Today marks the launch of the SummerFruitCup Liqueur Library: an ongoing series looking at liqueurs, their history, taste and mixability. It comes complete with its own liqueur number reference system.
When I first became interested in cocktails (at around fifteen years of age), this bright blue liqueur really caught my attention and was a popular ingredient; I first used it in a Collins-like concoction called the Mediterranean. I have even met folks who say that a cocktail party isn’t complete without this colourful beverage, a handful of plastic monkeys and some paper parasols.
Ten years later, this is still the image that many of the “cocktail elite” think of when they see a drink that contains Blue Curaçao, often resulting in them turning their nose up at the drink.
During my research for this article, I got to wondering whether or not you could make any good quality cocktails containing Blue Curaçao that both looked and tasted great. I decided to research and experiment. First, I had to find a suitable Blue Curaçao and, after some thought, I decided on the one from the Gabriel Boudier Bartenders’ Range. For the consumer at home, I have found that Tesco’s Finest (also made by Boudier) is almost identical.
Blue Curaçao is an Curaçao orange liqueur* that has had blue colouring added, but it is also a common term for other blue-coloured orange liqueurs. Green, Orange, Red and Clear Curaçao
are also available, although the popularity of some of the other coloured versions has waned in recent years. Usually, the dyed Curaçao tastes the same as the clear version.
Prior to the wide-scale availability of Blue Curaçao, it was common for cocktails to call for a combination of clear Curaçao/triple sec and blue vegetable dye.
Tracking down the origin of Blue Curaçao was tricky and, for a while, I thought it was a post-war creation, but, in actuality, it was created in the 1920s (probably by Bols). It became more widely available in the early 1930s and, a few years later, it was a staple in cocktail books such as the Café Royal Cocktail Book Coronation Edition (1937), in which both Bols’ and Garnier’s brands of Blue Curaçao feature.
1) Blue Monday
I initially tried this with Stolichnaya Gold and found the drink to be smooth, but lacking in flavour. I then tried the drink with Belvedere Unfiltered, but unfortunately this still resulted in a rather two-dimensional cocktail. So, finally, I moved onto Stolichnaya Citros, which vastly improved the drink, giving it a fuller flavour, whilst retaining balance. The citrus in the vodka worked particularly well with the Curaçao.
However, this cocktail highlighted an interesting point: some Blue Curaçao cocktails that I have had previously have been a bit flat on flavour, which led me to assume that Blue Curaçao never seems to have much of a flavour “hit”. I bore this in mind when selecting the following cocktails.
2) Blue Hawaii
Some suggest that this is one of the first Blue Curaçao cocktails, being created by Harry K. Yee around 1957 at the request of a sales agent of Bols Blue (Blue Curaçao).
[30ml Fresh pineapple juice, 10ml Sweet & Sour Mix (5ml lemon juice, 5ml sugar syrup), 5ml Blue Curaçao, 10ml Vodka, 10ml White Rum.]
Freshly squeezed pineapple juice really makes a difference in this drink, making it more lively and thirst-quenching. There were lots of tropical, fruity flavours, which, along with the blue colour, reminded me of sun, sea and sand. This was the most accessible of all of the drinks that I tried.
3) Carte Bleu
This is a variation on the signature drink of the latest Bond novel, Carte Blanche.
[40ml Crown Royal Canadian Whisky, 10ml Blue Curaçao, Two Dashes of Van Wees Angostura Bitter, a twist of orange peel. Add ingredients to a tumbler with ice and swirl.]
This cocktail was visually impressive, a deep, vibrant sea-green in colour, but I tried to see past this in my endeavour to see whether bright blue cocktails are necessarily crummy ones. Flavour-wise, I thought that this drink was superb: the whisky came through well and there was a sweet spiciness from the bitters. The citrus of the Curaçao fine-tuned the overall balance of the drink with some fruitiness. Tasty and of very good quality.
Part-way through my research, the Café Royal Cocktail Book was recommended to me, as it contains some early Blue Curaçao cocktails.
4) Blue Bouquet
[25ml Gordon’s Dry Gin, 25ml Blue Curaçao, 25ml fresh cream, and 1tsp Swedish/Caloric Punsch.]
This made a rather odd drink, although the clash between the citrus and the dairy was less than I would have expected. Although it was drinkable, I don’t think I’ll be drinking it on a regular basis as it’s just too odd.
5) Blue Peter
[Equal Parts: Booth’s Gin (Yellow Gin), Blue Curaçao, Lillet Blanc, and orange juice. Stir.]
This is one of a few cocktails following the same recipe, but I liked this name the best. Note that the recipe calls for “Booth’s Gin”; this was not only a brand name, but, more specifically, a gin that had been matured in wood for a few weeks, also known as “yellow gin”. I decided to use Hayman’s 1850 Reserve, which is a fine contemporary example.
The drink was the colour of a Caribbean lagoon and, flavour-wise, it was relatively dry, although the Curaçao adds some sweetness. The Lillet and orange, as you would expect, worked well together and helped to provide a smooth balance to the mix. The use of Hayman’s 1850 (as opposed to an ordinary dry gin) added a soft mellowness to the drink.
[20ml Bourbon, 40ml Blue Curaçao, and 20ml lemon juice. Shake.]
It’s very unusual to find a cocktail with Blue Curaçao as the primary ingredient, so this was a must-try. The drink starts off sweet and has a prominent nose of fresh orange along with a sharper, sherbet-like lemon note. The whisky provides some warmth and some fruity, buttery and smoky notes on the aftertaste. Overall, this was pleasant and fruity, with a hint of complexity underneath.
6) Queen of the Ocean
[40ml Dry Gin, 20ml Blue Curaçao, 20ml Kirsch, 40ml Lillet Blanc, Egg white. Shake.]
Fittingly for the name, this drink was bright blue in colour. Taste-wise, there was a mix of sweet and dry, and the Kirsch added a nice touch, as well as being integral to the balance. There was also a hint of sweet spice and dark chocolate, making this a really good drink, as well as one that was visually very attractive.
8) Jubilee Rhapsody
[40ml Dry Gin, 10ml Silverwasser, 5ml Blue Curaçao, and 5ml lemon juice. Shake.]
This, too, had a bright blue colour, which contrasted well with the ice-white sugar. Dryness from the gin appears alongside sweetness from the Curaçao and Silverwasser, and hints of citrus and cinnamon. It was a cooling drink, but with lots of sweet spice, which is an unusual mix. Nonetheless, it was vibrant and flavourful; not only tasty, it was also interesting aesthetically, with the floating silver leaf being a bit of a fun novelty.
Finally, I looked at a contemporary cocktail by present-day Blue Curaçao evangelist, Jacob Briars.
9) Corpse Reviver # Blue
[25ml Dry Gin, 25ml Lillet Blanc, 25ml Blue Curaçao, 25ml lemon juice, and 3 dashes Absinthe Verte. Shake.]
Dry, tart and bitter, but visually vibrant. This was a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing: you may think that you’re going to get a sweet “fruitini”, but you’d be surprised.
I did find myself, initially, recoiling from the bright colour of some of these drinks, but, having tasted them, I realised that they were not going to taste like a Skittles smoothie. Not only that, but some of the drinks both tasted great and looked stunning to the eye; the shade of the Queen of the Ocean was especially impressive.
And so it appears that you can make tasty and high quality drinks with Blue Curaçao; you just need to give them a chance.
* The finer points of the discussion comparing Triple Sec to Curaçao and other orange liqueurs gets a bit technical, but I will certainly cover it at a future date.
Special thanks to Jared, Anistatia and Jacob for their help with article.