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Hark! The Oleo Saccharum!

Hark! The Oleo Saccharum!

A barkeep working in a distillery, I find myself often (maybe always) thinking long about the life of our spirits after they leave the bottling line.  Here at Matchbook we invest so much care into our choice and handling of ingredients.  By the day my mind buzzes with flavor companions (i.e. cocktails and such) as thoughtful as the spirits themselves.  Of course our Matchbook products are delicious in a glass, by the drink.  But sometimes the gang wants to sip punch by the fire, or its kickball time…which is also highball time.

There are as many ways to spin a spirit into a cocktail as there are spirits to choose from.  With this entry I want to pitch a foundational bar technique, one that I use exhaustively, and that can adapted seasonally and to suit ones taste.

Hark! The Oleo Saccharum!

Some produce just want to can be juiced—apples, carrots, pineapples.  Some herbs want to be infused—rosemary anyone?  But for some fruits, juicing isn’t the end of the story.  For some flowers, steeping doesn’t cut it.  Lets take a look at how a simple oleo can fill that gap.


For last week's MDC Drop Shop we put up a lovely bottled cocktail featuring oleo, a colonial era technique for preserving intense citrus aroma and flavor.

With a little bit of foresight, a basic oleo saccharum (la. oiled sugar) is snap to prepare.  All that is required is some citrus, a peeler, some granulated sugar, and patience.

A traditional oleo found in 18th century punch recipes like the Philadelphia Fish House Punch takes advantage of osmosis, wherein sugars lack of moisture draws the aromatic oils from the pores in the citrus peels.  For the kitchen wizards out there, its the same principle as salt/sugar preserving but in reverse.  

With a wishbone peeler, peel the fruit bald and combine with sugar in a mason jar, saving the bald fruit for later.  If you like, give the sugary peel mix a little muddle to jump-start the process.  Otherwise, lid the jar and leave it on the counter to spark conversation.  After two or three days the citrus oil will have crept out and dissolved much of the sugar creating a aromatic gel-like mixture.  If you want to step it up a notch you can use a vacuum sealer or cryo-vac.  Since citrus oil and sugar are both great preservatives, you can leave the mixture to gel for a while.  I find it convenient to start a batch after work Monday for my weekend shenanigans.

Next add liquid to the oleo in order to rinse and dissolve the remaining granules of sugar.  What liquid??? Any old favorite: green tea, grapefruit juice, sherry, etc.   For the Rose Cravat cocktail we combine our lemon & rose oleo with select botanical spirits and a dash of lemon juice.

The final MDC twist we put on this old process the addition of rose petal.  Lemon oil has a solvent character that we wanted to utilize to dissolve the dried rose petal.  We let our mixture to sit and dissolve for a little over a week to really let that oil leach out and do its work on the rose.  The results were perfect!  Dried flora and herbs can be fickle for cocktail applications.  I can see this working again in winter with oregano and bergamot!

    * lemon peels, 50g (about 2-3 lemons worth)
    * white sugar, 150g
    * dried rose petal, 15g
    * water, 150ml
    * lemon juice, 100ml
    * 250ml spirit of choice (gin, Hunter Moon brandy …dry white wine!?)
* STAGE 1:
    * Combine lemon peels, rose, and sugar in a jar.  Toss and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days.
* STAGE 2: Add water and lemon juice to oleo.  
    * Stir to dissolve and strain out petals & peels.
    * Bottle and store chilled

Suggested Serve: Over ice or chilled with soda water

    * grapefruit peels, 50g (1-2 grapefruits worth)
    * white sugar, 150g
    * grapefruit juice, 400ml
    * lime juice, 150ml
* STAGE 1:
    * Combine grapefruit peels and sugar in a jar.  Toss and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days.
* STAGE 2: Add citrus juice to oleo.  
    * Stir to dissolve and strain out peels.
    * Bottle and store chilled

Suggested Serve: Over ice, combine 2 ounces of Soda Oleo and 1.5 ounces of Late Embers Smoked sunchoke spirit.  Top with soda water.  Pinch of salt.

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