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Curaçao (liqueur)

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A bottle of blue curaçao
Introducedc. 18th century
Alcohol by volume 15–40%
ColorColorless, but often artificially colored with the most popular being blue and orange
FlavorBitter and sweet orange

Curaçao[1] (/ˈkjʊərəs, -s/ KURE-əss-ow, -⁠oh, Dutch: [kyraːˈsʌu] ) is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the bitter orange variety laraha, a citrus fruit grown on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.

Curaçao can be sold in numerous forms, though the most common are the orange-hued dry curaçao and blue curaçao, which is dyed bright blue.


It is not known who developed the first curaçao liqueur, and when. The Dutch West Indies Company took possession of Curaçao in 1634. The Bols distillery, founded in 1575 in Amsterdam, had shares in both the West and East India Companies to guarantee its access to spices required for their distilled drinks. According to the early nineteenth-century French culinary chronicler Alexandre Grimod de la Reynière, curaçao originated in Flanders,[2] and proximity to the province of Holland gave distillers easy access to the necessary peels (since Curaçao was a Dutch colony at the time).[3]

Curaçao liqueur is traditionally made with the dried peels of the laraha (Citrus × aurantium subsp. currassuviencis), a bitter orange that developed on Curaçao.[4] Spanish explorers had brought the progenitor of the laraha, the bitter Seville orange, to the island in 1527.[5][6] Although the bitter flesh of the laraha is unpalatable, the peels are pleasantly aromatic.[7]

The Bols company says that Lucas Bols (1652–1719) developed a laraha-based liqueur after the discovery that an aromatic oil could be extracted from the unripe peel of the otherwise useless bitter oranges. Bols then had this oil exported back to Amsterdam to produce a liqueur similar to current day curaçao. Lucas Bols tended to add an "element of alchemical mystery" to his products,[citation needed] explaining the unlikely addition of a blue coloring. In 1912, Bols sold blue curaçao as Crème de Ciel ("cream of the sky"), most likely a reference to the 1907 musical Miss Hook of Holland.[8][9]

Senior & Co, a company started in Curaçao, is the only company that has always produced its liqueur from the peels of the laraha from Curaçao. The family, Senior and Chumaceiro, started selling their liqueur in 1896 in their pharmacy in small quantities. In 1947 they bought the landhuis ("country manor") Chobolobo in Willemstad, where the distillery has since been housed. The company states that it is the only one that uses native laraha fruit, and label it Genuine Curaçao Liqueur.[10]

The liqueur is mentioned several times under the spelling "curaçoa" in William Thakeray's Vanity Fair of 1847–1848 as a drink taken by dissolute young men. For example, Lady Jane Southdown pays her brother "a furtive visit in his chambers in the Albany; and found him – O the naughty dear abandoned wretch! – smoking a cigar with a bottle of curaçoa before him."[citation needed]


Bols Blue Curaçao liqueur

To make the liqueur, Senior and Co soak the laraha in alcohol and water for several days, after which the peel is removed and placed in a gunny bag. Spices are added, and the bag is hung in a heated 120-year-old copper still with 96% pure and kosher alcohol (derived from sugar cane) for three days. After one day cooling, water is added and the mixture is distilled for three days.[11] The liqueur has an orange-like flavour with varying degrees of bitterness. It is naturally colourless, but colouring, most commonly blue (often E133 brilliant blue) or orange, is often added to confer an exotic appearance to cocktails and other mixed drinks.[12][13]

Some other liqueurs are also sold as curaçaos with different flavors added, such as coffee, chocolate, rum and raisin. Pierre Ferrand, a cognac and dry Curaçao brand, produced a less sweet "Ancienne Méthod" curaçao using 1800s techniques.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of CURACAO".
  2. ^ Grimod de la Reyniere, Alexandre. Almanach des gourmands, sixième année. Paris: 1808.
  3. ^ Wondrich, David; Rothbaum, Noah, eds. (2021). The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails. Oxford University Press. p. 210. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199311132.001.0001. ISBN 9780199311132. OCLC 1260690923.
  4. ^ "Laraha Orange – Senior Liqueur". Curacao Liqueur. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  5. ^ Benjamin, Alan Fredric (2002). Jews of the Dutch Caribbean. Routledge. p. 47. ISBN 0-415-27439-7.
  6. ^ "Curaçao Parent Stock – Elemental Mixology". Elemental Mixology. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Curacao". food.com. 17 August 1999.
  8. ^ Joseph Piercy, Slippery Tipples: A Guide to Weird and Wonderful Spirits & Liqueurs, pp. 23–24
  9. ^ "Bols Blue Curacao Liqueur" at Difford's Guide for Discerning Drinkers
  10. ^ "The Brand". Curacao Liqueur by Senior&Co. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  11. ^ "Production Process - Senior Liqueur". Curacao Liqueur. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  12. ^ "The Story of Blue Curaçao: Which Is, Strangely, the Other Orange Liqueur—The 9-Bottle Bar". Kitchn.
  13. ^ "Webpage about Curacao Liqueur and Triple secs". Archived from the original on May 29, 2013. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  14. ^ Fabricant, Florence (20 March 2012). "Looking Back to the 1800s for a Properly Bitter Cocktail". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 30 May 2023.