DeKuyper Blue Curaçao Liqueur is an electric-blue liqueur with high-toned flavors of bitter orange and lemon. At $11 a bottle, it likely isn’t distilled with real Laraha oranges from the island of Curaçao, but bartenders looking for an affordable and reliable ingredient to punch up Blue Hawaiis and Blue Lagoons probably won’t mind.
Company John DeKuyper & Sons (Beam Suntory)
Distillery produced in Clermont, Kentucky
Proof 48 (24% ABV)
Good value for the price
Solid orange aromas and flavors
Doesn’t rely on high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetening agent
It’s not particularly complex: Bartenders looking for both high- and low-tone notes in modifiers won’t find more than citrus and color.
The company says it uses “natural” flavors, but is less than forthcoming on what those natural flavors are.
Color: Electric royal blue, akin to the shade used for Easter-egg dye or well ink dissolved in water
Nose: Bitter and bright fresh orange
Palate: Vibrant orange flavor and an oily, silky texture on the tongue. You might expect thoroughly artificial aromas and flavor from the electric-blue hue, but the citrus offers pleasant, bitter orange and lemony notes, and the liqueur isn’t cloyingly sweet.
Finish: The bitter orange sticks around, but a sweet sensation also lingers on the back of the palate.
The ubiquitous nature of DeKuyper liqueurs almost makes you forget about the brand itself. But despite its speed-rack status in the modern cocktail world, the maker of crystal-clear triple sec and neon-green apple schnapps has a storied history that dates back centuries. Founded as a cask-making company in 1695 by Petrus De Kuyper in the Netherlands, the company eventually opened a distillery that made Dutch-style genever. By the early 20th century, the family was in the liqueur business, for which it has become most well-known.
Curaçao liqueur, meanwhile, originated on its namesake island in the Caribbean in 1896, when someone had the genius idea to sun-dry the peels of the island’s inedible bitter Laraha oranges with spices and herbs and distill them with alcohol. But the liqueur wasn’t associated with the color blue until the Dutch company Bols developed its own dyed version, and soon imitators like DeKuyper abounded.
Although DeKuyper will not reveal details on the recipe for its blue curaçao, it’s fervent about its use of “natural” ingredients. Fair enough, but this likely means we’re talking about extracts for flavor and aroma rather than dried and macerated skins from the Laraha orange (or any orange) or the petals of butterfly pea flowers for color. The bottle simply says it “contains certified color,” which by FDA standards may be derived from natural or artificial sources.
For $11 a bottle, however, you probably wouldn’t expect hand-harvested flowers or carefully peeled oranges from Curaçao. What you do get is a pretty decent, if basic, product for all your most beloved blue curaçao-based cocktails. (How can you watch Blue Hawaii without sipping its eponymous drink, after all?) It smells of bitter oranges and a lemony note that, while a tiny bit Pledge-like, is balanced and authentically citrusy.
On the advent of the liqueur’s 300th anniversary in 1995, Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix Armgard bestowed De Kuyper (the Dutch brand name includes a space) with a “Royal” designation, which it uses as part of its official name, De Kuyper Royal Distillers, today.