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Blue Heaven: The "element of alchemical mystery" in a Frostini

by | Jan 21, 2021

I know there is no magic in the world, and getting through 2020 doesn’t mean we’re completely out of the woods, but for most of us, this past year was one of the hardest and least certain of our lives, and that alone is reason enough to celebrate its end.

I have a cocktail for you that’s fun, easy to make, and very blue. Perhaps you are a serious cocktail connoisseur, but have all but forgotten blue Curaçao, having replaced it with a more normal, less colorful version of the classic orange-based liqueur — one that’s actually orange, for instance. There really is no difference between that and the blue stuff though, besides a few percentage points of alcohol to make room for the blue coloring.

Would you believe that the origins of the outlandishly sapphire liqueur, popularized by thatched-roof beachside bars, dates back many centuries? Curaçao liqueur is traditionally made with the dried peels of the laraha, a bitter orange native to the Carribean island of Curaçao.

Although it’s not known who developed the first Curaçao liqueur and when, Bols, a distillery founded in 1575 and considered the world’s oldest distilled-spirit brand, had shares in the Dutch West India Company when that colonial corporation took possession of Curaçao in 1634. Lucas Bols, grandson of the founder, developed a laraha-based liqueur soon after the discovery that an aromatic oil could be extracted from the unripe peel of the otherwise useless, bitter fruit.

Bols had this oil shipped back to Amsterdam to produce a liqueur similar to the Curaçao of today. He was fond of adding an “element of alchemical mystery” to his products, which explains the unlikely addition of a blue coloring now called Brilliant Blue FCF, or FD&C Blue No.1 (one of the oldest FDA-approved color additives, it’s generally considered non-toxic and safe for consumption even in large quantities). In 1912, Bols sold blue Curaçao as Crème de Ciel (“cream of the sky”).

Cocktail snobs can rest easy: Bols Blue Curaçao is rightly considered a classic that belongs in any professional or home bar. There were several frosty-blue New Year’s cocktails I found, most using spirits like rum and tequila. But I thought a variation of the Frostini, found on Maine Spirits’ website, had great balance. It uses vodka, and with the addition of a little lime juice, as well as switching the vodka/Curaçao ratio to favor the former, I created my own version. If you want to make a larger quantity for a socially distanced party, just change the units from ounces to cups and stir it in a pitcher with ice.

photo/Jessie Lacey

The Frostini

2 oz vodka
1.5 oz Bols Blue Caraçao
1.25 oz white cranberry juice
0.5 oz lime juice
Sugar crystals
1 rosemary sprig

Rim a glass with white or blue sugar crystals. Add ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake, and strain into the rimmed glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

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