Today we have a bright blue bit of ‘70s kitsch called a Blue Lagoon. You’ve all heard of it, but how many have had one? Likely very few since, as with most dark age cocktails, it comes with a certain reputation, but this is a legit classic created at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Do we have your attention now? Good, because, although it really is THAT Harry’s, the Blue Lagoon is a 1972 creation of Andrew MacElhone, Harry’s son. So the story goes, and, true or not, it changes nothing for nothing screams fern bar more than the refreshing Blue Lagoon, with the possible exception of the Harvey Wallbanger, but face it, the Wallbanger is no where near as pretty.
At it’s core, the Blue Lagoon is a bright, refreshing, low ABV cocktail that deserves better. Often grouped with many of the overly sweet candy cocktails which came to haunt Reagan’s America, you can’t blame the Blue Lagoon for it’s own demise, or lack of quality, and while it was certainly bolstered by many regrettable pick-up lines, it was also most certainly ruined by powdered lemonade mix and poor quality vodka. If that isn’t enough, it earned, then lost its popularity in an age of free pouring and over pouring. Who would want a cocktail of Minute Maid, way too much vodka and flavorless triple sec? Some, for sure, but, let’s be fair, for there were certainly plenty of quality bars where one could get a decent Blue Lagoon, and as a make-at-home cocktail, there really are few better. It’s easy to make, and easy to make well, so it should be no surprise that this also found it’s way to Saturday afternoon barbecues and back yard picnics all across suburbia. We’re also sure there are more than enough college party stories of one too many with requisite hazy detail.
So what, exactly, is this splash of bright color in a hurricane glass? Lemonade. Lemonade with some vodka and blue curacao, to be exact. Originally, that was it, and there wasn’t much vodka in it. This is supposed to be low ABV, and we keep it that way, although it is a perfect canvas for interpretation. If you look, you’ll find many adaptations, such as the Green Lagoon which uses pineapple juice instead of lemonade, or the Purple Rain, which adds grenadine to the mix, and that’s just the start. You could try it with blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, orange juice, limeade, or just about any soft fruit beverage you can imagine. Some recipes even call for 7-Up, which we really don’t recommend.
We’ll make our own lemonade for this drink, but you don’t have to make it separately. Make the lemonade in the glass first, then add the vodka, blue curacao and ice. Our standard formula for lemonade is 1oz lemon juice, 1/2 oz simple syrup, and 8 oz of water, but we like it on the tart side. Double the syrup for sweeter lemonade, and adjust the overall portions for the size of your glass, or just make a pitcher and keep it in the fridge.
The vodka we’ve chosen is Medoyeff Vodka from Bull Run Distillery, and we think it’s the perfect choice for this bit of ‘70s fare. The Blue Lagoon arrived at a time when vodka was still kind of an exotic ingredient. Not like it would have been in the 1950s, but exotic enough for a visually striking presentation. One just cannot conceive of the Blue Lagoon as anything but a vodka drink, but one cannot conceive of the Blue Lagoon as anything but an approachable drink either. This isn’t meant to be an expensive cocktail, it’s meant to be a refreshing cocktail. Medoyeff checks all the boxes. It’s a superb, ultra smooth vodka, a staple on Portland shelves since 2003, and one of the most affordable choices you’ll find. It’s quality is way beyond its price point, so leave the expensive, special occasion bottles on the shelf (or in the freezer, if that’s your thing) and use an every day vodka that matches the quality a connoisseur appreciates.
Your blue curacao should be of equal quality. Blue curacao is simply curacao, or triple sec, that’s been colored blue. You could use any orange liqueur in a Blue Lagoon and it would taste the same, assuming quality, but it wouldn’t be blue. We use Bols Blue Curacao for no reason other than the alternate origin story for the Blue Lagoon is that it was invented for the launch of Bols Blue Curacao in the 1960s. There’s no historical evidence for that story, but then, we didn’t really look for any either. In any case, Choose the blue curacao you like, and make a Blue Lagoon from scratch with fresh lemonade. It doesn’t take much to make this drink amazing, but we do concede on the garnish. Please use a bright red grocery store maraschino cherry and leave the Luxardo alone. This is still a kitsch cocktail, after all, so give the ‘70s a nod, but only in the garnish, not in the glass.
Add the lemon juice, simple syrup, and water to a mixing glass and stir to mix. Add the vodka, curacao and some ice to the mixing glass with the lemonade and stir to chill and combine. Strain into an ice filled hurricane or collins glass, and garnish with an orange wheel, or fruit of your choice.
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