Mystery recipe for Orange Curaçao

Grandma's recipe box

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days pawing through my late grandmother-in-law’s recipe box, which she compiled while she was teaching home economics at the University of Minnesota in the 1940s or ’50s studying home economics at the University of Minnesota around 1930 (she then taught high school home ec from roughly 1932 to 1937). More on this later, as I’m trying to drum up the courage to make some of the recipes in it, like a “Banana Meat Loaf,” which, I’m informed, is “a help to any budget.”

There aren’t any cocktail recipes in the box, if you discount a brandy-infused Cafe Brûlot, but I came across this one card that has me thoroughly bamboozled.

Orange Curasol?

If I’m reading it correctly (and I’m not sure I am), it says:

Orange Curasol

Suspend juicy orange (Cal.) orange above pt [pint?] alcohol (1/2 inch) in open bowl for couple of weeks or 3.

Add simple syrup when cool.

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 c water

Boil till thickness of a liquor.

Clearly it’s a recipe of sorts for orange curaçao, which is traditionally made by drying the peel of a relative of the Valencia orange, steeping it in alcohol, and then adding other spices, but I simply can’t imagine what she’s describing in the first part. How are you supposed to suspend the oranges above the alcohol, and what good would that do anyway? By “orange (Cal.) orange,” did she perhaps means “orange (Cal.) peel”? I suppose it’s possible she made some errors in this recipe, but most of the recipes in the box are fastidiously organized, right down to her description that one’s coffee should be “golden brown color without cream; distinct yellow tinge when cream is added; clear, mellow flavor, yet pungent; not strong or bitter of good body.”

On the back of the card is the following:

3 Bourbon
3 Gin
1 1/2 Rum
1 lime
1 lemon
2 orange
2 simple syrup

Was she trying to make the world’s deadliest punch? Was one of her university students turning her on to the latest in mixology at the time? Or maybe that’s what she was drinking when she wrote her enigmatic recipe for “Orange Curasol.” That would explain a lot.

Update: Not two hours after I posted this, the mystery was solved, at least in part. I was describing the problem to Mr. Manhattan as we were on our way to check out The Wilson, a.k.a. Wilson & Wilson, a sexy little speakeasy within a speakeasy attached to Bourbon and Branch. He immediately told me about a cookbook by Giuliano Bugialli that his mother had owned. In it, the author describes making limoncello by wrapping a lemon in cheesecloth, tying it up with kitchen string, and suspending it over alcohol in a sealed jar for a month. He’s promised to show me the book if he ever comes across it. The technique sounds odd to me, but all of a sudden grandma doesn’t sound so crazy.


3 thoughts on “Mystery recipe for Orange Curaçao

  1. CafeRetro says:

    Love the beautiful recipe box

    • Thanks. It’s really quite remarkable … very heavy, with two different types of metal hinges and beautiful dovetail mortis and tenon joints (Did I get that right? Woodworking’s not my thing.) There’s no way to say it without sounding like an old codger … but they sure don’t make things like they use to!

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