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What is Oleo Saccharum? How Bartenders Turn Trash Into Edible Treasure

What is Oleo Saccharum? How Bartenders Turn Trash Into Edible Treasure

(Photo: Almas Salakhov/Unsplash)

Oleo saccharum is a popular ingredient used by mixologists to impart a punch of flavor and sweetness with by-products that would normally end up in the trash. But what actually is oleo saccharum and how is it made? 

What is Oleo Sacchrum?

First, let’s look at what oleo saccharum means. Oleo is the Latin word for oil, while saccharum means sugar. So, once combined the term translates to oil-sugar to be exact. However, a better description for oleo saccharum is a syrup derived from sugar and oils extracted from fruit peels, especially citrus peels. 

Sugar has hygroscopic properties, which means it absorbs moisture readily. In this case, it means that the sugar absorbs oil from the peels and rinds of fruit. Many fruits, specifically citrus have skins that contain oil which has a concentrated flavor. Once sugar is combined with peels, the sugar will slowly absorb all the moisture and oils from the peels to make a syrup without any additional liquid that will water down the intense flavor.  

The History

This flavored syrup may seem like a fad ingredient that is new to the bar scene but in fact, has been around for quite some time historically. oleo saccharum was a common ingredient found in punch recipes dating all the way back to 1670. It reached popularity in the 19th century as a way for bartenders to provide an elegantly citrusy flavor and aroma to alcoholic beverages.

Now oleo saccharum is at high-end bars, where mixologist endeavor to make the most daring and delicious of cocktails. Netflix’s Drink Masters displayed this technique several times during the course of the competition. Though the recipe originally requires citrus as the means to make oleo saccharum, now bartenders are becoming ever more creative and applying the same methodology to other fruit peels such as banana, pineapple and mango to name a few. 

Waste Prevention

What is Oleo Saccharum? How Bartenders Turn Trash Into Edible Treasure

The new wave of bartending focuses not just on technique and flavor but also on how the industry can waste less while maintaining quality. Bars use a ton of fruit juice on any given night. This means that bars go through a lot of fruit daily, presumably wasting peels and skins that are not used as garnish. To offset this waste many mixologists have turned to oleo saccharum as a way of using what might have been thrown away.

Oleo saccharum gives a second life to the wasted parts of fruits while providing an intense taste sensation to a cocktail. Thus, turning would-be trash into delicious treasure. 

How to Make Oleo Saccharum

What is Oleo Saccharum? How Bartenders Turn Trash Into Edible Treasure

Making your own oleo saccharum is quite easy. It only requires sugar and the leftover peels of a fruit. Lemon being the most common peel used for making oleo saccharum. 

Ingredients for Lemon Oleo Saccharum

  • 1 cup lemon peels (try to avoid pith and use a peeler to just get the outside of the peel)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar


  1. Wash and peel lemons
  2. Combine sugar and peels in a jar
  3. Store for 4-12 hours or overnight
  4. Stir intermittently

The most common way to make oleo saccharum is to store the sugar and peels in a jar for a period of time (usually 4-12 hours or overnight), intermittently stirring them to coat the peels with the sugar so it can better extract the oils. 

Alternatively, muddle peels and sugar bowl then cover it and leave it to sit for at least three hours. Yet another way to achieve this is by combining the ingredients in vacuum sealed bag and left to sit overnight. 

Whatever way you choose to make oleo saccharum the end result you are looking for is a syrup with the sugar completely dissolved. Once the syrup is formed strain the peels and store the oleo saccharum in the fridge for up to a month.

Some sugar crystals may still remain in the chosen receptacle but this can be strained out to make a simple syrup along with the peels. 

The simple syrup has less of the intense fruit flavor but still serves as a flavor enhancer for cocktails. Once the peels and the oleo saccharum are separated, reserve the peels to combine with equal parts sugar in water in a saucepan. Gently heat the mix until the sugar has dissolved and strain the peels once more.

If using citrus, toss the used peels into sugar to make candied citrus peels, eliminating any waste and providing a sweet treat or a tasty edible garnish for a cocktail. 

The same method of making a lemon oleo saccharum works with a variety of fruit such as mango, pineapple, and bananas. A weighed 1:1 ratio of skins to sugar works well for other fruit. 

How to use Oleo Saccharum

What is Oleo Saccharum? How Bartenders Turn Trash Into Edible Treasure

Oleo saccharum can is usable in a variety of cocktails, to add additional flavor or sweetness. Often it can replace simple syrup in a recipe to provide the same necessary sweetness while also concentrating a particular flavor. 

Daiquiris would be a great way to experiment with using oleo saccharum, to intensify the lime flavor, or to make a flavored daiquiri using any variety of fruit. Old fashioned cocktails would also benefit from a lemon oleo saccharum as a replacement for simple syrup or sugar, to really bring out the citrus notes and aroma.

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Jessica Gleman is the managing editor of Rum Raiders. She received her Ph.D. at the University College of Dublin in Ireland, where she studied the archaeology of ancient alcohol. Jessica has a passion for the alcohol industry, including agriculture, distillation and mixology. When Jessica is not writing about rum, she is also a travel and food enthusiast who loves going around the world and experiencing various cuisines and cultures. She is enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge and expertise and learning even more about this amazing spirit.