© Anjali Pinto
Blue booze. It's mocked by modern cocktail lovers who would rather chug Fernet Branca than sip on a neon cocktail like the classic Blue Hawaii. And who can blame them? In its current, mass-produced form, blue curaçao is an artificial, extra-sugary cartoon of the liqueur curaçao, which in its purest form is flavored with orange peels from the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Soon, however, there may be a reason for mixologists to serve blue drinks. When Chicago bartenders Paul McGee and Ian Van Veen open the nouveau tiki bar, Three Dots and a Dash, on July 30, they will also debut an artisanal take on the liqueur.
According to McGee, a good curaçao "should have a nice clean orange flavor with a little bit of a brandy background. It should be rich, deep and not overly sweet." Produced at the Letherbee Distillery, where Van Veen is a partner, the new blue liqueur fits McGee's ideal. Following a classic recipe, the spirit is made with Laraha oranges from Curaçao, which are small, green and very bitter, and dyed with butterfly blue pea flowers from Thailand. “They have a pleasantly nondescript floral flavor and this outrageously blue color,” Van Veen says.
While only available at Three Dots to start, the team hopes to sell their creation to fellow Tiki-aficionados at bars in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Now that blue curaçao is taken care of, which cheesy spirit should get an upgrade next? McGee hopes someone will tackle phosphorescent green Midori, and turn it into “a nice melon liqueur."