How to Make Oleo Saccharum

Matthew Kelly / Supercall

Oleo saccharum translates to oil and sugar—and that’s basically all it is. Locked inside citrus peels are essential oils loaded with flavor, and when combined with sugar those oils are released. The resulting miracle goo is a spectacular accompaniment to spirits and juices that dates back to the dawn of cocktails. While it was abundantly featured in cocktail maestro Jerry Thomas’s famous tome, Bartenders Guide, the citrusy ooze was more recently revived by cocktail historian David Wondrich in his now legendary book, Punch. Today, it is a staple for any respectable cocktalian.

Oleo saccharum is to punch what stock is to soup—a backbone of flavor. It contributes an essential citrus sensation and mouthfeel that cannot be duplicated with juice—no matter how fresh—or liqueurs. In Punch, Wondrich waxes that the “oil adds a fragrance and a depth that marks the difference between a good punch and a great one." Next time you make punch, make it a great one. Here’s how to make your own oleo saccharum.

Supercall’s Oleo Saccharum Syrup

Makes approx. 2 cups

Vegetable peeler or Y-peeler
Measuring cup
Large mixing bowl

1 cup white sugar
4 lemons
8 small oranges (or 4 large)
Boiling water

Step 1
Remove the zest from the lemons and oranges in wide, fat swaths using a vegetable peeler (or Y-peeler if you have one), leaving the white pith behind. Reserve the peeled lemons in the refrigerator. Discard or eat the oranges.

Step 2
Toss the peels with sugar in a large bowl, cover, and let sit at least 3 hours. The longer the peels steep, the more the flavor will intensify. A 24-hour steep time is optimum.

Step 3
Juice the reserved lemons and fine strain. Pour the juice into a measuring cup and top with boiling water to equal exactly 1 cup of liquid.

Step 4
Remove the citrus zest from the bowl and add the cup of water and juice to the oil and sugar mixture to fully dissolve the remaining sugar. Before using, make sure that the sugar, juice, and oil are fully incorporated. If properly refrigerated, the syrup will keep for one month.

How To Use Your Oleo Saccharum

Not only is oleo saccharum great in classic punches (and Sangria), it can also be used in place of simple syrup in cocktails. Adding the syrup to something light and bright like the French 75 will give the drink a vibrant boost of citric flavor, while using it in a classic stirred cocktail like an Old Fashioned will embolden the drink’s potency and heft.

Non-alcoholic drinks can benefit from some oleo as well. Try making a classic lemonade with juice and oleo saccharum instead of white sugar—we guarantee you won’t make it any other way afterwards. Top it with crisp soda water for a long, refreshing spritz and, if you’re so inclined, bring it back into the world of cocktails with a heavy dose of gin to create a new and improved Tom Collins.