Spring is a great time to start crafting a homemade liqueur. The bottles can age for a few months and be ready for a summer wedding, or for a few months longer and be perfect to hand out during the holidays. The recipes we’ve included are surprisingly simple and provide a good excuse to spend an afternoon in the kitchen… and several evenings doing taste tests! Served in (or given with) tiny glasses and paired with chocolate, these liqueurs become special gifts for loved ones, or festive thank-yous for hosts of parties. The two recipes here- Kahlua-with-cream and raspberry liqueur- are two drinks that are delicious for sipping at any occasion or no occasion at all, so what you don’t give away will surely be put to good use. Enjoy concocting, enjoy sipping, enjoy sharing. Cheers!
Stir the sugar into the hot coffee until dissolved (it will take just a minute). Allow to cool thoroughly, then add the vodka and vanilla. Pour into 8 oz bottles. Cork and leave in a dark cool place. Excellent immediately, even better if you wait a few months.
The secret to really great kahlua is to make it ahead of time so the flavors have a chance to mellow and blend together. It is best when consumed after at least one month, it’s excellent a year later, and still very good years later. I have made kahlua the short way, by using instant coffee instead of brewing up fresh espresso, and it is very good too, but my preference is to use unprocessed ingredients.
Easy Berry Liqueur
• berries, fresh or frozen
• 1-1 1/2 cups sugar per quart
You’ll Also Need:
• a jar with tight-fitting lid
• a fine cloth, something like 100% polyester chiffon. It should be a size that 4 layers of it can be draped into a large bowl with the edges hanging over several inches.
Start with berries that are clean and at the peak of ripeness, best those organically grown which have not been sprayed. Fresh are best; frozen will work. Fill a jar with the berries, then pour in vodka until they are covered. Screw lid on tightly and let set in a dark, cool place for 2 months or until the berries lose their color.
For very pure liqueur, pour the contents of the jar through a cloth-lined sieve; then discard the berries.
For a richer liqueur, though a bit cloudy with sediment, pour the berries and vodka into a bowl and mash them into a potato masher. Strain through a fine cloth, then strain again through four layers of cloth. Draw the four corners of the cloths together and twist the cloth until the berries are in a bag. Tie with a string or hold on tight to the end of the bag, pressing gently on the cloth to release the juices. Discard the berries.
Pour strained liquid into clean jar and add 1/2 cup of sugar to each quart of liquid. Stir and let set for a few days until the sugar is dissolved; taste, then add sugar again until desired sweetness is achieved (it’s easy to add too much sugar… we like about 1 cup sugar to each quart).
And, by the way, if you’d prefer not to add sugar, you have creaed a berry-flavored vodka!