Curaçao: An Island & Liqueur
On June 30th the United States Men’s Soccer Team took on Curaçao in Philadelphia in pursuit of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. If you’ve ever worked behind a bar the word “Curaçao” probably stands out to you. Curaçao is both a small island liberated from its Dutch settlers in 2010 and a popular liqueur known worldwide.
Any barfly, bartender, bar back, or bar manager knows about Blue Curaçao. It’s often used to dye boring drinks blue or to add an extra kick to a Long Island Iced Tea. Ashamed at my naiveté I looked into Curaçao as a liquor and as a country.
Curaçao– The Island
Curaçao is an island within the Caribbean Sea and a former Dutch colony. The island’s look and architecture much resembles that of Amsterdam but in the Caribbean, colorful houses Dutch houses line the Caribbean Sea just 37 miles off the coast of Venezuela.
Curaçao was settled by the Arawak people of South America, then settled by Spain, then eventually the Dutch. In 1515 the Spanish deported the entire indigenous population to Hispaniola (the island that holds Haiti and the Dominican Republic). The Island of Curaçao was a major hub for the Dutch West India Company, a major perpetrator of the slave trade. In 1845 Curaçao was one of the six “Dutch Dependencies” in the West Indies, which were realigned and known as the Netherlands Antilles in 1954. On October 10, 2010 Curaçao became recognized as its own country with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The tropical island of Curaçao is not ideal for agriculture with near constant sun, a dry climate, and little fertile soil. Spanish settlers with hopes of growing a plump Valencia Orange ended up with a very different type of Orange known as “Citrus Aurantium Currassuviensis.” This orange is known as “the Golden Orange of Curaçao” locals refer to it as “Laraha.”
The Lahara is used to make an Orange / Citrus flavored liqueur. Blue Curaçao functions as an additive to cocktails under the same umbrella as Triple Sec. The hallmark of Blue Curaçao is its electric blue hue. References to colorful Curaçao’s span as far back as the 1920’s. For primal reasons the liqueur is dyed blue, one reason being that it reminds people of a tropical vacation. The second reason being a lack of competition, Blue Curaçao is the primary blue liqueur. If you want your cocktails to have that tantalizing blue color, it’s either Curaçao or bust.
On June 30th 2019, the United States Men’s Soccer Team beat Curaçao in Philadelphia 1-0. This led me down a rabbit hole of information about Curaçao and the West Indies. These places and these stories are often overlooked as time seemingly continues to move faster and faster. It’s important to be inquisitive about the food and drinks we see every day. One soccer match and liqueur led to the me learning about an island of 155,000 people off the coast of Venezuela. Anytime you’re drinking a cocktail dyed blue, you’re drinking a little piece of Curaçao.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of cocktails, click here to learn about the origin of the Moscow Mule.