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.