not sweet, nor are they very high in alcohol.

Common aperitifs include dry white wines, champagne, dry vermouth, and spirits that lean towards bitter. They are usually alcoholic, but if you are abstaining, this bubbly, slightly bitter mocktail will do the job of awakening your appetite.

Making the squash syrup for winter orange mocktail

WHAT SPICES TO USE FOR THIS SQUASH MOCKTAIL

In this drink, I use warm baking spices to compliment the bitter orange from the Seville orange squash syrup. Cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and allspice are all energizing spices—they’ll perk up your palate! You can use them whole or lightly crushed to release more aromas when making the syrup. You can find bulk spices in many local markets; it’s often cheaper to buy them this way.

Bitter orange and spice squash syrup

OTHER USES FOR THE BITTER ORANGE AND SPICE SQUASH SYRUP

This Bitter Orange and Spice Squash Syrup should be kept refrigerated and will last at least a month in an airtight container. It’s delicious as a sweetener for black tea, added to a hot toddy, or as a syrup for soaking an orange loaf cake. If you are drinking alcohol this month, try adding 1/2 to 3/4 ounce of the syrup to a margarita.

SUGGESTIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Spices: If whole spices are not available where you are, two tablespoons of ground pumpkin pie spice (which includes most of these spices) will also work. If you use ground spices, the syrup will need to be finely strained at the end of the steeping period. I find a coffee filter works very well when I am straining ground spices.
  • Orange bitters: This recipe calls for a dash of orange bitters to add to the flavor of the drink. However, if you choose not to (or cannot) have alcohol in any amount, expressing orange oil from the peel of the orange adds a very aromatic, albeit less bitter, aroma and taste to the drink.
  • Seville oranges: If Seville, or bitter flavored oranges, are not available near you, sweeter oranges may be substituted. In this case, increase the orange bitters to two to three dashes, if you are using them.

More Non-Alcoholic Drinks to Enjoy:

Winter Spiced Orange Mocktail Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: About 2 cups, or enough for 16 mocktails

If you cannot find bitter Seville oranges, you can use regular sweet oranges. Just increase the orange bitters to 2-3 dashes to balance the extra sweetness. Make sure to zest the oranges BEFORE  juicing. Use a vegetable cutter to get wide pieces and to ensure there’s not much of the white pith.

If you don’t have whole spices, use 2 tablespoons of ground pumpkin pie spice and finely strain the syrup through a coffee filter at the end of the steeping process.

Ingredients

For the Bitter Orange and Spice Squash Syrup

  • Zest from two Seville oranges
  • 1 cup orange juice from 4-5 medium-sized Seville bitter oranges
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 2-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 4-5 allspice berries, lightly crushed
  • 3-4 cloves

For the mocktail

  • 1 ounce Bitter Orange and Spice Squash Syrup
  • 3-4 ounces club soda, chilled
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Orange slices for garnish

Method

1 Make the syrup: In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the bitter orange juice, zest, sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, star anise, allspice berries, and cloves. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let steep an additional 10 minutes.

Making the squash syrup for winter orange mocktail

2 Strain the syrup: Strain through a fine mesh strainer (or a coffee filter, if you've used ground spices) into an airtight container, like a wide mouth canning jar. Set aside or refrigerate if not using immediately. The syrup will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

3 Serve: To serve, fill a rocks glass with crushed ice, pour in one ounce of the Bitter Orange and Spice Squash Syrup, top with club soda and a dash of orange bitters (or orange oil). Stir gently to combine. Garnish with an orange slice.

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Elana Lepkowski

Elana Lepkowski is a professional photographer, writer, and recipe developer with almost 20 years in the food industry. She began documenting her cocktails in 2011 after mixing drinks in her home bar for years, and her website Stir and Strain is now a widely recognized resource for cocktail enthusiasts. Elana has contributed to Serious Eats, Dinner Party Download, Imbibe, and numerous other publications. When she’s not concocting new syrups at home, you can probably find her at Disneyland.

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