Friday, January 20, 2012

Pierre Ferrand Gets Into the Curacao Game

Triple sec is an ingredient that will set bartenders arguing. One of the oldest liqueurs associated with the American cocktail scene, and a critical ingredient in many classic drinks, every barkeep has an opinion which, among the many orange liqueurs available, are the best (Combier, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Curaçao de Curaçao), and which are trash. And there is little agreement.

Into this fractious market niche come a new curacao by a Cognac producer, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Ancienne Methode. (As terms, Curacao and Triple Sec are often used interchangeably, though the former should indicate that the oranges used are from the island of that name.)  As with Ferrand Cognac 1840—the brandy introduced in 2011 that was purportedly patterned after 19th-century styles of Cognac and geared toward the cocktail crowd as a mixing Cognac—the new Curaçao was produced with a consulting assist from historian David Wondrich. Again, the hope is the bottling will become a mainstay in backbars.

The new liqueur is "based on a 19th-century recipe," chosen from among 50 that were tested. Some came from cellar master hand notes, some from published books of the time (one provided by Wondrich). The winning recipe is actually "a combination of the best each recipe had to offer."

The Ferrand formula takes dried Curaçao orange peels from the actual island, as well as a bit of lemon and sweet oranges, and steeps them in un-aged brandy. It then redistills the brandy, blends the result with brandy and Ferrand Cognac, then aged it in oak casks. That's not the end. While aging, the elixir is infused with more Curaçao orange peels.

According to Ferrand, the mix of brandy and Cognac is critical, because the brandy allows what they call the "vegetal infusions"—that is, the brandy is infused with some botanicals to create complexity—that were an important part of 19th century technique.

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