Weekly Market Digest: Katie Emmerson’s Blood Orange Manhattan

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The only thing sweeter than farmer Bob Polito is his fresh squeezed blood orange juice.

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is Sunday. This year might we recommend a seasonal cocktail to sip with your valentine? Enter Katie Emmerson, bar manager at The Walker Inn in Koreatown. She makes a mean Manhattan with blood oranges from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

The moro blood orange has the most interesting flesh of any orange

Blood oranges flourish in Southern California’s temperate climate. The rinds are orange and often mottled with purple and red tones. The flesh gets its saturated ruby or amethyst hue from a naturally occurring flavonoid called anthocyanin that is found in raspberries, grapes, cherries and blueberries, among other fruits.

The moro and the tarocco are the most common blood oranges you’re likely to find. You can pick out the moro by the intense, deep purple innards. The tarocco has more muted red- and rose-colored flesh. The sweetness of the blood orange will vary depending on when the fruit was plucked from the tree since that’s when the ripening process halts. The moro I tasted from Bob Polito’s farm wasn’t as sweet or tangy as the tarocco. But there will be other opportunities to change this impression. Polito will be trucking blood oranges to the Santa Monica Farmers Market from his Valley Center farm through April.

Katie Emmerson stops and smells the blood oranges

After selecting her fruit at the market, Emmerson peels the blood oranges, slices the flesh into wheels and dries the fruit with a dehydrator. She pinches the peels and steeps them overnight in rye whiskey, cognac and sweet vermouth so the alcohol becomes infused with the fruit oils. When ready to be consumed, Emmerson strains the peels from the alcohol, stirs it with ice, then serves the Manhattan in a chilled glass with a dried bit of the blood orange flesh for garnish. Voilà: a zero waste cocktail.

The Walker Inn’s Blood Orange Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of The Walker Inn)