Anything called Curaçao liqueur should be made of the zest or peel of Citrus aurantium currassuviencis, the Curaçao orange — an especially bitter variety of Citrus aurantium, the bitter orange. The Curaçao orange grows on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles.
Surfin Curaçao liqueur is specifically distilled from of a maceration of the peels in an overproof spirit. It is considered the standard. Surfin is French for ‘superfine.’
Surfin Curaçao liqueur may be of any of several grades for sweetness, and intensity of bitter orange aroma.
In addition, surfin Curaçao liqueur of any of the above grades may also be either colored or left blanc (‘white’ or colorless).
The sweetest and most bitter grade of Curaçao liqueur is doux (French for ‘sweet’). No Curaçao doux liqueur seems to be commercially produced anymore.
Less sweet than Curaçao doux is Curaçao sec. Sec is French for ‘dry.’ Early French Curaçao liqueurs were very sweet, and Curaçao sec may have been created as a later adaptation toward the original type from the Netherlands.
One way to allow for the use of less sugar was to use the zest and peel of three types of oranges — usually Curaçao, Seville and common sweet — to mitigate the bitterness associated with using only Curaçao oranges. This is the meaning of the descriptor “triple orange” found on the pre-‘grand’ product by Marnier, Curaçao Marnier.
When a Curaçao liqueur is both ‘triple orange‘ and ‘sec‘ it is called in French, Curaçao triple-sec.
The very driest and most aromatic grade of Curaçao liqueur is extra-sec (French for ‘extra-dry’). Though originally of a sweeter grade, Cointreau’s famous product has become drier over the decades (perhaps in response to the success of Cusenier’s extra-sec product), and is now an extra-sec Curaçao liqueur.
Watch for a future post giving the grams of sugar per liter for each easily-obtained true Curaçao liqueur still on the market!