Oleo saccharum is fairly easy to make and if done properly, would make any old or new drink significantly better. You can create this traditional cocktail ingredient by combining sugar and citrus peels in a bowl, setting it aside for hours, then straining it into a jar. But there are other innovative ways of doing this.
As good as the classic cocktails are, mixologists and bartenders still strive to make contemporary concoctions. Sometimes, the resurgence of a particular element is just what’s needed to round out the newly developed drinks. If you aspire to create a unique signature drink, then you need to learn how to make oleo saccharum step-by-step.
What is Oleo Saccharum?
At a glance, the name seems intimidating but it actually means “oil sugar” in Latin. It was a very prominent ingredient in bartending in the 1800s mainly used to add flavor and aroma to alcoholic beverages and punches.
It is a well-known fact that citrus peels contain essential oils that are responsible for the delightful fruity aroma. Nowadays, bartenders usually just spritz the peels to release a little bit of oil and wipe it onto the glass’s rim. The process of making oleo saccharum is perhaps the best way to extract most of the oils and at the same time, add some sweetness to it thanks to the sugar’s hygroscopic properties.
Some describe it as “magic oil” for its deep and pure citrus tones that add a lot of complimentary notes to a drink. It is also versatile since it can be used for other treats and drinks such as ice cream, iced tea, and lemonade, so bringing it back to the modern world means endless possibilities for bartenders and alcohol enthusiasts alike.
What You’ll Need
Note: You don’t need all of the tools below. It will depend on the method you decide to follow.
- Funnel - Assists you in preventing spillage when transferring the product into an airtight container.
- Resealable Plastic Bags - This is used in the third method. The plastic bag technique allows the ingredients to be in close contact with each other, so the process is much faster.
- Vacuum Sealer - Also used in the third method. This equipment rids the air from the plastic bag to allow the ingredients to release more oils. This is good for making big batches in a fast way.
Different Methods To Make Oleo Saccharum
Here are the three methods on how to make oleo saccharum. Feel free to choose whatever is convenient for you.
1. Muddling Method
This is the most common method of making oleo saccharum. It requires a bit of effort since you have to muddle the rinds but it’s worth it as it tends to release more oils, resulting in a richer mixture.
- Prepare the ingredients and tools. Don’t forget to wash the lemons.
- Peel the lemons, be careful not to include pith. Place the rinds in a bowl.
- Measure the sugar and coat the peels with it. Give it a quick mix.
- Muddle the lemon peels slightly to release the oils quicker.
- Place the bowl in a refrigerator overnight.
- On the next day, give it a final muddle before straining into a container.
2. Mason Jar Way
This is basically like the first one but excludes the muddling. Since the oil extraction is reliant on the sugar, you just need to stir it once in a while to get the sugar in contact with the peels.
- Wash the lemons and gather the other ingredients and tools.
- Peel the lemons and place the rinds in a mason jar.
- Measure the sugar and combine it with the rinds.
- Stir it and close the jar. Shake the jar to mix the contents.
- Place the jar in the refrigerator overnight.
- Strain the extracted oil and transfer it into a clean container.
3. Vacuum Sealing Technique
This method was popularized by the award-winning bartender, Jeffrey Morgenthaler. You don’t need to stir the mixture nor muddle the rinds beforehand. You just let the vacuum sealer do the work for you and present you with an awesome result.
- Assemble the tools and prep the lemons by washing it.
- Peel the lemons and place the rinds in a plastic bag.
- Measure the sugar and combine it with the rinds in the bag.
- Use a vacuum sealer to suck the air from the bag and seal it.
- Leave the bag in the refrigerator overnight.
- Open the bag and drain the oil into a container.
DIY Oleo Saccharum Tips and Tricks
In case you're wondering how to make oleo saccharum much easier, here are some useful tips.
- Use a Y peeler
This kind of peeler is efficient in removing the rinds of citrus fruits in a way that doesn’t include as much pith or the white portion of the fruit. The pith has a bitter taste that can alter the flavor of the final mixture so it should be avoided.
- Use white sugar
White sugar makes the process faster since it dissolves quickly, releasing oils faster. Do not use powdered sugar because it will not be effective.
- Unwaxed citrus give better results
Use organic and unwaxed citrus fruits because waxed fruits can contaminate the finished product. If only waxed ones are available, brush the outside of the fruit and wash thoroughly to get rid of the wax as much as possible.
- Mix and Match
If you want to make more things interesting, you can try mixing two citruses such as lemons and limes or lemons and oranges. Do a trial and error to find out which citrus fruits make the best combination.
- More peels make more oleo saccharum
It may only require two ingredients but making oleo saccharum is time-consuming and yields only a little amount. Making it every day would just be additional labor to the bartender. Oleo saccharum’s shelf life is about 1 week, so if you want to make a week’s worth of supply, you should multiply the recipe up to 3 - 5 times, depending on your plan of use.
- You can add water or lemon juice
You can transform your oleo saccharum into a citrus simple syrup by adding water to the oil and sugar mixture and heating it until all the sugar is dissolved. And to utilize the peeled fruits, squeeze the juice out and combine it with the oleo saccharum to create a delicious and fragrant sour mix.
- Patience is key
The trick on how to make oleo saccharum is to give it enough time to extract as much oil as possible. According to the cocktail writer and historian, David Wondrich, the ideal ratio is 2 ounces of sugar to 1 lemon, but some just tend to eyeball the measurement. If you add more sugar than what’s needed, not all of them will dissolve especially if it has rested for only a couple of hours. But more time and occasional stirring can help the oils leech from the peels and the sugar to dissolve.
Every time you peel a citrus fruit, don’t throw away the rinds. Instead, you can make a flavor bomb in the form of oleo saccharum that does wonders to countless drinks. Keep in mind the tips and tricks on how to make oleo saccharum as they will guide you in creating your signature masterpiece.
If you know more ways of making this delightful ingredient, share it in the comment section. You can also treat yourself to an old fashioned or punch cocktail by replacing the simple syrup with your freshly made oleo saccharum.