This ancient ingredient adds zest to your party drinks
Holiday entertaining is right around the corner and having a couple of easy, bold and delicious punch recipes on hand will really help set any party off on the right foot. It all starts with oleo saccharum.
Now, you might be wondering: What the heck is oleo saccharum? It is the Latin term for “oil sugar,” an ingredient that will change your home bartending.
The process to make it has been used by bartenders for well over a century. It creates intense flavour by extracting the fragrant oils of citrus peels, most commonly lemon, although you can use a variety of different citrus fruits and even add fresh herbs and spices if you like.
The final product is an intensely sweet and sour mixture that adds a level of flavour to your drinks that you simply cannot achieve with just sugar and lemon juice.
This technique can be used make a beautiful limoncello. Or pour a little in a cup with a slice of ginger and some hot water for a wonderfully soothing elixir. It can be used in baking, and the left-over lemon peels that have essentially been candied can be dehydrated for a delicious edible garnish (see below).
Here, I will teach you how to make a basic oleo saccharum and give you a couple of recipes, one classic and one of my own go-to cocktails, to use it in. They will surely impress any of your guests when entertaining at home. As always, I encourage you to experiment and come up with your own beautiful and inventive flavours.
• 8 organic lemons (lemons should be free of any wax coatings)
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 ziplock freezer bag
Variations: Replace some or all of the lemons with orange, lime or grapefruit; add fresh herbs such as rosemary, mint, lavender or thyme, or spices such as gingerroot or cinnamon bark.
How to make oleo saccharum at home
2. Place the peels in the ziplock bag and add the sugar. Seal the bag and massage the sugar into the peels until all of them have been coated.
Use a straw to suck out as much air from the bag as possible before you seal it. Or use the water displacement method: Fill a large bowl with water and slowly submerge the bag. Just before the water goes over the top of the bag, seal it shut. The water should have forced all the air from the bag through the top. Dan Toulgoet photo
3. Let the bag sit unrefrigerated for at least 12 hours. Gently massage the lemon peels a few times while it sits. You will notice the sugar will moisten with the oils. The oleo saccharum is ready for the next step once all the sugar has partially dissolved and no dry crystals remain. Empty the entire contents of the bag into a large bowl or pitcher. Dan Toulgoet photo
4. Juice the peeled lemons until you have 1 cup of lemon juice. Add the lemon juice to the peels and sugar and stir until all the sugar is completely dissolved. Dan Toulgoet photo
5. Use a fine mesh strainer to remove the peels and any pulp from your oleo saccharum. Bottle, seal and refrigerate until needed. Makes a little more than 1 cup. Dan Toulgoet photo
Candied lemon peel
Take the peels that are left over from making oleo saccharum and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place in a preheated oven at 225°F and bake for one hour or until dried and crispy. Store in a sealed container and use as needed as a garnish for cocktails or desserts.
Make these 2 festive punches with your oleo saccharum:
Scotch Rocks Punch
Fish House Punch
—by Justin Taylor