March 28, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Makes scant 1/2 cup
Author Notes

Citrus peels plus sugar equals magic—who knew? When you mash the two together and let that marinate for a while (plan ahead), the citrus peels’ bright, fragrant oils come out to play. Latin for “oil sugar,” oleo saccharum is classically used for cocktails, with alcohol or not, but it’s just as welcome in olive-oil vinaigrettes or even drizzled over a fat scoop of ice cream. Find organic citrus, if you can, and scrub well before using. In this bubbly Reviver Royal recipe, Drinks52 resident John deBary recommends: “Wash the grapefruits thoroughly with soap, water, and a clean scrubby sponge. Towel dry.” Now that’s a good task for a loving partner or hyper kid. When it comes to the type of citrus—well, what do you like and what do you have around? This recipe is forgiving and flexible, so follow what calls to you. For a focused flavor, you could opt for a single fruit, like orange, clementine, lemon, lime, or grapefruit. (Think: orange oleo saccharum blended into a vanilla milkshake, or lime oleo saccharum stirred with mezcal and a gigantic ice cube.) Personally, I love a mix of fruits—it’s sweet meets sour, sunny meets bright. Try lime plus grapefruit, dissolved into seltzer, for a rejuvenating limeade. Or lemon plus orange, drizzled over roasted carrots, topped with flaky salt and chile flakes. Like the citrus, the timing is up to you. The shorter 5 hours will yield a subtler citrus flavor, while the longer 24 hours delivers peak zing. Just make sure that when you peel the peel, you avoid as much of the bitter white pith as possible. The colorful, saturated zest is what we’re after. How would you put oleo saccharum to good use? Share ideas in the comments below. —Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup citrus peels, stripped with a vegetable peeler
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. Combine the citrus peels and sugar in a sturdy bowl or measuring cup or container. Mash with a muddler or spoon really well—pretend you’re angry at the Oleo-Saccharum (maybe you are!).
  2. Let it do its thing for at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours. Feel free to mix and mash every so often, if you’re passing it by.
  3. Strain out the citrus peels (really press on them in the sieve, to extract all that good oil) and store the oil in the fridge for up to a couple weeks.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • FrugalCat
  • Winness
  • kfminga
  • Greg McNeal
    Greg McNeal
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

4 Reviews

FrugalCat May 29, 2018
Every time I hear that, I think Sweet 'N Low (saccharine) mixed with margarine. (my grandmother called it oleo.)
kfminga March 11, 2018
I've made this several times for my bartenders, and I've found one of the quickest ways to make it come together after giving it a good mash is to throw it into a bag and vacuum seal it. I used the method in this recipe until one of the other cooks suggested vacuum sealing it like we did with some of our marinades, and it worked wonders!
Greg M. March 10, 2018
Years ago America's Test Kitchen did a piece on the secret to to best Margaritas using the citrus zest to infuse the simple syrup. The synergy of this infused syrup made from plain white cane sugar, cheap white tequila, non- brandy orange liquor and fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice give a clean, righteous flavor for an ultimately refreshing libation.
Winness March 5, 2018
This is the first time I've ever heard about this syrup. I did a bit of research and found out it dates back to the 1800's and is a bartender favorite for mixing cocktails. Now it's my turn! Thanks for the teachable moment.