There’s something a bit mad about drinking a violently blue coloured drink in a pretty glass, often with exotic looking garnishes around the edge. It says that you love cocktails, love colour and don’t care what anyone thinks. And the best thing about blue cocktails? They taste as great as they look.
The inner blue
At the heart of many of the most popular blue cocktails is a liqueur called blue curacao. This is a liqueur that gets its flavour from a fruit called the laraha, a citrus fruit that comes from the island of Curacao and is similar to orange. It was discovered when Spanish explorers reached the island in 1527 with their Valencia oranges but discovered the poor soils wouldn’t grow their own fruits. So while the flesh of the laraha isn’t particularly edible, they realised that the peel had a great flavour and began to use it to create the drink. The result of which is a spirit that has an orange-type flavour to it that is naturally colourless but is changed into a vibrant blue shade by an artificial colouring.
As far as the history of blue cocktails, the first mention of blue coloured drinks dates back to Victorian times when there was a craze for brightly coloured drinks as well as anything else. Back then, the colourant used was coal tar – not exactly a healthy option! The Dutch dived into this trend for bright and interesting drinks and began to make a range of flavoured drinks such as the crème de bananes, crème de menthe and crème de ciel – blue curacao. By the 1890s, the craze for mad coloured drinks has reached the US.
The Aviation was a slightly blue coloured drink that was invented in New York but it used crème de violette, a violet flavoured liqueur with a pretty if subtle bluish-violet shade. When crème de ciel arrived from Europe, it was immediately substituted into the Aviation cocktail for a full-on blue shade.
Another contemporary of these early years was the Blue Moon, still popular today. The Blue Moon is a great one to make at home as all it needs is vodka, tequila, blue curacao and lemonade, making it a very tasty, bright blue long drink.
When tiki cocktails became all the rage in the 1950s, blue drinks didn’t feature heavily. But when Bols asked for recipes to go with its new Blue Curacao product, the top cocktail makers in the US set about creating new blue drinks. The Blue Hawaii, also known in some cocktail books as the Juliana Blue, uses light rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice, cream of coconut and crushed ice for a tropical blue drink. It is garnished with a pineapple slice and maraschino cherry – and of course a small umbrella!
As cocktails fell out of fashion and ‘serious’ drinks became the way to go, the blue drink fell by the wayside. But in recent years, as fearless drinkers wanted to try new horizons and no colour was off the menu, the blue drink returned to the menu.
Modern blue cocktails
Today, all the top cocktail bars in the cities around the world have plenty of top blue drinks on their menus. New York’s Porchlight opened in 2015 and has the Gun Metal Blue, a blend of mescal, peach brandy, blue curacao and cinnamon syrup. Also in New York is PDT where you can enjoy the Shark, a mixture of butter-infused rum, pineapple juice, blue curacao and Frangelico, complete with the classic mini umbrella.
There are also plenty of blue cocktails that can be made at home with only a small range of spirits, to get you going on your road to blueness. Here are a few of my favourites:
- 5 cracked ice cubes
- ¾ measure vodka
- ¾ measure tequila
- 1 measure blue curacao
Add half the ice to a glass and then add the vodka, tequila and curacao. Stir it then add the remaining ice before topping up with lemonade and serving with a straw.
- 4 ice cubes
- 2 measures gin
- ½ measure blue curacao
Put the ice in a cocktail shaker then add the gin and curacao. Shake well then strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a red or blue cocktail cherry.
- 4 dashes of blue curacao
- Chilled champagne
Swirl the curacao around a champagne flute to coat the walls of the glass then pour in the champagne and serve.
- 4 parts Absolut citron vodka
- 3 parts white cranberry juice
- 1 part blue curacao
- Splash of lime juice
Fill a shaker with ice cubes and add the ingredients. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass then garnish with orange peel.
Corpse Reviver (No. Blue)
- ¾ part gin
- ¾ part Lillet blanc
- ¾ part blue curacao
- ¾ part lime juice
- Dash absinthe
- 1 twist lemon
Fill a shaker with ice cubes and add all the ingredients. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass then garnish with lemon.