Being a teacher living on the island of Curaçao for more than 25 years, I’m always trying to encourage people abroad to visit our beautiful island. It’s remarkable that I have to explain where Curaçao is located even in the nearby United States, as the name doesn’t sound as familiar as, for instance, Aruba. But when I use blue as a prefix it starts to dawn on many. The blue color is a core building block in premium cocktails around the world, and it’s fun to watch people discover that the liqueur carries the name of a Caribbean island.
Is Blue Curaçao actually Rum and what’s the deal with the Laraha oranges?
Blue Curaçao is not rum; it’s originally a colorless triple sec, traditionally made with the dried, macerated and distilled peels of the Laraha orange (Citrus Aurantium Currassuviensis, meaning ‘Golden Orange of Curaçao’). These oranges were tasty and juicy at the time they were introduced to Curaçao by the Spanish early in the 16th century. However, in the dry and hot climate they struggled and turned into stunted and bitter fruits, until a few centuries later someone noticed that the skin contained very aromatic and pleasant sweet oils and essences.
Today an orange flavored liqueur called ‘Genuine Curaçao Liqueur’ is produced in a small distillery in Landhuis Chobolobo, an impressive 19-century mansion close to the capital of Willemstad and one of the few freely accessible country houses in Curaçao. The liqueur is brewed in a 120 years old traditional copper still pot and everything, even the cork stoppers, is manufactured by hand.
Tours in Landhuis Chobolobo are offered daily and attract 200,000 visitors each year. There is a free self-explanatory tour available, but the guided tours offer a more fascinating experience.
Kosher alcohol and ingredients prepared and certified according to traditional Jewish use
A visit to this small scale Curaçao Liqueur Distillery is a journey through local history and highlights the many contributions made to the island by the Jewish community. As the owners of the manufactures, Senior & Co, are descendants of one of the first Jewish families in Curaçao, the liqueur is still produced with kosher alcohol and ingredients prepared and certified according to traditional Jewish use. One of the contributing factors to the kosher certification is that for more than 120 years Curaçao Liqueur has been distilled using an ethyl alcohol derived from natural cane sugar. The whole process from oranges to labeling is done by hand and takes about 17 days.
The origins of an official Curaçao Liqueur
Senior Liqueur started producing their premium, handcrafted orange liqueur in 1896. When speaking of an official Curaçao Liqueur, the liqueur must be made with the dried peels of the laraha orange, which are only found in Curaçao. As Senior is the only brand in the world to do so, it adds the word ‘genuine’ to its labels. Senior & Co Liqueur produces premium Triple Sec and a variety of other specialty liqueurs. The iconic bottle, inspired by the laraha orange, including the ribbed skin, has gone unchanged throughout the years. Other liqueurs have different flavors added, such as coffee, chocolate and rum and raisin. Tamarind, a fine new taste was added two years ago.
Some say the origins of this blue product are murky. Several sources credit Bols, the Dutch spirits brand, with creating Blue Curaçao in the 1920s; others cite Senior & Co Liqueur, the longtime orange liqueur distiller in Curaçao, as having been the first to ‘blue’ a Curaçao liqueur. Both companies continue to produce Blue Curaçao today.
Blue Curaçao, why is it blue?
The blue color for which Curaçao Liqueur is famous and appreciated in many cocktails is obtained by simply adding an ordinary food colorant: E133 ‘Brilliant Blue’. The coloring doesn’t and shouldn’t influence the flavor, so even though you’re drinking blue, you taste orange.
Senior & Co offers four color versions of the drink – blue, red, orange and green. There’s also a colorless liqueur.
What is Alcolado Glacial
In addition to the liqueurs, Landhuis Chobolobo also produces the famous ‘Alcolado Glacial’ a mentholated splash lotion, also called ‘air conditioning in a bottle’. Alcolado is widely known for ten diverse uses. It not only has a cooling effect but is also believed to help with fever, headaches and abdominal pain, and although its medicinal effects go unproven, the product gets good reviews. It can even be purchased at Walmart. Alcolado has been produced in Curaçao for more than seventy years.
Landhuis Chobolobo distillery is open Monday – Friday, 8am to 5pm. Open to all ages and fun for the whole family. www.chobolobo.com