Oleo Saccharum is type of cocktail syrup made by placing citrus peels and juice into a jar of sugar. Over time, oil extraction occurs because of the sugar. Essential oils within the citrus oils are released into the mixture. The final product is a citrusy syrup with a bitter edge, great for Punches!
Its name derives from Latin, to mean 'oil sugar'. Read on for our super simple recipe...
Oleo Saccharum recipe - 8 steps
Oleo Saccharum may be hard to pronounce but it’s super easy to make. Here's our eight step guideon how to make Oleo Saccharum at home...
4 - 6 organic, unwaxed lemons
270g caster sugar
180ml lemon juice
Gather 4 to 6 organic, unwaxed lemons. If you’re feeling adventurous, grapefruit, oranges and other citrus fruit peels can be used. Note that different citrus fruits are sometimes mixed together but lemon peels are common. The peel is what is key to the cocktail syrup, so using unwaxed citrus peels are much better.
Next, wash the fruit before peeling.
Then, use a vegetable peeler to strip the citrus peel from the fruit. You can use a knife to peel but a vegetable peeler is better at removing the peel. Long, thin strips without white pith are best. After, throw the peels in a rubber-sealing Kilner or screw-top Mason jar.
For each lemon you use, pour 45g or an espresso cup worth of caster sugar into the jar of choice.
Seal your jar, shake thoroughly and leave to macerate for 10 hours. For the best results, leave the mixture for up to 1 full day. Stirring the mixture every few hours helps to release the citrus oils.
Now, you should find a clear, oil-like syrup floating over the caster sugar. This is the famous Oleo Saccharum. Thanks to the maceration process, you will find a smaller amount than expected. However, by dissolving the sugary residue, you can increase the amount of mixture.
Next add 180ml of lemon juice to the mixture.
Reseal your jar and shake thoroughly. Make sure all the sugar has dissolved. After leaving and refrigerating the mixture for 1 more day, you should have a delicious Oleo Saccharum batch ready to make some great cocktails. Enjoy!
NOTE: When making your own Oleo Saccharum syrup, be sure to avoid as much of the white pith as possible. Oleo Saccharum is a sweet syrup but the white pith taints the flavour, making it sour. The finer the citrus peel, the easier it will be to blend with the sugar. If available, use a grater or micro-plane zester.
The origins of Oleo Saccharum
Following a rich heritage, its complex flavour was able to rouse and muse bartenders worldwide. It's no wonder that Oleo Saccharum snuck its way back onto cocktail menus.
According to Difford’s Guide, the first recorded mentions of Oleo Saccharum dates back to 1670, where it appeared in the great bartending books.
Published in 1827, Richard Cook’s book Oxford Night Caps, explains how to, “extract the juice from the rind of three lemons, by rubbing loaf sugar on them”.
In his 1862 bartender book (Bartenders Guide 1862), legendary bartender Jerry Thomas wrote, “to make punch of any sort in perfection, the ambrosial essence of the lemon must be extracted” He also advised, “rubbing lumps of sugar on the rind, which breaks the delicate little vessels that contain the essence, and at the same time absorbs it”.
Oleo Saccharum cocktails
A great Oleo Saccharum cocktail recipe is the One-Two Punch. This is more for the whiskey lovers but with Oleo Saccharum’s sweet touch, even the 'sweet tooths' will be flocking to drink it.
45ml Scotch whisky
15ml lemon juice
15ml grapefruit juice
15ml Oleo Saccharum
90ml Pilsner lager
Step 1 - Pour all of the ingredients (minus the Pilsner lager) into a mixing glass filled with ice.
Step 2 - Stir the mixture for 10 to 15 seconds.
Step 3 - Strain this mixture into a serving glass filled with ice. We recommend a highball glass for this bit.
Step 4 - Top with the Pilsner lager and garnish with a slice of grapefruit.
Punches are great cocktails to add this citrusy, sweet goodness to but there are some other classics to twist up. An Old Fashioned, French 75 and even a Gin and Tonic can be adapted to accommodate this syrup. Remember to add the syrup in small amounts and taste after, so to not overwhelm and ruin the cocktail.
Frequently asked questions: Oleo Saccharum
How long does Oleo Saccharum last?
Oleo Saccharum can last roughly 1 week in the fridge. Beyond 1 week and the mixture loses all of its qualities and taste.
What does Oleo Saccharum taste like?
Oleo Saccharum has a tangy, citrus taste, whilst also being quite sweet. This makes it great for Punches, where it provides an alternative flavour to cocktail blends.
How does Oleo Saccahrum work?
Oleo Saccharum works by simply mixing the the citrus peels with sugar. By muddling the ingredients a little, it gives the opportunity for the citrus' essential oils to be released. This is where the flavour is made!
Learn how to make another syrup with our homemade falernum recipe. It's a spicy, citrusy, tangy syrup that's perfect for tiki cocktails.
Want to master Oleo Saccharum behind the bar? Learn more about our bartender course.