Commonly used as a cocktail ingredient in the 19th century, Oleo Saccharum, which translates to “oil sugar” is making a return in cocktails.
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Oleo saccharum (pronounced ole-o-saka-rum) is a modifier that imparts a bright citrus flavour and aroma to cocktails.
Making oleo saccharum is a simple process involving two ingredients: sugar and citrus peel. In the Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, lime is used to make oleo saccharum but can also citrus fruit such as lemons, oranges, grapefruit and blood oranges. We’ve used lemons in this recipe.
Very little equipment is needed, a vegetable peeler, a muddler and a bowl. We recommend using a vegetable peeler instead of a knife to ensure the peel is thin and has no white pith which can make it bitter.
How to Make Oleo Saccharum
- 120g castor or superfine sugar
- 2 lemons, peeled
- glass or ceramic bowl
- vegetable peeler
- Using a vegetable peeler, zest the lemons ensuring there is no white pith.
- In a bowl, muddle the lemon peel and castor sugar together until well mixed. Stir the mixture every now and then and leave it overnight or until the sugar is dissolved by lemon oil.
- The sugar will start to melt as the citrus oils come away from the peel and you end up with a sweet syrup with a bright citrus flavour.
- It will keep for approximately 2 weeks in the fridge.
How to Make Oleo Saccharum: the Jeffrey Morgenthaler Method
Portland-based bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler has devised a faster method that’s useful when making large batches. His method simply involves adding castor sugar and lemon peel into a vacuum seal bag, sealing the bag and leaving it overnight. The vacuum environment will cause the oil to be drawn out of the peel and dissolve the sugar into a thick syrup. If making larges batches, put a date on the bags and store in the fridge until ready to use.
Tips When Making Oleo Saccharum
- Always use castor sugar or superfine sugar. Normal white sugar is too coarse and doesn’t dissolve properly with the citrus oil.
- If the oleo saccharum is too thick and has some crystallised sugar in it, dissolve it in a little water heated gently to no more than 40oC and agitate slowly.
- Minimise waste by keeping the citrus peel. It can be dehydrated or used as is as a garnish to cocktails and punches.
- You can also make lemon sherbet with the juice of the peeled lemons.
How to Use Oleo Saccharum
Oleo saccharum is a key ingredient in classic punches. It can be used in place of a syrup in cocktails that have a citric profile. It brightens up a French 75, boosts the citrus flavour in a Tom Collins and enhances the flavours in an Old Fashioned.
Originally published April 20, 2017. Updated July 1, 2021.