Orange juice is an essential element to any well-stocked bar, there is no question about that. Without it, you cannot make a Screwdriver, a Bronx Cocktail, a Mimosa, or even a Tequila Sunrise. Orange is a versatile fruit flavor and the more drinks you mix up, the more you will realize the importance of both juice and the many orange liqueurs in the bar.
The three main citrus juices—lemon, lime, and orange—will find their way into countless drink recipes. Beyond the most popular cocktails already mentioned, a dash of orange juice is used in many martinis, it's frequently found in tiki cocktails, and it is often the featured fruit in brunch-worthy cocktails and tall, refreshing happy hour drinks. It truly is the ultimate cocktail fruit, so let's look at the many ways you can enjoy a little OJ in your drinks.
The Key to the Best Orange Juice Cocktails
If you want the best orange juice cocktails possible, squeeze the juice yourself. There are many fruit and citrus juicers available to fit any need and oranges are inexpensive year-round, so you cannot go wrong.
On the other hand, the reality is that you're not always going to take the time to squeeze the fresh orange juice. It is a world filled with convenience and there are some great bottles of orange juice available. In this case, do your best to choose an all-natural, not-from-concentrate juice.
Either way you choose to go, keep in mind that your choice of orange juice should not be an afterthought. Any of the cocktails that rely on this ingredient will be just a little bit better if you start with a quality juice.
The Screwdriver and Orange Juice Highballs
The Screwdriver is one of the iconic orange juice cocktails. It is the ultimate brunch drink and unbelievably easy to mix up. It is, after all, simply vodka and orange juice, yet it has inspired countless other drinks that are worthy of note as well.
- Bocce Ball - This orange juice highball simply adds a little amaretto to the Screwdriver and it is a fantastic flavor pairing.
- Fuzzy Navel - Take your Screwdriver to the peachy side of life with a little peach schnapps. While the Fuzzy Navel skips the vodka, the Hairy Navel does not.
- Harvey Wallbanger - A very fun retro drink from the 70s, this one tops the vodka-juice combo with Galiano. If you switch to tequila, you will have a Freddy Fuddpucker.
- Sloe Screw - Another popular (and retro) set of drinks comes with a sloe gin base. The Sloe Screw comes in many varieties and can have a whole host of ingredients added to it to create some rather fun drinks.
The Tequila Sunrise Effect
Right behind the Screwdriver in popularity comes the famous Tequila Sunrise. While the original version of the drink doesn't include a drop of orange juice, the modern one you're most familiar with is filled with it. This great tequila cocktail has also inspired a number of other drinks, all with that signature sunrise effect.
- Sour Sunrise - A fancier way to serve a sunrise cocktail, this recipe also for whiskey over tequila.
- Tequila Sunrise Margarita - If you have yet to toss your Tequila Sunrise into a blender, you're missing out on a great margarita.
- Virgin Sunrise - Skip the liquor altogether and you have a sweeter way to enjoy your morning orange juice.
The Mimosa and More
The sparkling Mimosa is also a popular orange juice cocktail that has inspired many other cocktails over the years and it is another brunch favorite. It is a simple (and lovely) combination of Champagne, triple sec, and orange juice and it is sure to delight everyone who drinks it.
- Buck's Fizz - If you skip the triple sec in the Mimosa, you will have created this classic cocktail.
- Happy New Year - Brandy and ruby port combine with the Champagne-OJ mix for a stunning spin on an old favorite.
- Pineapple Mimosa - You will need a pineapple-flavored vodka to pull off this cocktail and the citrus aspect is shared between the lemon and orange juices. There's even a dash of honey to sweeten things up.
- Pomegranate Poinsettia - A fun twist on a sparkling holiday favorite, this cocktail recipe combines a pomegranate liqueur with orange liqueur and juice.
More Popular Orange Juice Cocktails
The Screwdriver, Tequila Sunrise, and Mimosa are not the only popular orange juice cocktails that you should know. These drinks also take top billing when it comes to the useful citrus and each should be on your radar.
- Alabama Slammer - It's one of those retro mixed drinks that is fun to revive from time to time. You will need Southern Comfort, sloe gin, and amaretto to pull it off.
- Belmont Breeze - This bourbon cocktail should be considered a modern classic and was, for a time, the official cocktail of the Belmont Stakes.
- Cantarito - A popular variation on the Paloma, this tequila cocktail combines the three major citrus fruits with a grapefruit soda. It's both fascinating and refreshing.
- Creamsicle - Vanilla vodka has long been the star of this yummy cocktail, but modern innovations have us mixing whipped cream vodka into it more and more.
- Madras - A 'trio' mixed drink, the Madras is one of the many fruity highballs that builds on the ease of the Screwdriver. In this case, cranberry juice becomes the focal point.
- Sex on the Beach - As far as the best vodka cocktails are concerned, few can beat this one. It's filled with flavor, including peach schnapps, creme de cassis, and orange and cranberry juices and it's a mix that everyone enjoys.
Classic Orange Juice Cocktails
The love for orange juice in cocktails is not strictly a modern trend. The beloved citrus had a place in the bar when the first cocktails emerged on the scene.
