Ventura Blood Orange Liqueur: Rating a Champion

Ventura Blood Orange Liqueur: Rating a Champion

Ventura Blood Orange Orangecello comes to us from a distinguished pedigree. We had the opportunity to sample the Ventura Limoncello and Crema Limoncello the prior year and found them both to be very good. Then the San Francisco World Spirits Competition named the blood orange Best Fruit Liqueur in 2011. From this background, we received a sample-size bottle of the Orangecello—were adjured to chill it before serving—and had the opportunity to try it out.

Sometimes it’s good to have a website; it’s not everyone that gets to try the world champion fruit liqueur. So how did it hold up? Is this the liqueur that can win the hearts of both judges and paramours?

To find out, we compared it in two ways.

First, we held it up to a widely available orangecello from Italy: Caravella. We chilled them both to about 30 degrees and each achieved a viscous, syrupy consistency. Straight, the Caravella smelled exactly like Tang. Exactly like Tang. People accused us of putting Tang in the shot it smelled so much like Tang. Care to guess what it tasted like? Tang.  In comparison, the Ventura was much, much more subtle on the nose and the palate. Whether this is a quality of the blood orange or the production, it has an orange profile without the candy accents. Where Caravella had an alcohol burn, the Ventura went down the hatch in a much more silken fashion. The Ventura also, clearly, had a very high sugar content. It’s not overpoweringly sweet and it’s balanced with the orange… but it’s complexity lies one the sweeter side of the palate and for some that’s a little too much violin in the symphony.

Hands down, if you’re into the “cello” liqueurs based on fruit, the Ventura was an easy winner over Italy’s own Caravella.

Few in our group seemed inclined to drink sweetened liqueurs on their own so we elected to try it out in a popular cocktail. We made a classic Margarita cocktail on the rocks (Tres Agaves Blanco for those who are curious). We mixed it according to the Ventura website recommendations, which included 1 part orangecello, 1 part tequila, and 1 part margarita mix (we used their homemade recipe of lime juice, orange juice, and agave syrup). Blend? No way… we serve on the rocks.

Our group received two margaritas: one prepared with Ventura orangecello and one with De Kuyper Triple-Sec. The first thing we learned was that this particular Margarita recipe makes for a very orange-dominant margarita. That aside, the sweetness of the orangecello with the sweetness of the mix was too much for many. It created a syrupy drink that was a little too one-dimensional. Not that anyone was particularly excited about the triple-sec version—in fact, most preferred the Ventura Margarita. More to the point is that the Ventura elicited some kind of opinion from the panel where the triple-sec created mere shrugs. A shrug, we would argue, is a death knell for any sort of aspiring liqueur.

In our opinion, the Margarita shown much better with the Ventura when used without a margarita mix (or syrup in our case). When it is itself the key ingredient with a touch of sour off the lime, the tequila is able to shine a bit more and the agave mixes with the orange.

Our final verdict is that Ventura Orangecello is very good-a paragon of its class-but also very specific in its audience. As “cellos” go, these styles of liqueurs are finicky and perilous in some cases. Use too much with the wrong person and you’ll get accused of all manner of indignant indecencies. With the right person and used correctly, it can lead to a warm bed and frolicsome nights. Highly recommended with a light touch on a full moon on a hot summer night.

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