What Is Blue Curaçao? Essential Facts

Published February 24, 2021
cocktail with blue curacao liquer

If you've ever had a vibrant blue colored cocktail, you may find yourself wondering what imparts such a vivid hue. The answer is blue curaçao. What is blue curaçao? It's a brightly-colored liqueur used in a number of cocktails.

What Is Blue Curaçao?

Many people are surprised to learn that in spite of its electric blue shade, blue curaçao is actually an orange-flavored liqueur. The blue comes from food grade coloring, and it doesn't affect the flavor at all. You'll find other colors of curaçao as well, including green, red, and orange, although the most common color is blue. In fact, curaçao is naturally colorless and only has a vivid shade when food grade dyes are added. Blue curaçao typically has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of about 15 to 40%.

What Does Blue Curaçao Taste Like?

Blue curaçao tastes like oranges because it is flavored with bitter orange peels. Therefore, the primary flavor and aroma is of oranges, and it may have a slight, pleasantly bitter tinge from the citrus peels. The flavor most commonly comes from the citrus fruit, Laraha orange (Citrus aurantium var. curassuviensis), which grows on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. While the Laraha is the most common citrus ingredient used to flavor blue curaçao (and other curaçaos), it's not a fruit people would peel and eat like an orange because its flesh is too bitter and fibrous to be enjoyable for munching. The Laraha is a descendent of the Seville orange, Valencia orange, or bitter orange. It's important to note that it's not a legal requirement to use Lahara oranges to make blue curaçao, but using them is a common differentiator in whether the liqueur is labeled as a curaçao versus a triple sec or orange liqueur.

Laraha orange

How Sweet Is Blue Curaçao?

Blue curaçao is generally a sec (dry) liqueur which, while lightly sweet, isn't nearly as sweet or sugary as a crème liqueur, such as crème de menthe or crème de cacao. Therefore, it does have some added sugar that imparts a pleasant sweetness, but it isn't cloying. It is sweet enough to offset the bitterness of the orange peel and enhance the orange flavors and aromatics.

Is Blue Curaçao From Curaçao?

Blue curaçao may come from Curaçao or be made from Lahara oranges found on Curaçao, but it doesn't have to be; there's no legal requirement that a liqueur named curaçao must come from the island. Rather, curaçao is simply an orange-flavored liqueur, and blue curaçao is an orange-flavored liqueur that has a blue shade.

Willemstad, Curacao

How Curaçao Is Made

Blue curaçao is produced from the dried peels of the Lahara oranges. The oranges are harvested and the peels dried to intensify the aromatic oils they contain. Then, the peels are soaked for several days in some type of a spirit (typically a cane spirit but not always) and water. After removing the orange peels, additional flavors, spices, and other botanicals may be infused into the resulting liqueur. Finally, water, some sugar, and coloring are added to adjust proof (alcohol content), sweetness, and hue.

Difference Between Blue Curaçao, Triple Sec, and Orange Liqueur

Orange liqueur is a blanket term for sweet or bittersweet citrus liqueurs flavored with different types of oranges. Blue curaçao, other curaçao liqueurs, and triple sec are all orange-flavored liqueurs, but not all orange liqueurs are triple sec or curaçao. In general (but not always), both triple sec and curaçao are made from flavoring and sweetening either a neutral spirit (like vodka) or a cane spirit (like rum), while other orange liqueurs such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier may have a base liquor of brandy or another spirit. Some general similarities and differences are outlined in the chart below. Note these are all generalizations; there are no legal requirements about labeling for any of these liqueurs.

Difference Between Blue Curacao, Triple Sec, and Orange Liqueur

Drinks That Use Blue Curaçao

In mixed drinks that call for orange liqueur, you can use curaçao, orange liqueur, and triple sec interchangeably with slight flavor differences depending on what you use. However, due to its vivid blue coloring, blue curaçao is most commonly used in tropical drinks with an ocean color, such as the blue Hawaiian, blue lagoon, blue daiquiri, or blue breeze. You can alter any drink calling for orange liqueur, such as a margarita, by adding blue curaçao and calling it a Blue __________.

What to Mix With Blue Curaçao

You can mix blue curaçao with anything that will blend well with orange liqueur. Some good mixers to try include:

  • Club soda or sparkling water
  • Orange juice
  • Lemon-lime soda
  • Sweet and sour mix
  • Lemonade or limeade
  • Cranberry juice
  • Vodka
  • Tequila or mezcal
  • Cola
  • Rum
  • RumChata
  • Coconut rum
  • Gin
  • Pineapple juice
  • Club soda and a dash of grenadine to make it purple
  • Champagne, sparkling white wine, or Prosecco
Blue lagoon summer cocktail

Blue Curaçao Brands and Prices

Blue curaçao tends to be affordable, usually costing under $25 for a 750 mL bottle, although some brands may be more expensive.

Bright Blue Cocktails

Blue curaçao is added to cocktail recipes when a vivid blue color (or another hue depending on what the blue mixes with) is desired. When garnished with a tropical fruit and an umbrella, blue curaçao drinks have instant tiki drink appeal. Because of its similarities to other orange liqueurs, you can give an island aesthetic to virtually any cocktail calling for orange liqueur by adding blue curaçao.

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What Is Blue Curaçao? Essential Facts