Candied Ginger Orange Peels

Ok, full disclosure. These are kind of a pain in the ass to make. But, they can be made in advance and they keep for a while. And because they are a bit labor intensive, they serve as an excuse to make fancy cocktails for days on end. If you’re the type that needs excuses.


  • 4 medium navel oranges
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Chunk of peeled, finely grated ginger root (I used about 4 inches)


Use a vegetable peeler to make beautiful, precise, pith-free strips of orange peel. Or, if you want to make a day of it and like things to be “rustic” looking, misplace your peeler, be too lazy to go buy a new one and painstakingly manually peel and de-pith a few oranges.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the water and sugar. Once the sugar dissolves, add the ginger and orange peels. Lower the temp and simmer for 45 minutes.

Now, here is where you have some choices:

A) You can forget that you have this  reducing on the stove and walk away. Come back in a while and find that your creation has turned into a ginger/orange impenetrable shellack on your favorite sauce pan. Throw pan away, and start over.

B) Don’t forget you have this reducing on the stove, don’t walk away, and instead swirl the pan every few minutes to make sure the peels are evenly coated, and turn down the heat as the mixture reduces.

I strongly recommend option B.

Prepare a baking sheet with wire racks on it. Remove the scalding and sticky peels with your bare hands until you have burned your fingerprints into oblivion. Quickly Google if fingerprints grow back*. Switch to using an implement, such as a slotted spoon or a fork, to move the rest of the peels.

Sprinkle the peels with sugar. Now for the fun part. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar/ginger coating on the orange peels. It should look like this (hopefully minus a few of the flames):

Let them sit for an hour or so, then store on a wax paper-lined Tupperware in the fridge.

Use as a garnish in a Holiday Old Fashioned.

*After suffering a 3rd degree burn, complete recovery of prints is not guaranteed.

Cranberry & Orange Simple Syrup

I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with flavored simple syrups. While the rest of the country strives to cut down on their refined sugar intake, I’m taking it up a notch with things like this kick ass Cranberry & Orange Simple Syrup. It’s fantastic in a Holiday Old Fashioned, but is also mighty tasty mixed with club soda.


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 small orange, cut into chunks. Squeeze most of the juice out so it doesn’t think the syrup too much
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh cranberries


Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once sugar dissolves, add the orange chunks and cranberries. Let that simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the stove and let the mixture sit for 45 minutes. Revel in the smell of Christmas wafting through the air.

Strain the syrup into a hipster mason jar or a bottle. Dump the remains into the trash and take the garbage outside immediately. Or, wait a few days until it has attracted an infestation of ants that covers your trash and everything under your sink, and then dispose of it. Your choice!

Have an Old Fashioned Holiday

Each year, my mom challenges me to create a signature cocktail for our family Christmas Eve gathering. Past offerings have included a lemon-gingery Manhattan, a cranberry margarita, and a festive punch. Generally, I’m left to my own devices to concoct a recipe. But this year, she specifically requested a holiday spin on an Old Fashioned.

This was surprising to me, as she historically hasn’t enjoyed drinks with a strong liquor flavor. But she had tried some version of an Old Fashioned at Timberline Lodge (I’m envisioning a LOT of maraschino cherry muddling was involved) and she loved it. I remained skeptical, but rarely flat out reject a request from my mom. Plus, an Old Fashioned may just be my favorite cocktail, so I was stoked to start experimenting.

After some trial and error (and the loss of one sauce pan when I forgot I was supposed to be closely monitoring a simple syrup reduction on the stove), I landed on a solid recipe. I highly recommend giving it a try, and strongly suggest not relegating this delicious drink to a short (unless you’re going by retail/Starbucks timelines) season.


  • 1/4 oz cranberry/orange simple syrup
  • 3 1/2 oz Elijah Craig small batch bourbon (or your fave Kentucky bourbon)
  • 2-3 healthy dashes of angostura bitters
  • Candied ginger orange peel
  • Ginger beer (only if it turns out your mom doesn’t, as anticipated, actually like Old Fashioneds…)*

Here’s how you do it:

  • In a mixing beaker filled with ice, add simple syrup, bitters and bourbon
  • Stir briskly for 30 seconds
  • Strain into an old fashioned glass over a trendy-yet-effective ice sphere
  • Garnish with candied ginger orange peel
  • Drink
  • Repeat
  • Repeat
  • Repeat

* Recipe modification: tone down the cocktail by topping it with a few ounces of (festive!) ginger beer.

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