Plenty of bad decisions were made in the ’70s and ’80s, including unspeakable crimes against cocktails. Toward the top of that list are the era’s troublingly sweet cocktails that make most people associate the word Curaçao with the word blue.
But real Curaçao is an elegant orange liqueur, and there are plenty of excellent versions out there. Our favorites have a nuanced orange flavor, aren’t too sweet and stand up well to cocktails, though they’re excellent sipped on their own. Here, we’re using Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, which is styled after the dry Curaçaos of the 19th century. This version is made by steeping clear brandy with the skins of Seville oranges. We love its subtle spice and ideal balance of dry and sweet, with none of the cloying sweetness that undermines many orange liqueurs.
Easy: Curaçao and Tonic
Plenty of orange liqueurs are too sweet and too boring to enjoy this simply. But we love the beautifully balanced Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao with just tonic and ice. Since it’s 80 proof, it’s as stiff as a G&T.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1½ ounces of Curaçao and 4 ounces of good tonic. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Intermediate: Curaçao Sidecar
Cognac, lemon and orange liqueur. The sidecar is a perfect vehicle (forgive the pun) to show off the complexities of a good orange liqueur, so Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao works wonderfully. Warning: Although this cocktail seems light and refreshing, there are three full ounces of 80-proof booze in here, so sip slowly.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of Cognac, 1 ounce of Curaçao and an ounce of fresh lemon juice. Shake all that up hard, and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel, twisting it on top of the drink to spray its citrus oils over the surface.
Advanced: Curaçao Smash
A sophisticated orange-whiskey cocktail with minimal effort? Sign us up. Here, we’re using fresh oranges, along with a good cocktail bourbon (we’re fans of Old Forester) to stiffen it. Feel free to double-strain this cocktail if you want to get fancy, but we love the rustic look you get when the muddled orange hangs out right in the drink.
Instructions: Quarter an orange; for each cocktail, muddle one quarter in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add 1 ounce of Curaçao, 1 ounce of bourbon and just 4 or 5 ice cubes. Shake all that hard and then pour—ice, orange and all—into a rocks glass.