First off, let’s clear one thing up: Oleo saccharum is not as strange or intimidating as it sounds. It’s not one of those secret, magical ingredients that bartenders use to elicit oooohhs and ahhhhs. Literally defined, the name means “oil (or fat) sucrose,” referring simply to what it is: oil extracted from citrus peels by using sugar.
With that great mystery cleared up, the question remains: Why? Aside from being a fantastic way to use up citrus peel that might otherwise go to waste and extract every last drop of goodness from your favorite winter citrus, it also makes a damn fine cocktail ingredient. The technique isn’t new: Bartenders have been using oleo saccharum since the early 19th Century to add aroma and flavor to drinks.
The process is simple. Peel a few citrus fruits—ideally ones that you’ll be juicing later on, anyway (blood oranges, grapefruit and lemons work well). Place the peels in a bowl. Sprinkle a few ounces of granulated sugar on top, muddle it into the peels and...wait. After a few hours, the sugar will have extracted the oils from the peels, leaving you with a slightly messy yet entirely delicious syrup.
While most commonly used in punches such as the Fish House Punch, the beauty of oleo saccharum is its versatility. It can be used as a sweetener in single-serving cocktails such as bartender Jeff Bell's One-Two Punch and in nonalcoholic drinks like iced tea, and it makes a lovely syrup for pancakes and ice cream.
You might try shaking together a half-ounce of Blood Orange Oleo Saccharum with 2 ounces of gin, a half-ounce of oloroso sherry and a half-ounce of lemon juice to create a Bloody Sherry, served in a rocks glass over one large ice cube and garnished with a rosemary sprig.
The oleo can also be combined with additional lemon or lime juice to create a handy sour mix, which works well with most spirits. Shake an ounce and a half of Oleo Saccharum Sour Mix with 2 ounces of the spirit of your choice to make a two-ingredient sour.
Above all, feel free to experiment with this versatile ingredient. The toughest part is getting used to its name; once you have that down, the rest is easy.