The Curacao Punch is generally attributed to Harry Johnson, and if you spell it the correct way of “Curacao” it is the earliest it shows up in a recipe book. However, if you spell it “Curacoa” then Jerry Thomas printed it first in his recipe book. I thought he might have just spelled it wrong, but mentions of “Curacoa Punch” show up in newspapers and books as early as the 1830s, and a recipe shows up in a periodical from the 1840s. In our experience, it probably was around even before this.
With nearly 100 years of existence and continuous appearances in cocktail recipe books through the 1910s, this seems like a drink that would withstand prohibition. It just sort of disappears though, and not for a lack of curacao or an interest in using it in cocktails. We try to take some guesses as to why Curacao Punch became a forgotten cocktail, but it might just remain a mystery.
During the period of history when the Spanish led the world in ranging the high seas, and staking claims all over the Caribbean, they discovered a tiny island they named Curacao. In 1499 they brought Valencia oranges with them to plant on this idyllic spot. Unfortunately the climate and volcanic soil on the island grew fruit that was utterly horrible and inedible. The Spanish left it to the Dutch to discover that the peels of these oranges, called laraha by the locals, were loaded with aromatic oils and they did what anybody does with fruits that are inedible…they made booze. Clever Dutch.
Curacao Punch contains:
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 2 or 3 dashes fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce soda water
- 1 ounce brandy
- 2 ounce orange curacao
- 1 ounce Jamaican rum
This drink was strange. To me it kind of tasted like plastic, though not terribly so. I’m sure it seems odd to say that something that tasted like plastic was delicious, but it was, and the flavors were complex enough that it created an entirely new sensation as a mixture. All of us tasters thought it was fine, not amazing.
Transition music: Cephalopod by Kevin MacLeod
Closing Music: Pirates by Entertainment for the Braindead