The Citrusy Ingredient We’re Adding to Our Cocktails

You know simple syrup. Or at least, you two have crossed paths. This 1:1 ratio of sugar to water—hot, so the sugar dissolves almost instantly—is as much a staple in cocktail bars as booze. Just a few examples:

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

by Erik Lombardo

Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour

by Erik Lombardo

Strawberry Margarita on the Rocks

Strawberry Margarita on the Rocks

by Marshmallows&Margaritas


Gimlet by Erika Kotite

Still, as much as bartenders adore it, there’s one thing that bugs me about simple syrup: It’s simply, well, sweet. Which is to say, all it offers is sweetness—no pucker, tang, or punch. When cocktail recipes have only a few ingredients (like when I make them at home), I want each one to do a lot of work. Take carrot juice: liquid bulk to stretch the alcohol; tamed, vegetal sweetness; gorgeous color.

Of course, you can customize simple syrup, make it lemony or limey or both. But what if there were a more to-the-point way to infuse flavour? And what if we wanted that flavour even more concentrated and vibrant? Meet simple syrup’s lesser known, big-personality cousin: oleo-saccharum.

Cocktail time!

Cocktail time! Photo by

Julia Gartland

Does it sound like a spell from Harry Potter, which we shall call bonus points, yes? Instead of combining the sugar with water, here you combine it with fresh citrus peels. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to mash the two into oblivion, then move on with your life. Maybe every so often you pass the mixture by and give it a smash here, smash there. Maybe not. A few hours later, the sugar will have lured out all the citrus oils, yielding a thick, practically neon syrup, like olive oil glowing in the dark. You can use oranges or grapefruits, lemons or limes, really any citrus that happens to be nearby. I like a mix.

Put this in any citrusy-sweet cocktails, from whiskey sours to Palomas, adding bit by bit to taste since it’s so intense. In my kitchen, I’m putting it toward a lot more than that: lemony olive oil dressings that want a little oomph even drizzled on Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

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By Emma Laperruque

  • 1 cup citrus peels, stripped with a vegetable peeler (I used a mix of orange and lemon)
  • 3/4 cup sugar

View Full Recipe

Have you ever tried oleo-saccharum before? Tell us in the comments below!


This article was written by Emma Laperruque from Food52 and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to