John deBary recently authored an entertaining bit on blue curaçao and his (quite good) PDT drink, the Shark for Punch. Along the way, the Laraha—the transplanted form of the Seville orange on Curaçao (the island)—and Senior & Co. crop up for the umpteenth time.
I have nothing against Senior & Co.’s curaçao. It seems to be a functional, unexceptional liqueur, priced reasonably (always an important consideration). I am (apparently) irritated that Senior’s long-running efforts to claim special authenticity (“The Genuine Curaçao Liqueur”… “Senior’s Authentic Curaçao Liqueur”), by virtue of being a Curaçao-based operation and ostensibly employing some locally grown fruit, continue to be taken seriously. If you grant Senior’s earliest corporate mythology, they have roots in 1896, but the actual company dates to 1945. Curaçao liqueur is much much older than that, it seems unlikely that much curaçao liqueur was ever derived from actual Laraha oranges from the dinky Curaçao colony, and if there’s anything particularly remarkable and distinctive about what Larahas exist for harvest, I have never been able to identify it in Senior’s product (as opposed to anyone else’s curaçao).
Am I missing something, here?
I’m still quite curious what the curaçao of the early 19th Century was actually like. I imagine something as rudimentary as a liqueur could be: orange essence extracted in whatever alcohol (with or without distillation), diluted and heavily sweetened. Perhaps I am underestimating the marketplace of the time? Is there still a Dutch product that is believed to be un-modernized?
I also recall there was a muffled kerfuffle some years ago when Combier’s Liqueur d’Orange was (re?)launched in the US market over who “invented” triple sec curaçao—a 19th Century French elaboration on the 17th Century (?) Dutch curaçao liqueur: supposedly more intense, more refined, and less cloying (debatable). Combier still claims outright to have done so in 1834. Perhaps so. Cointreau introduced their Curaçao Blanc Triple Sec in 1875, and as far as I can tell, it pretty much immediately became the market leader and utterly dominated the market even after Cointreau dropped “curaçao” and “triple sec” from the label. An impressive showing. The only bottled product called by name more frequently in the literature is Angostura Bitters (although Campari is climbing fast). Aside: the first mention of triple sec I know of in a drink recipe is William Schmidt’s (1891) Sans Souci, and it is but a dash. Things seem to pick up for triple sec in the early 20th Century, but they’re specifically calling for Cointreau, more often than not.