Quite often, a flavorful ingredient like orange juice could be used to mask the unpleasant aspects of the many liquors of the day. It became especially prevalent in cocktails from the Prohibition era when bathtub gin and less than spectacular whiskeys filled the nation's speakeasies.
- Abbey Cocktail - It is, quite simply, gin and orange juice with a dash or two of orange bitters. Served up, it's quite a delight.
- Blood & Sand - This classic scotch cocktail plays cherry brandy off the combination of sweet vermouth and orange juice.
- Bronx Cocktail - One of the best known orange juice classics, this is a Perfect Martini with a healthy dose of OJ. If you hold the dry vermouth, you have an Orange Blossom.
- Monkey Gland - Absinthe is a fantastic contrast for the sweetened citrus of this gin cocktail. It is a drink you have to try at least once in your life.
- Navy Grog - This is the tiki culture's take on one of the oldest mixed drinks. Not every Navy Grog recipe requires orange juice, but at least one modern interpretation does.
- Soul Kiss - If you want to take the great orange-vermouth combination into the world of whiskey, this is the recipe for you. It's fancy, easy, and great sipper.
OJ Punch Recipes
You will often find orange juice inside many punch recipes. It's the perfect complement to the variety of flavors that we toss inside these crowd-pleasing drinks and though it's often a background element, it is no less important.
- English Christmas Punch - Think of this recipe as a warm version of Sangria, complete with a little orange and lemon to accent the tea, rum, and red wine base.
- White Peach Sangria - Many Sangria recipes want you to squeeze fresh citrus juices into the mix and this mango rum-peach schnapps punch is no different.
Tiki Cocktails With Orange Juice
Of course, the tropical flavor of orange juice makes an appearance in a number of tiki cocktails. Though these recipes are often quite complex, the citrus element is key to finding that perfect balance between fruit and liquor.
- Belladonna - Orange, pineapple, and cranberry mix up with two rums in this relatively simple tiki cocktail.
- Hurricane - Two styles of rum also find their way into this mix of passion fruit and orange juices. It is one of the best tropical drinks ever created.
- Painkiller - The addition of orange juice is key to differentiating this eye-opening cocktail from the popular Pina Colada.
- Rum Runner - Some Rum Runner recipes are a little heavier on the orange juice than others and some skip the fruit entirely.
- Scorpion - From the single cocktail to the notorious scorpion bowl, orange juice is a requirement for each of these recipes.
A Little OJ for Dinner
While orange juice is most often associated with breakfast and brunch, it can be a useful ingredient for dinner-worthy cocktails as well. Many of these recipes fall in the aperitif category, which makes them ideal drinks to serve guests prior to the meal.
- Campari Cosmo - Mix a citrus vodka with Campari and add a little orange juice and liqueur to set the entire mix off in stunning fashion.
- Papaya Smash - Aperol is another fantastic aperitif and it is paired with a fine tequila, a little papaya, and some fresh orange in this recipe.
Blood Orange Cocktails
Blood oranges have become a popular alternative to naval oranges, particularly in the winter months when they come into season. It's one of those drink trends that is worth paying attention to and you might enjoy the sweeter, less acidic taste of this juice just a little more.
- Almost a Collins - Blood orange juice and soda are combined with a fine vodka and cinnamon syrup for a refreshing drink that's ideal for any winter happy hour.
- Apricot Sunray - This recipe is a fun twist on Sangria and the punch turns every traditional ingredient on its head, including the switch to blood orange juice.
- Bloody Margarita - The 'bloody' doesn't come from tomato in this recipe but from blood orange juice. It's a fun and easy spin on the Orange Margarita.
Orange Juice Shooters
We cannot discuss orange juice without sharing its use in those fun and tiny party shots that some of us can't resist. These drinks are short and designed to be slammed rather than savored, but that doesn't downplay the significance of a little orange.
- Big Bamboo - A high-powered shooter, this double rum mix uses both pineapple and orange.
- Gladiator - If you enjoy the interactive dropped shots, here's a fun, fruity one to try. It's also one of the lightest as far as alcohol content goes.
- Honey Dew Me - This tart little drink can be made with orange or pineapple, though the citrus fruit does play best off the honey and lemon liqueurs.
- Stoplight - Three vodka shots are taken in a row and it's a colorful lot. One of those has a splash of OJ, but don't slow down after that one!
- Tootsie Roll - This recipe shows off the phenomenon that happens when you mix coffee and orange flavors. It tastes just like a Tootsie Roll! There is, of course, a chocolate option as well.
Orange Juice Mocktails
Orange juice should not be reserved for the alcoholic drinks of the world. It's a great foundation for what we've come to call mocktails as well. These recipes are a great option for any non-drinker and for delighting kids with a well-crafted drink.
- Cardinal Punch - Cranberry, lemon, and orange juices are topped with ginger ale for a refreshing beverage.
- Cinderella - Pineapple makes an appearance in this pretty, pink, and fruity mocktail.
- Orange Julius - An icon of the blended smoothies, it's very hard to resist a fresh Orange Julius.
- Pussyfoot - If you're up for a bit of an adventure, mix up this drink which shows off the unique flavor created when citrus fruits are combined with egg.