Make Your Own Liquor (Or, At Least, Your Own Liqueur)
When I was growing up, a woman who lived down the street from us made her own Kahlua. I recall sneaking the occasional sip from the bottle in my parents’ liquor cabinet. I liked to envision this sweet little old lady locked in some kind of mad scientist laboratory creating the chemical reactions I imagined were necessary to produce Kahlua.
This Christmas, I unveiled the mystique. I made cranberry liqueur and coffee liqueur to give to my nearest and dearest. Cheers, Mrs. West!
Let me provide a disclaimer here and say that I’m not much for sweet booze. In the liquor department you’ll typically find me drinking a very dry martini, a brandy straight up, or possibly a whiskey cola. I can probably count the frou-frou drinks I’ve consumed in the last 15 years on one hand. (You know, the cosmos and flirtinis of the world). I like to taste the alcohol. That’s the point. (Well, at least ONE of the points, I guess.)
But I wanted to create something handmade to contribute to the Christmas celebration. I’m not really a “crafty” person, so I knew it had to be a consumable treat. When I stumbled across these liqueur recipes while sorting my clippings, I wondered if they could really be as easy as they looked.
I very much liked the jewel-red color of the cranberry liqueur. And, even more, I liked the 3-week steeping time, which meant as long as I started around the 1st of December, everything would be ready to go with very little last-minute effort.
The Recipes: Cranberry Liqueur and Coffee Liqueur
The Source: Adapted from archive issues of Bon Appetit
Special Information: Project must be started at least 3 weeks before you need the liqueur to be ready. You’ll need some large, air-tight canisters or jars to use for steeping the liqueur. And finally, you’ll need to select some small, clear-glass bottles for the finished product. I found a great deal at World Market – bottles with dispensers, originally intended for oil and vinegar, for something like $3.99 a pair.
If you started early, I bet you could find some beautiful and unique bottles at thrift stores as well.
Cooking It Up:
Combine 2 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, at least 5 minutes. Remove syrup from the heat and cool completely.
Wash and sort 12 oz fresh cranberries. Place them in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Combine the cranberries and the cooled syrup in a large bowl. Stir in 3 cups vodka.
Pour the mixture into a large canister or jar and secure with an airtight lid. Let the mixture stand in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks. Shake the mixture every day. (This is why an airtight lid is important. You can imagine the mess otherwise.) I should note – the shaking isn’t an exact science. If you miss a day, no big deal.
After steeping is complete, line a medium-large sieve with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Strain the cranberry mixture through the sieve into the bowl and discard the remaining solids.
Carefully pour the liqueur into clean bottles or jars. A funnel comes in very handy here! Yields about 4 ½ cups.
The cranberry liqueur can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to a year.
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 3 cups sugar and ¾ cup instant coffee granules. Reduce heat to very low. Stir until sugar and coffee dissolve. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely.
Mix 2 cups vodka into the coffee syrup. Pour it into a large canister or jar. Scrape in seeds from 1 or 2 vanilla beans, split in half. Add the bean halves to the jar. Stir to blend and seal with an airtight lid. Let stand at room temperature for at least 3 weeks. Discard vanilla bean halves before serving. Makes about 4 cups.
Note: Vanilla beans are expensive. I had never purchased them before. This recipe will be fine with the cheapest kind you can locate. I’ve heard there are some Web sites offering really good deals as well.
The cranberry liqueur is best served chilled, as it’s a little bit syrupy (at least for my taste) at room temperature. I think it would be good with seltzer as a mixer, to cut the sweetness a little bit and add some fizz, but I haven’t tried this yet.
Also, just for the record – I haven’t really served it in martini glasses either, since I hold a very deep philosophical conviction that only MARTINIS should be served in martini glasses. But I made an exception, just so I could take this picture. I really didn’t want you to see me drinking it out of a juice glass.
I’ve used the coffee liqueur to spike my coffee, but that seems a bit redundant. I’m hoping to try it in a White Russian (coffee liqueur, vodka and cream) very soon! I think it would also be fun to top a brownie or a piece of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and drizzle some coffee liqueur over the top.
Until next time,