That electric blue liqueur that vacation-goers slurp from umbrella-topped hurricane glasses may be called curaçao, but the real stuff—the curaçao of the 19th century—is much more cigar parlor than poolside bar. Originally made from Laraha, a citrus derived from Valencia oranges that were brought to the island of Curaçao by the Spanish, the liqueur was a bar staple in the early days of the cocktail. Noted for its dry taste and bitter finish, the curaçao of yesteryear is a far cry from our modern incarnation.
The decline of the drink into a saccharine spirit has not gone unnoticed by bartenders. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao marks an attempt to restore the drink to its spicy and slightly bitter roots—in the process delighting cocktail enthusiasts who have lamented curaçao's unfortunate past. In making their Dry Curaçao, Pierre Ferrand proprietor Alexandre Gabriel consulted spirit historian David Wondrich with the hope of reintroducing this essential ingredient to the cocktail world.
The taste experience of Pierre Ferrand's version is more brandy than triple sec—no surprise, since the bitter orange essence is blended with the distiller's own cognac. After a few avant-garde bars picked up on the spirit as a wonderfully complex cocktail addition, the elixir is now available for purchase. The fact that Pierre Ferrand's initial run sold out almost immediately speaks to the quality behind the intrigue. As if the story and taste weren't enough, the curaçao looks stunning on the shelf, with a floral label emblazoned with banners and cherubim, elegantly set on the bottle's squared edge.
Images by James Thorne