What is Blue Curaçao?

By Timo Torner / Last updated on July 20, 2023

Blue Curaçao is a famous orange liqueur from the Caribbean. It is known for its bright blue color and its use in tropical cocktails like the Swimming Pool.
Blue Curaçao liqueur

Blue Curacao is a bright blue-colored orange liqueur of the Curaçao category containing 15% to 40% alcohol. The liqueur is made from the peels of the Laraha citrus fruit and is closely related to Triple Sec. Hence, it has a very similar orange-forward taste. 

The distinctive blue color is not natural and comes from artificial food coloring. Curaçao is also available in other colors like white, green, orange, and red.

What Does Blue Curaçao Taste Like?

Tastewise, Blue Curaçao is quite close to 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 more intense bitter notes from the laraha oranges.

Due to their similar taste and bright color, Blue Curaçao is part of many colorful riffs on classic cocktails made with Triple Sec. -One example of this is the famous Blue Margarita cocktail.  

Is Blue Curaçao Alcohol-Free?

Standard Blue Curaçao is not alcohol-free. Depending on the brand, the liqueur contains between 15% and 40% alcohol. However, there are Blue Curaçao syrups available that are free of alcohol. -For example, the one from Monin.

Blue Curaçao vs. Triple Sec

Both liqueurs are closely related and share a distinct orange flavor, but Curaçao tends to taste a bit more bitter. In general, Triple Sec is transparent, whereas (Blue) Curaçao is colored. Also, the base spirit differs as Curaçao is made from cane spirits, and the base of Triple Sec is a sugar beet spirit. 

See how they compare in the table below:

Curaçao Triple Sec
Type Orange liqueur Orange liqueur
Origin Curaçao France
ABV 15% to 40% 20% to 40%
Proof 30 to 80 40 to 80
Appearance Mostly colored transparent
Taste Orange, bitter Orange, bitter-sweet
Base spirit sugar cane spirit sugar beet spirit
Price per 750ml bottle $10 $10 to $15
Best served In cocktails Digestif

For a more detailed comparison, check our Triple Sec vs. Curaçao article.

Why is Blue Curaçao blue?

The blue coloring is artificial. And in most cases, the colorant E133 brilliant blue is used to get the right shade. 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 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 under the name "Crème de Ciel" -Ciel translates to "sky"- making the liqueur popular in European countries. 

What is Blue Curaçao made from?

Blue Curaçao is a liqueur based on cane spirit, flavored with the dried peels of green Laraha citrus fruit growing on the island of Curaçao and a secret set of spices - hence the name. It's sweetened with sugar and colored with artificial food coloring, mostly the colorant - E133 brilliant blue.

How is it produced?

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 soaks for about three days in 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, producers add extra flavors or ingredients like coffee, Rum, or chocolate.

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.

What does Blue Curacao taste like in a cocktail?

Used in cocktails, Blue Curaçao adds a sweet orange taste to the drink with a slightly bitter finish. You get a more natural orange flavor and less sweet notes than with Triple Sec or other orange liqueurs.

History

The Bols company, a famous Amsterdam Distilling company, developed a liqueur based on oils in the peels of Laraha fruits growing in Curaçao. These green-skinned Lahara oranges are inedible as they're intensely bitter.

Curaçao is the name of the island where the main ingredient of the liqueur grows. 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 three tiny 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 to make profits through agriculture. They expected the climate conditions there to be perfect. Little did they know.

The climate is much too dry, and the sun is 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 developed a liqueur based on said oils in the peels of the green-skinned Lahara orange, and so, Curaçao liqueur was born.

How to pronounce Curaçao?

The correct way to pronounce it is 'Cure-ah-souw'. However, pronouncing the word Curaçao in a correct way isn't the most natural thing. There are countless ways of saying it in the wrong way. The following short clip shows the correct pronunciation.

Why we like it

Blue Curaçaon is pure kitsch. But surprisingly enough, I found that there are occasions when that azure blue color really work in cocktails. -And there is no other cocktail ingredient that can deliver on this. 

Also, it is relatively inexpensive. You have to spend no more than 10$ per bottle and can use it as a substitute for triple sec in various cocktails recipes. That makes it an affordable and versatile addition to your liquor cabinet.

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.

Blue Curaçao FAQs

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