We’re sure when Danzig sang these words he was talking about Blue Curacao. Okay probably not, but certainly some people wish the dye would die. It’s hard to sit down as someone who lives, breathes, and bleeds Tiki everyday and make the case for blue drinks as a positive force in Tiki drinking. The rub is I honestly believe they are. Inherently there’s nothing wrong with blue drinks save for a touch of pretty flavorless dye.
Some people rebel against dyes, and honestly I can’t blame them. When I can I also prefer natural colors. The dirty secret is your favorite high end craft spirt probably has coloring in it. Even the best rums and spirits ususally add come color to keep batches consistent. Dye’s can effect texture and flavor in some cases and it’s largely up to the manufacturer to choose as neutral a dye as they can. Honestly for 98% of the population you shouldn’t be able to taste a difference. Still it’s up to us to taste, account for any differences, and change recipes accordingly.
“It’s so artificial tasting!”, The common complaint and a valid one. Most blue curacaos are made with lousy product. Bols is considered to be the best of the bottom shelf orange liqueurs but even they taste insanely artifical. This problem is an easy fix, Buy better blue! It is out there.
“It’s not traditional/natural,” I’ve heard this from cocktailian friends. The truth is if your style is classic cocktail, speakeasy, spirituous then no it’s not. However Blue drinks and other wild colors are most definitely part of classic tiki mixology. From green creme de menthe in the 1947 Fu Manchu to Blue Curacao in just about every tiki bar since it came on the market. So yes even creme de banana and spirits like it can be part of a tiki bartender’s repitorie so long as the drink remains fresh, well balanced, and authentic in it’s flavor and style.
To us sweetness is a factor, there must be some sweetness in a curcao like Grand Marnier. This is why we haven’t rushed out to buy Pierre Ferrand because we tend to go for more Cointreau style triple sec liqueurs when we want a dry orange flavor. This is again because we’re more concerned with being classic Tiki, than pre-prohibition classic. Now this isn’t to say we don’t love Classic speakeasy cocktails and Preprohibition drinks. It also doesn’t mean we wouldn’t love to play with some Pierre Ferrand. But it does mean when it comes to Curacao fit for a Tiki god. We have…
Nose: The Pith of Fresh peeled orange, fresh orange juice, green cut branches, and light fresh ginger notes.
Taste: Notes of real orange with a slight bitter twist. It is sweet, but not unnaturaly sweet. The body is somewhat thick but it ends with a sense of balance especially compared to comeptitors.
Overall: We do endorse Senior Curacao of Curacao’s and have a pretty big man crush on them. To preface this, we’ve never gotten freebies or compensation from them, and we’ve bought every sip we’ve had which came from more than a few bottles. The taste is sweet but also with tons of natural orange aroma and flavor. You’ll notice it really pulling it’s weight in cocktail’s it’s added to even in small amounts. It’s more expensive than Bol’s but way less expensive than Cointreau and Grand Marnier. We also like that it’s from the island itself, and the taste shows us they know what they are doing.
In the End
Drinking is supposed to be fun, especially when your talking Tiki. Crazy colors and dyes are as much a part of this as exotic spices and kitschy decor. It’s important to have a light touch with products like this, but remember to keep the cocktails balanced, fresh, classic, and fun.
We wanted to present a classic for this article. But we decided to take a classic that got kicked up by our favorite writer Jeff Berry in his book Remixed. We adore the movie Blue Hawaii here, and we also adore the Bum’s take on an old school sip that desperatly needed fixing. Don’t skip the cream! It really ties the whole affair together. Originally we wanted to twist this drink and make it our own. But the Bum couldn’t be topped in our opinion. So here it is.
2 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
¾ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
¾ oz Blue Curacao
¼ oz Sugar Syrup
½ tsp Heavy Cream
1 ½ oz Vodka
Shake with a lot of crushed ice and pour unstrained into a double old fashioned glass. We like to garnish with a nice piece of fresh pineapple.
This drink has a magically refreshing quality to it. It’s got the bright tang of pineapple with plenty of lemon sour. The cream gives it a wonderful fullness that really binds the drink and aids in it’s light color. An important lesson to take away from this is to use curacao in place of some of your regular sweeteners. While it can’t replace them entirely especially in the face of bold citrus, you can make it’s sweetness work for you. Until next time,
“You Get Hammered America!” – JFL