Please pretend this is a Jem valentine.

blood orange bourbon smash with spicy vanilla sugar I

I think I say this every year, but it’s only because I think of it every year. If I had to be in first or second or fifth or whatever grade today, whatever grade still makes totally cool valentine’s day boxes to fit little cards in, I would have a complete meltdown. Back in the day, my decorated box was a small old shoe box, usually covered in white tissue paper and maybe some red felt hearts or stickers with a big rectangle cut out of the middle. This was totally normal and the thing, right? Everyone used a shoe box!

With how much my craftiness is lacking, I don’t even know what I’d do today with pinterest and the crafty competition. Like… tell me what valentine’s boxes look like these days. Are they still shoe boxes? Heck, they are probably Louboutin shoe boxes. Do they have magic powers? They probably accept your valentine and spit some conversation hearts back out at you or something. Are the boxes huge, like a moving box? I still have a zillion of those.

They are probably bubbles that can transport you and your valentine to space and back.

Ahhhh pinterest you stress me out.

blood orange bourbon smash with spicy vanilla sugar I

Totally wish I had the patience to make adorable homemade valentines too, like the ones that look BETTER than the million dollar Papyrus cards sold in stores. I was born without the Martha gene.

blood orange bourbon smash with spicy vanilla sugar I


Is it just me or are blood oranges EVERYWHERE this year? Like not in stores, but all over the internets. Have blood oranges turned basic?

Noooo. Say it ain’t so.

You know what though. I’m convinced that blood orange season is the universe’s way of allowing us to drink gorgeous, hot pinky-coral cocktails on valentine’s day. I mean, you don’t even NEED a valentine with a drink like this.

In fact, this IS your valentine. Forget everything else.

blood orange bourbon smash with spicy vanilla sugar I

Last week I made my cousin and I these cocktails for Friday happy hour before ordering a ridiculous amount of greek food. I’m making up for lost time in the cocktail game and, let’s be real, it certainly helps that these things are two words: GOR. GEOUS.

blood orange bourbon smash with spicy vanilla sugar I

Rimmed on the glass? Vanilla sugar with just the teeeeeensiest hint of spice. Make it ahead of time and store a ginormous jar in your pantry so you can have it at all times. It would also be delicious when rimmed on vanilla ginger mojitos.

Now… the oranges. Is there any fruit more dazzling? I think not.

These beauties are sliced and muddled with some simple syrup and shakes of bitters. Then that is topped off with crushed ice (aka, THE BEST ICE) and covered in bourbon, blood orange juice and club soda for a little bubble. Give it a big fat stir and plop another stunning slice in the center, and add a rosemary spring or something else pretty for color. Taste and add more syrup if you like it sweet.

This cocktail isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, which is nice.

Hmmmm. Nice. Just what every valentine wants to hear.

blood orange bourbon smash with spicy vanilla sugar I

Blood Orange Bourbon Smash with Spicy Vanilla Sugar

5 from 2 votes
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spicy vanilla sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

bourbon smash

  • crushed ice
  • 1 1/2 ounces simple syrup, or more if you want it sweeter!
  • a few drops of bitters
  • 2 blood orange slices
  • 6 ounces blood orange juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • extra blood orange slices for garnish
  • fresh herbs for garnish


spicy vanilla sugar

  • All the sugar, cayenne and scraped vanilla beans to a bowl and stir and mash together with a fork until the beans are distributed evenly. You can store this sugar in a jar if you make it ahead of time and in that case, keep the vanilla pod in the jar! Make a double or triple batch… hint hint.

bourbon smash

  • In the bottom of a chilled glass, add the simple syrup, bitters and an orange slice or two. Muddle together until the orange slices have broken down. Add crushed ice and pour the bourbon and blood orange juice over top. Stir to mix. Top off with the club soda and garnish with an orange slice and fresh herbs for color.

simple syrup

  • To make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and let the mixture come to a simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool completely then stored in a sealed jar in the fridge.

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blood orange bourbon smash with spicy vanilla sugar I

I think this would totally fit in your card box.