Have you ever wondered where from the color of all these bright blue cocktails is coming? Usually, a bright, blue orange liqueur called Blue Curaçao is responsible.
The fragrant liqueur has quite a long history of turning drinks bright blue. Some of the better-known representatives are the Blue Lagoon and the Blue Hawaiian.
And indeed, despite the blue color, Blue Curaçao is an orange liqueur. It tastes similar to the Triple Sec, but with some extra tropical vibes.
The story of Curaçao liqueur is worth being told and sheds some light on its odd choice of color.
What is Blue Curaçao?
Blue Curaçao is a liqueur flavored with the peels of green oranges growing on the island of Curaçao - hence the name.
Most Blue Curaçao liqueurs contain between 20% - 25% ABV. Some can go as high as 40%.
History of Blue Curaçao
Curaçao is the name of the island where the main ingredient of the liqueur is cultivated. It is one of the ABC islands in the Caribbean Sea, located just 60 miles off the coast of Venezuela.
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao are those tiny three islands belonging to the territories of the Dutch Kingdom. But long before the Dutch claimed ownership of the ABC islands, the Spanish controlled them. And the Spanish tried to monetize this ownership.
In 1527 they brought the Seville orange to Curaçao in an attempt to make profits through agriculture. They expected the climate conditions there to be perfect. Little did they know.
The climate is way too dry, and the sun way too intense. The oranges turned out inedible as they were way too bitter.
This unintended new version of oranges was named Citrus Aurantium Currassuviensis, meaning the golden orange of Curaçao. The locals call it Laraha.
But even though the fruits were inedible, the etheric oils within the peel of the Laraha were fantastic. And when the Dutch West Indies Company took possession of Curaçao, they soon discovered the potential of the fruit.
The Bols company, a famous Amsterdam Distilling company, developed a liqueur based on said oils in the peels of the green-skinned Lahara orange, and so, Curaçao liqueur was born.
Why is Blue Curaçao blue?
The blue color is artificial. By nature, Curaçao is clear and transparent. And it is not entirely clear who came up with the idea of coloring the Curaçao liqueur.
Yet, old documentation proves that this liqueur was once available in a whole variety of colors: white, orange, blue, red, and green.
The reason why blue became the most popular version is probably that it was the most unusual. Even in modern bars, you can hardly find anything else apart from Blue Curaçao that tints cocktails in such an intense shade of blue.
Another possible explanation for the popularity is that Bols sold their version of it under the name "Crème de Ciel" -Ciel translates to sky- making the liqueur popular in European countries.
The blue coloring is artificial. And in most cases, the colorant E133 brilliant blue is used to get the right shade.
This quasi-standard is why we can immediately identify when a drink contains this tropical orange liqueur. Blue Curaçao always sticks out.
The production process
These days, only one local company is left producing "genuine" Blue Curaçao: Senior and Co.
They started manufacturing the liqueur in 1896 and until today are using solely native laraha fruits for their production. And they keep their process very traditional.
Larahas are soaked in water and alcohol for a few days before removing the peel. Peels and spices are then put in a gunny bag and hung for three days in an old copper still with 96% pure sugar cane alcohol.
Before the actual distillation, water is added. Then, after three days, the colorless liqueur is ready to receive its dye.
In rare cases, the liqueurs Senior and Co. add extra flavored notes of coffee, Rum, or chocolate.
How does Blue Curaçao taste?
As mentioned above, the liqueur is comparable to other orange liqueurs like Triple Sec.
It has a delicate sweet orange flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Comparing it to a Triple Sec, it is less sweet but has stronger bitter notes from the laraha oranges.
The similar taste and the bright color of Blue Curaçao often lead to colorful riffs on classic cocktails made with Triple Sec. Blue Margarita cocktails are just one example of this.
If you need Blue Curaçao and cannot get it, it is possible to replace it with a simple trick. Use Cointreau or another Triple Sec you have at hand and add a drop of food coloring to it.
The taste is close enough, and you will get a bright blue-colored drink. To get the exact same shade, you need E133 brilliant blue coloring.
Why I like it
Blue Curaçaon is pure kitsch. But surprisingly enough, I found that there are occasions when that deep azure blue color of my cocktails works. And there is hardly another cocktail ingredient that can deliver on this.
Also, it is relatively inexpensive. You have to spend around 10$ per bottle. And it also works in some cocktails recipes that ask for a Triple Sec. That makes it an affordable and versatile addition to your liquor cabinet.
The best Blue Curaçao cocktails
This liqueur works best in a cocktail. So here is a selection of the most popular cocktails you can make with it.
The Blue Lagoon is definitely one of the most famous cocktails made of Blue Curaçao. The combination of Vodka, lemon juice, and a bit of simple syrup makes for a tart and refreshing drink.
The blue version of the Margarita cocktail is a bright twist on the traditional recipe. By replacing Triple Sec with Blue Curaçao, you get a radiant blue drink that also is perfectly balanced. Plus, who doesn't love a good Margarita?
The Blue Hawaii Cocktail is a pretty popular tropical cocktail first created at Honolulu Kaiser Hawaiian Village in 1957. It is a drink made of Rum, Vodka, Blue Curaçao, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup.
There's a creamy variation on the traditional recipe with cream of coconut. This slightly different drink runs under the confusingly similar name Blue Hawaiian.
- 0.75 oz White Rum
- 0.75 oz Vodka
- 0.5 oz Blue Curaçao
- 3 oz fresh pineapple juice
- 2 tsp fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp simple syrup
- Add al ingredients into you shaker together with plenty of ice0.75 oz White Rum, 0.75 oz Vodka, 0.5 oz Blue Curaçao, 3 oz fresh pineapple juice, 2 tsp fresh lime juice, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp simple syrup
- Shake for 10 - 15 sec until your shaker feels icy on the outside
- Strain into a cocktail glass over ice cubes or crushed ice