winter project: liqueurs, from left to right — ginger, grapefruit-coriander, bartlett pear with lemon zest, walnut-clove. [This is an update of an earlier post.]
The recipes for these liqueurs—which are adapted from A.J. Rathbun’s great book, Luscious Liqueurs—each use the same technique. Note, however, that this technique is only a guideline; it won’t yield the best result for every imaginable falvoring ingredient.
Break down any fruits you’re using to flavor your liqueur into smallish pieces, exposing the tasty bits. Be sure to remove any parts of the fruit that have a bitter flavor, such as citrus pith and membrane, and apple and pear seeds. Don’t forget to include the zest of your citrus if you want its flavor. If you are using a root, such as ginger or horseradish, peal it and grate it finely. Keep spices whole. Bruise herbs a bit to release their flavor.
Place flavoring ingredients in a large glass container with a tight-fitting lid. (I use one-gallon glass jars.) Barely cover with vodka or another spirit. Of course, in cases where you are using only a very small volume of flavoring ingredient, such as ginger, you’ll want to add a lot more alcohol than it takes to cover the ingredient. (All of the liqueurs pictured here used vodka, but brandy also makes a versatile base for infusions. For some preparations, especially when a higher level or residual alcohol is desired, grain alcohol is preferable.)
Seal the container and let the mixture sit for two weeks, swishing the ingredients around every few days.
After two weeks are up, open the jar and add simple sugar syrup to the mixture to taste. In general, you’ll want to add a little more than half of the volume of the spirit you used in sugar syrup. Use a one-to-one sugar to water ratio as a baseline for your syrup, but switch to a high ratio if you want a more potent result. You might also consider using honey or brown sugar syrup or other flavored syrups. This is also the time to add flavor extracts such as orange flower water or vanilla.
Reseal your container and let the mixture sit for another two weeks, once again swishing the ingredients around every few days.
Now you are ready to strain. Different mixtures will have different amounts, sizes, and kinds of sediment in them, so use your best judgment about how to clarify your liqueur. Once you get out all of the big chunks, it’s almost always a good idea to run your mixture at least twice through a double layer of cheese cloth.
Once you put your liqueur in a pretty bottle you’re all done! You can drink it straight up, or chilled, or on the rocks; as an aperitif, or a digestif, or in cocktails. Or give it away and you will be viewed as a rockstar. (At least, that’s what I tell myself to convince myself to part with my precious liqueurs!)