Drinking By Color And The Eye Exam From Hell


Like many of my seasonal affectations, I’m always delighted when citrus season rolls around for three main reasons:  One: because it means the plump, juicy oranges from my tree will soon be ready and two: meyer meyer meyer meyer meyer meyer lemons, and three: blood oranges. And now that all are here I really don’t know what to do with myself. I’m pretty sure the guys at my farmers’ market are glad I’ve stopped running up to them each week asking the same question over and over again.

Unlike autumnal produce (which always seems so exciting but after about 2 weeks I am ready to move on), I could never ever tire of blood oranges.  I wish I had them year round. And here’s where my craziness really kicks in: I enjoy them just as much for their color as their flavor. Correction: even more so, I think. There’s really nothing else like that color. Crimson with hints of sunshine, pink with a touch of vermillion. And the juice? Such an amazing coral and ruby hue, depending on how the light hits it. I’ve been known to juice several oranges and stare at the pitcher for hours in appreciation of that color I hardly see throughout the year. And trust me, I know my colors.

That reminds me about the last time I went to have my eyes checked and the doctor made me identify those strange numbers on a swirly dotted chart. She kept asking me to find the purple number and I couldn’t. We went back and forth with different charts until she finally asked me how long I have been color blind. What the hell did that mean, color blind? She then said if I wasn’t able to find the subtle differences between colors I must be color blind and I didn’t know whether to laugh or pinch her right there on the spot. She swore I had a problems with identifying colors based on a 3 minute exam. Excuse me sister, have you any idea what I do for a living? Trust me, if I had trouble identifying color I’d know about it.  The reason I don’t see a purple "twenty-six" is because that’s not purple, it’s pink and it’s 1765 or so and not a 255 or 520 on the official Pantone chart thankyouverymuch, and I think YOU need to learn colors before you tell someone who’s very existence depends on color theory and harmony that they’re color blind while giving them the tiniest little freak-out of a panic attack.Pantoneswatch

I feel much better now. Oh yes, juice.

So while I’m busy experimenting a variety of blood orange recipes over the next week I thought I’d write about the drink that always welcomes their arrival in our house. I actually keep a bottle of Campari on hand for this very moment and relish the ritual of those first-season oranges. And that’s because not only do they taste heavenly but because I like the color: a blend of Pantone 187 with touches of 1797 and 703. And not Pantone 520.

Even if you are a doctor.


Blood Orange & Campari Cocktail

I like simple drinks that bring out the best of each ingredient; this one does it perfectly. You can sweeten the drink with a touch of superfine sugar if the bitterness of Campari bothers you, but I happen to love love love it. It’s also a great base for granita. And you could even add a  splash of soda to this drink but I like the point when the ice melts just a bit and melds everything together.

3 ounces freshly-squeezed blood orange juice
1.5 ounces Campari
super fine sugar, to taste

Mix orange juice and Campari in shaker and mix well; add sugar for sweeter drink. Pour over cocktail ice and garnish with orange slice. Makes one cocktail but you might as well make a batch because it’s really really tasty.


  1. says

    That looks like a perfect first foray into the world of blood oranges! Now I’ve got to add ‘hunt down citrus’ to my ever-growing to-do list.

  2. Sarah says

    As a fellow print industry peep, this made me laugh out loud. Which led my advertising agency co-workers to ask what I was reading while I was supposed to be working…oops. Thanks for getting me in trouble & keep up the good work!

  3. Jo says

    I am currently in the same state of citrus-love. Just recently discovered Cara Cara Navel oranges with juice the same color as grapefruit but oh so sweet. Try adding them to your citrus repertoire, a wonderful addition!

  4. kitchenbeard says

    Last week I beat some egg yolks with the juice of 4 blood oranges and some sugar and vanilla and over a double boiler and then whicked in whole milk and then kept in the double boiler until it hit napee and then mixed that in with some brown sugar and pureed raspberries and mixed it into left over plain brown rice and then baked it in a water bath until it didn’t jiggle anymore and then fed it to a handsome man who then showed his appreciation.

