The Joy Of Homemade Liqueurs
I love all things homemade. Homemade jam, homemade bunting for a summer barbeque, and even my dubious attempt at homemade perfume! So nothing warms my heart more than the steady rise of homemade items making appearances behind most of the best bars in town. It’s not a new trend—a do-it-yourself attitude led to the creation of many spirits. Find out how to make your own homemade liqueur.
I recall getting excited by the prospect of the launch of a new Gifford syrup back in my early days of bartending. Remember, this was Nottingham, England, over a decade ago, and the word “mixology” at that time could have easily been confused for something needing a trip to the doctor. Neverstheless, it took some time for me to discover that homemade simple syrup was a cinch (I would not say ‘cinch’) to make, and this discovery opened yet another Pandora’s box of creative opportunities for me. I wasn’t the only one to discover the delights of every tea syrup under the sun, and soon we couldn’t stop the flow of cardamom syrups, rosemary syrups, pineapple syrups, and a host more warm and sticky-sweet creations made to delight our customers, fellow bartenders, and the odd bar fly.
Next up came infusions. Our already heaving, syrup-filled shelves became even heavier with bottles of infused spirits, giving our bars the air of a crazy professor’s laboratory. Instead of specimen jars filled with floating body parts and medical curiosities we had eerie cuttings of ginger root, bleeding licorice, and a frankly worrying Mars bar (it was a decade ago, remember), all immersed in seemingly endless bottles of vodka. Today, we have progressed on to fat washing and instant infusion, and the centuries-old allure of steeping things in bottles of alcohol shows no signs of abating.
More recently, bitters have enjoyed something of a renaissance as bartenders across the globe now share their hard-won recipes on how to personalize them. As with the syrups and infusions, our horizons have been broadened by our experience of bitters as valuable ingredients in both traditional and modern-day mixology.
Lately I have been experimenting with homemade liqueurs, and have been astonished by how versatile and inventive one can be with this relatively underused medium. Existing happily in the middle ground between infusions and simple syrups, homemade liqueurs are an accessible way to liven up your recipes and can serve as a new tool in your homemade armory. All too often, simple syrups can fail to deliver a true hit of intense flavor, and yet delicate fruits, herbs, and flowers often deteriorate quickly when infused in alcohol. With homemade liqueurs, the combination of an alcoholic base with the additional sugar (or honey/agave/other sweetening agent) ensures that you are able to achieve a maximum extraction (via alcohol) from your chosen flavor component and retain the characteristics of this flavor for an extended period (via the stabilizer, sugar). Incidentally, by using Belvedere Intense rather than Belvedere Vodka you can reduce the infusing time by up to half.
What you’ll need to make your own homemade liqueur:
Large sealable glass container (I’ve been using an infusion jar, which has a spigot tap)
Wire mesh sieve
Here are a few recipes for you to try at home:
This liqueur is a beautiful color and is fantastic served chilled at the end of a meal. Also perfect shaken in a cobbler-style drink or, if using Belvedere Orange as a base, as a replacement for triple sec in a Cosmo.
4 cups fresh rhubarb
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups Belvedere Vodka or Belvedere Orange
Wash and trim the rhubarb and slice into ½-inch slices. Place rhubarb into a sealable glass vessel and add the sugar, stir, and pour Belvedere over the mixture. Stir again and close the container. Allow to rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 weeks depending on the ambient temperature and expressiveness of the rhubarb. The mixture will slowly turn to a pretty pink color. After the resting period, strain the liquid through a metal sieve placed over a large bowl. Gently press the rhubarb to remove the excess juice and vodka. Discard the rhubarb and re-strain through a muslin cloth until the liquid is free of rhubarb fibers. Re-bottle. The rhubarb liqueur will continue to age in the bottle and reaches its maximum flavor potential after around 3-4 more weeks.
Pear & Rosemary Liqueur
Pear and rosemary make a wonderful combination and the inspiration for this liqueur came from one of Belvedere’s signature cocktails, the Pear & Rosemary Martini. In this liqueur, the complexity and intensity of the ingredients are amplified.
5 or 6 fresh ripe pears
2.5 cups granulated sugar
3 cups Belvedere Vodka
1 cup Hennessy VSOP
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Cut off the tops and bottoms of the washed pears, and then cut into segments length-wise. Remove the core and seeds and place in a large glass container. Add the sugar, vodka, rosemary, and Cognac and stir. Cover and place in a cool dark area for 1 week. Remove the rosemary and continue to rest for 2-3 more weeks, stirring regularly.
After resting, stir and strain the mixture. Discard the pears and strain the liquid back through a muslin cloth into a clean container. Continue to rest for another 2-3 weeks. Some sediment will form and this can either be removed by further straining or shaken to mix before serving.
Do not forward these materials to anyone below the legal purchasing age. Belvedere Vodka is a quality choice. Drinking responsibly is too.