Curacao adds a splash of blue to summer drinks and desserts

August 10, 1994|By Tina Danze | Tina Danze,Universal Press Syndicate

Years ago, curacao was the jewel of every well-stocked bar. The aqua liqueur with the orange flavor put the blue in Blue Hawaiians, Blue Lagoons and other kitschy drinks.

Now, like many trends of decades past, curacao (pronounced "cure-a-sow") is enjoying a mini-revival in drinks that have definite party appeal -- particularly the frozen margarita.

Curacao also wakes up simple desserts that are timeless and not necessarily blue. It pairs nicely with its color mate, the blueberry.

Curacao doesn't start out blue. It's a sweetened, distilled spirit, flavored with the green peels of under-ripe oranges. This shade of blue could only come from artificial coloring.

The name comes from the Caribbean island where the oranges originally used in the liqueur are grown.

Curacao is now made with oranges from many locales, making it a close relative to Triple Sec. And although curacao lacks the refinement and depth of flavor treasured in Cointreau, their flavors are surprisingly similar.

Curacao is sold under many domestic brand labels, which vary negligibly in flavor and price -- most around $10. Most liquor stores sell curacao in two colors: orange and blue. But the unnatural blue color lends the spirit a touch of the bizarre, making it the favorite for funky specialty drinks.

Even Martha Stewart, the nation's unofficial doyenne of good taste, couldn't resist the allure of curacao's shocking blue color. She once posed for hip Interview magazine with a tray of turquoise, curacao-spiked margaritas, pronouncing them perfect for a backyard barbecue.

But margaritas are just the tip of the curacao iceberg. Blue champagne drinks and other cool blue cocktails serve as zany ice-breakers at summer parties. Even the most buttoned-down types enjoy something wacky every now and then.

Drink fads may come and go, but a good dessert is never out of fashion. Like other orange liqueurs, curacao heightens the flavor of almost any berry, and is an excellent flavoring agent for whipped cream.

Don't worry: The color you see in the bottle is not the color you get when using curacao sparingly in desserts.

Curacaos's delicious dessert applications could justify having a bottle of the blue stuff stashed in your liquor cabinet. Once it's

there, it might even spark a party.

Using blue curacao

* Stir it into whipped cream: It imparts a cool, pale mint color and a sweet, yet subtle, flavor. Use the cream to top berries, berry pies, angel food cake or pound cake. Or layer it with ladyfingers, pudding and fruit for quick trifle. Use 2 tablespoons of curacao per pint of whipped cream. For a reduced-fat, tangier topping, stir it into low-fat sour cream.

* Macerate fresh berries with curacao and serve with ice cream.

* Swish 1/2 tablespoon curacao along the sides of a champagne flute. Fill with champagne for a blue, citrus variation of a Kir Royale.

* Spike homemade vanilla ice cream with curacao before freezing. It turns the ice cream the palest of pastel blues and adds a hint of orange flavor. Use no more than 4 tablespoons in a recipe that makes 1 quart of ice cream.

* Layer curacao between scoops of store-bought ice cream in parfait glasses for an instant dessert.

* Substitute curacao for Triple Sec in cocktails to make turquoise-colored drinks.

Blue Margarita

Makes 1 serving

1 teaspoon superfine sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

4 tablespoons good-quality tequila

1 tablespoon blue curacao

5 ice cubes

pinch of salt (optional)

Mix sugar with lime juice until dissolved. Blend all ingredients in a blender until frothy.

Per serving: Calories, 209; no fat; no cholesterol; sodium, 4 mg.

Blackberry Mousse

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

juice and grated peel of 1 orange

2 pints blackberries or 2 10-ounce bags frozen

berries without sugar (reserve several for garnish)

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons curacao or other orange-flavored liqueur

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Soak gelatin in the cold water in a saucepan for 5 minutes. Add orange juice, grated orange peel and berries. Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale yellow. Add liqueur and beat for another minute.

Put egg yolk mixture in the top pan of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until slightly thickened and hot to the touch. Cool to room temperature.

Add egg yolk mixture to blackberry mixture and stir until well blended. Whip heavy cream with confectioners' sugar to soft peaks and fold gently into blackberry and egg yolk mixture. Divide among serving dishes and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with reserved berries.

Per serving: calories, 298; fat, 21 g; cholesterol, 122 mg; sodium, 26 mg; percent calories from fat, 63 percent.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Makes 1 serving

1 tablespoon Cointreau

1 teaspoon blue curacao

4 ounces grapefruit juice

chilled champagne

Shake first 3 ingredients together in a cocktail shaker. Poor over ice and top with champagne.

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