We all know what Curaçao is. It's that bottle of Windex blue liqueur on your back bar, and the super — and slightly sickly — sweet element of your college shots or holiday cocktails with witty names like Blue Lagoon, Blue Moon and Blue Hawaiian. But it wasn't always like that.
The modern version of Curaçao is nothing like the original. Some 15th century hooch history: When the Caribbean island of Curaçao was under Spanish rule, colonists brought with them the sweet Valencia oranges they grew back home. But the hot dry climate was nothing like the balmy groves back home. The fruit turned out gnarled and bitter and pretty much inedible. The groves were left to grow fragrantly wild. The trees were bred into the contemporary laraha citrus fruit, the flesh of which is still fairly inedible, but the peels are sweetly aromatic. And when dried, and then soaked in a still with alcohol and water they make a mighty tasty liqueur.
Curaçao is what lends the bittersweet depth to a finely made Mai Tai
or a classic Pegu Club cocktail
. The real stuff, not the blue. Somehow over the years the nuanced natural spirit morphed into the synthetic bright blue. While a whole host of current cocktails call for the blue, the cocktail renaissance – especially the tiki revival – has had mixologists yearning for the original. The taste profile is so different that trying to create a drink from a 100 year old recipe is nearly impossible.
Until now. A conversation between cocktail historian and author David Wondrich and Alexandre Gabriel, the president of Cognac Pierre Ferrand, led to a long journey trying to create a new spirit that reflected the old one.
So they set off to research. “We found many different recipes,” said Gabriel recently in NYC to share the results. “We have discovered today it’s also delicious in coffee,” he added with a laugh, spiking his cup of Joe with nip a of his Curaçao. A year of experimentation has led to the recently released Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Ancienne Methode, a subtle, complex, bittersweet spirit that glows a deep orange.
So what does a Caribbean/French liqueur made from inedible oranges have to do with Cinco de Mayo? Well, a key part of a well made margarita is triple sec, which was originally called Curaçao triple sec. The addition of Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Ancienne Methode will make a margarita to remember.