Bartender’s Best

By Charlie Wohlrab


During this pandemic we are advised to stay at home and avoid unnecessary trips. However, during a pandemic, the occasional trip to the liquor store seems necessary. Prudence demands you follow precautions. Plan ahead, wear a mask, and maintain social distance. It helps if you are familiar with the store, make a list, and get in and get out. To limit these trips, I have been using what I have on hand. As I’ve stated before, I try to keep my home bar well stocked with the usual whiskeys, gins, vodkas, and rums.

I also have a bottle of Blue Curacao. This is an interesting liquor, and chances are if you ever had a blue cocktail, this was the reason it was blue. Originally, the liquor was made from the peels of the bitter orange. Apparently, the Dutch took a bitter orange to the Island of Curacao in the 1600s. This became the Laraha orange that has an inedible flesh but the rind has aromatic oils which through the years was used to flavor spirits. The liquor was colorless but Bols, a Dutch distiller, added ingredients, one of which made the liquor blue. Today, the Blue Curacoas use orange peels and other ingredients. There is only one, the Senior Curacoa, that  still uses Laraha peel. Perhaps I will buy a bottle of Senior Curacoa someday, but for now, I’ll use a more common brand which suits me fine.

There are many blue cocktails and most are considered poolside drinks. The blue color congers up images of tiki huts and sandy beaches. Most contain pineapple, and coconut juices and an internet search will yield many different concoctions. However, we are in a pandemic, so I don’t have the juices on hand. Fortunately, I have the liquors so I improvised and made a very simple cocktail. It is so simple, yet I find no mention of it online. 

A Simple Blue Cocktail
• 2 ounces light rum
• 1 ounce Blue Curacoa

Add crushed ice to a mixing glass, add the rum and Blue Curacoa, a few gentle stirs and strain into a cocktail glass. You can add a strip of dried coconut if you have it. 

Blue Vodka Martini
• 2 ounces vodka
• 1 ounce dry vermouth
• 1 ounce Blue Curacao

Add crushed ice to a mixing glass, add the vodka, vermouth and Blue Curacoa. Gently  stir and strain into a martini glass. There are many different recipes for this drink, but this is the simplest, easiest to prepare, and tastes pretty good. If you prefer you can add a splash of club Ssoda.

Obviously, Blue Curacoa is essentially blue Triple Sec and you can  substitute it in any recipe that calls for Triple Sec, if you want a blue cocktail.  When the summer gets here you can make  a Blue Margarita.

Blue Margarita
• 3 ounces margarita mix
• 2 ounces silver tequila
• 1 ounce Blue Curacoa

I usually use a commercially available margarita mix for its convenience. I keep a bottle in my bar ‘fridge and I can make one very quickly for a summer cocktail. Add crushed ice and the ingredients to a blender, blend for a minute, pour into a margarita glass, if you have one, if not a coupe will do. Add a lime circle and you are done. I do not salt the rim, but if you prefer, run a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and then roll the glass rim through the salt. If you are making one for a guest, only salt half the rim so they can have a choice.

Charlie Wohlrab is a mixologist whose motto, “Drinking. . .more than a hobby” has been topmost in his mind since he first started tending bar while getting his Pharmacy degree. Now retired, when he’s not restoring his older home in New Jersey, he’s made it his goal to elevate the experience of having a daily cocktail from something mundane to something more exciting. He is now Harrisburg Magazine’s official bartender in residence. 

My recipes are like my opinions,” says Wohlrab. “They continue to be refined as I try new products and work with old standbys.” Currently working on a book about cocktails, Wolhrab welcomes comments from his readers. He can be contacted at