Taste the Sweetness of Island Liquors

Physician's Money Digest, May 15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 9

Landhuis Chobolobo.

Just east of the bustling candy-colored downtownof Willemstad on the Dutch island of Curacao isthe 17th-century manor called It is here that for the past century the Senior familyhas produced Curacao, an orange-flavored liqueurmade from the tiny, bitter-tasting oranges that haveevolved through the years on this dry, arid island 36miles off the Venezuelan coast.

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The oranges, known as , are picked by theislanders, who use a wooden knife to peel them andthen air dry the rinds in the hot sun. As theydry, the oil in the skins becomes more concentratedand aromatic, making it the perfectingredient for flavoring the clearCuracao liqueur, along with alcohol, water,and other spices that are a family secret.

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As with many cordials and liqueurs,Curacao didn't start out as a commercial commodity."Curacao was at one time made in many of thehomes on the island," says Frank Brandao, presidentof Senior and Co, producers of the award-winning"genuine Curacao of Curacao." Their brand is sonamed to distinguish it from liqueurs calling themselvesCuracao but produced elsewhere and withartificial ingredients instead of the bitteroranges, a distant cousin of the valenciaorange. "We are the only ones who still usethe," Brandao says.

Elusive Pusser's Rum

In the not-so-distant past, almost everyplantation in the British Virgin Islands (BVI)had a distillery for processing the islands'abundant sugarcane into dark, smoothrums. But to drink BVI's famed Pusser's Rum, a personhad to join Great Britain's Royal Navy. For morethan 300 years, from 1655 to 1970, sailors wereissued a daily ration by the ship's purser (whose titlesegued over the years into pusser).

In 1979, Charles Tobias created Pusser's WestIndies, endeavoring to restore the Pusser'sRum tradition. He persuaded the AdmiraltyBoard of the Royal Navy to give him thepusser recipe, a blend of five local rums, andcontinues to make the rum according to theirspecifications—the same ones devised in 1810.

Pusser's Rum is now not only a distillery, but alsoa destination. The 8-acre Marina Cay, northeast ofTortola in the BVI, is home to both a Pusser hoteland store—confection-colored buildings that overlookthe emerald-colored Sir Francis DrakeChannel, known for its snorkeling and white sandbeaches. Rum drinking here has come a longway from the pirate chant, "Yo ho ho and abottle of rum."

Rich Coffee Liqueur

Geography is everything when it comesto producing Tia Maria, the United Kingdom'sbestselling coffee liqueur. Tia Maria ismade from coffee beans grown in thefoothills of Jamaica's Blue Mountains, aridge of small mountains rising to a heightof 7400 feet, whose lush vegetation has a bluish-greenlook. It is here that the liqueur's concentrate is made.The sweet, syrupy, mocha-flavored liqueur won boththe 1999 and 2000 gold medals in the liqueur categoryat the International Wine and Spirits Competition.Like Curacao and Pusser's, Tia Maria's provenancestretches back into the past. According to legend, 300years ago, a quick-thinking maid who was fleeing withher mistress during the Colonial Wars scooped upsome valued possessions, including the family recipefor a coffee-flavored cordial. Her grateful employernamed the drink after her.