Blood simple

Photograph: Stephanie Gussin

When we learned that a blood-orange liqueur was to be introduced to New York City, our first thought was, Great, another gimmick (our second: Perfect for Halloween!). About the former we were happily mistaken. Solerno, created by Scottish spirits behemoth William Grant & Sons, is an elegant liqueur made from the bittersweet Sanguinello oranges of Sicily—with nary a spot of creepy red food dye. The potent (40 percent alcohol), only slightly sweet liquor is the marriage of three small-batch distillates: one made from the meat of the oranges, one from the skins and one from local lemons. The result is a piquant, zesty, yet understated citrus potion. In these days of hyperactive alcoholic invention, when it seems that every plant, herb, fruit and vegetable on God’s green earth has been soaked in booze and sent through a still, we were particularly surprised to discover that Solerno is the first of its kind on the mass market. Grant’s spokesperson, Charlotte Voisey, explains that the rampant success of the elderflower liqueur St. Germain has ratcheted up competition in this once-sleepy category. And like St. Germain, Solerno is more of a collaborator than a solo artist. “I don’t know if I’d sip it alone at home,” advises Voisey. “It’s a mixing tool, a component in drinks.” Barkeeps around town apparently agree. Only a month old, it’s already featured in cocktails at Bar Milano, Bobo, Clover Club, the Gramercy Park Hotel, PDT and Vento. Bars and restaurants are getting most of the mere 2,400 bottles that have been allotted to New York. The rest of the country will have to wait. If that’s not frightful, we don’t know what is. $39.99 for a 750 ml bottle at Astor Wines & Spirits (399 Lafayette St at 4th St, 212-674-7500)