    I love blood oranges…..

  5. says

    As a former optician I take great personal offense to this post! She did you and the entire optical community a great disservice! Proper protocol would have been to make a preliminary analysis of your color deficiency and then subject you to a grueling fifteen minute process that borders on mideval torture. After that period, you excuse yourself from the exam and allow the patient to stew and sweat alone over whatever it is you appear to be concerned over. Then you slip out the back of your office for a vente coffee. When you return to your patient, you present them with a bill for your services, but no explanation of your findings. When prompted for information, you say, “Oh yeah, that. You’re fine.” God, she botched that whole fun thing! What a moron!

    Oh yeah, citrus. Love it too! Why is it that your blood oranges are always deep crimsom (or 186) and mine are simply feathered with that gorgeous ruby color?

  6. says

    I came home tonight and made myself a cocktail following your recipe, and then another one. Yes, the blood oranges sure are pretty (pronounced “pur-ty”).

    I used a Californian sweet vermouth called Vya in place of Campari. It’s good stuff, I highly recommend it.

  7. Katie says

    I tried these cocktails last night and they were oh so tasty! I couldn’t believe how nicely the blood orange and Campari flavors played together. There are more of these in my future; thanks for sharing.

  8. says

    I can’t get blood oranges at the market down the street and too lazy to drive 20 minutes to civilization. BUT I have calamansi limes growing out back…do you think it would taste alright to substitute? It might be a big pucker of a drink.

  9. says

    What a tease your beautiful post is! We’ve been holding off for another 2 weeks to play with our blood orange cocktails. Our blood oranges on our tree should be ready by then and we’ll be savoring and sipping the joys of winter. Your recipe is so simple and refreshing. They look bloody licious ! Can’t wait to try it.

  10. says

    Campari is tasty with just about anything, so I can’t wait to try this out. Although I’ll probably end up adding more Campari than the recipe calls for… :)

  11. E Y ERINWULF says

    I am a 63 yr old DAV (disabled american veteran) and on short income I was living on the Texas gulf coast when first Katrina and then Rita (the forgotten hurricane) hit and following that bit of bad luck what I was able to salvage or reaccquire was lost in an arson I lost 45 years of cookbook colecting as well as all my canning equipment. I am a master food preservationist through Texas A&M and have lost my tools and reference materials so if any one out there has recipes they would like to share with me particularly but not limited to canning recipes they can e-mail them to me at scooterhdharley1@yahoo.com
    or mail them to me at :
    70 SFC (Saint Francis County) 524
    Heth Arkansas 72346-9172

    If you have old cookbooks you wish to get rid of (LOL!) or Canning equipmentyou are not using and would like to get rid of for free or rather cheaply I’d love to have them. I can also be reached by phone
    Thanks in advance. I’d like to show these folks here some REAL BLUE RIBBON canning this next year!!!

  12. says

    Clicking on the test image gave me a closer look. The “2” in the “26” is indeed primarily pink, but the “6” has a large number of dots that are indeed various shades of purple. If you averaged out the colors in the “6”, I think you’d probably come up with a light shade of reddish-purple.

    Presumably, the differing shades (although they look alike in the smaller image) are part of the test: People with one type of color-blindness would only see the “2”; others would only see “6”, and most people would see “26”.

    But, yeah, overall, both numbers look pink when your brain blends the separate dots into a combined shade.

  13. Stephanie says

    I’ve made this drink on two occasions now, and I have to say it is my new favourite drink. However it is a bitch to make. I found two bags of blood oranges from TJs only make 2 drinks! Do you have any advice on where I can find it ready made or some substitutions or even additions?

  14. Stephanie says

    Also wanted to mention I’ve tried adding grapefruit juice with the blood orange juice when we ran out.. pretty good, too 😉

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