How can Oranges be Blue? When they are in this Laraha-Based Liqueur from this Caribbean Island

Images: Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery

Blue Curaçao Liqueur matches the water surrounding the island on which it’s produced.

Bon bini,” or “welcome,” is painted on the saffron-hued exterior walls of the distillery as we drive up. We’ve left our sunny beachfront cabana at the five-star Baoase Resort on this October afternoon because I’ve convinced our group that we can’t leave without touring this place. After all, how many islands also share a name with a type of booze that’s produced there? To see how Curaçao the island is intrinsically linked to Curaçao the liqueur, you need look no further than any of the bright azure-tinged drinks available at its resort or beach bars.

Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery is home of the Genuine Curaçao Liqueur. It welcomes more than 100,000 visitors per year–a mixture of cruise and stay-over tourists–making it the top tourist attraction on the island. Curaçao Liqueur starts with the laraha orange, a bitter variety whose dried peels are macerated along with a spirit to make the distinctive orange-flavored liqueur that’s used in tropical tipples and other cocktails needing a burst of sweet citrus.

Until 2011, the distillery was located in a mansion and featured a small area with a gift shop. That year, a visitor center was built with a self-guided tour, and the mansion became a larger store; paid guided tours were added in 2016. The former is perfect for guests wanting to breeze on through, read some signs about how the hooch is produced, and then retreat to a tasting at the end (maybe before heading back to that aforementioned cabana). The latter “provides a more immersive experience for people who want to go deeper than just reading signs,” says marketing manager Sebastiaan Opschoor; the guided tours also end with a choice of a signature cocktail instead of just a spirits tasting.

Legend has it, Portuguese sailors on expedition were cured of scurvy after eating the indigenous citrus fruits. The island’s name, therefore, may have been derived from the Portuguese word “coraçao,” which means “heart” and “healing.” Unfortunately, the fruits aren’t particularly palatable on their own, so the Spaniards tried bringing over and planting their native Valencia oranges; however, they withered and died in the warm and sunny tropical climate.

Today, laraha oranges are hand-harvested and peeled with a wooden knife, then left to dry in the sun for five days. Afterwards, the peels are weighed, put in a gunny bag along with spices, hung in a copper still, and macerated in a sugarcane-based alcohol for three days, after which water is added and the mixture is distilled further. After the solids are strained out, certified color is added, either the striking blue, or orange, yellow or green–or it’s kept clear. (Though the distillery dates back to 1896, the blue color wasn’t added until the 1960s, and it remains the most popular; orange is second.)

One thing I was curious about is the use of the name “Curaçao.” I have come across other dry versions of the liqueur which taste vastly different than the sweet style produced on the island. Opschoor told me that the name is not protected as it is in say, Champagne or Tequila. “A dry orange is also a variation of the Curaçao liqueur which has a deeper orange taste with a drier finish,” he explains. The company does not currently produce a dry version, but that doesn’t stop other brands from doing it, including Pierre Ferrand.

In addition to the orange liqueur, the distillery also produces coffee, chocolate and rum raisin flavors, and in 2016 a tamarind version was released to celebrate the company’s 120th anniversary. It mixes particularly well, says Opschoor, with Tequila and ginger ale.

After our walk-through tour was over, we were led to a table where we were able to taste all of the liqueurs. Each was sweet, the tamarind was pretty unique, and the rum raisin tasted like dessert. The point of these liqueurs really isn’t to enjoy them in their own right but to use them as a modifier in cocktails to add a flash of color (save for the clear version) and a fruity sweet flavor. Next to the tasting table, an onsite bar was shaking up and blending cocktails like the Blue Daiquiri and Mai Tai; small or large groups can rent the bar for private events, too.

But just why is Curaçao blue? Opschoor says while that fact is up for debate, he believes “it is because of the crystal clear blue waters and deep blue skies found in our Caribbean island paradise.” Drinking it, then, can either evoke blissful vacation memories, or stir your senses enough to call the travel agent and finally plan that trip. I, for one, am ready to return.

Blue Lagoon cocktail recipe - Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery Genuine CuraAao

Blue Lagoon

Recipe courtesy of Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery

  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • 1 oz. Blue Genuine Curaçao Liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • Sprite
  • Lemon wedge and cherry, for garnish

Add vodka, Curaçao and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake until chilled, and strain into a rocks or Collins glass filled with ice. Add Sprite to taste and garnish with a lemon wedge and a cherry.

Turqs 'n Cocos cocktail recipe - Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery Genuine CuraAao

Turqs ‘N Cocos

Recipe courtesy of Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery

  • 1 oz. White rum
  • ½ oz. Blue Genuine Curaçao Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Egg white
  • 1 oz. Coconut cream
  • 1 oz. Lemon juice
  • ½ oz. Simple syrup
  • Mint leaf, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake, and double strain into a hurricane or rocks glass filled with ice. Add crushed ice on top, and garnish with the mint leaf.

Blue Daiquiri

Recipe courtesy of Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery

  • 2 oz. Lime juice
  • 2 oz. Blue Curaçao Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Rum

Add all ingredients to a blender with ice. Blend and pour into a cocktail glass. Alternately, shake with ice and strain over fresh ice in a cocktail glass.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on  Twitter  and  Instagram  @kmagyarics.