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Anyone starting any summer time liqueurs and cordials?

Over the past few weeks I have been going wild starting liqueurs for the holiday season. So far I have:

Honeysuckle Flowers
Marmalade (from homemade candied honeybell orange peels)
Rumtopf (mixed fruits in rum)
Leoninch (dried cranberries, dried apricots, toasted almonds, toasted walnuts)
Sweet Saunf [Pudina extract (Mint) marinated, sugar paste covered, toasted Indian Saunf (aniseed)]
Ataulfo "Champagne" Mangoes
Kiwi Fuit
Turkish Coffee
Green Tea
Cape Gooseberries, dried
Apricot, dried

I plan on making a couple of liters of all fruits as they come into season this year, and also some vegetables and flowers. I am thinking day lilies next.

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  1. Could you tell me more about how you make these?

    1. First, before you start, make sure that you write down and save notes of everything you do, and at what point, over the weeks and months it takes to make these beverages. This will help you repeat sucesses or improve the product over time.

      For a small batch, when I try a recipe for the first time, I take a 1 liter canning jar and fill it about 3/4 full with rough chopped fruit and a teaspoon to tablespoon of fresh citrus juice such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc. (For limoncello and other citrus zest based liqueurs you use only the citrus zest with absolutely no white pith and about 10% of the juice.) I try to imagine what flavor of citrus would go best, but this small an amount really adds no discernable flavor to the finished product. Lemon seems to add the least flavor in the long run, so I use it most often. The citrus adds acid which keeps the fruit bright and fresh looking and tasting and also makes the flavors stand out more.

      I then fill the jar right to the top with vodka and seal it. Don't chop the fruit too fine. This will get more flavor from the fruit but means much more filtering at the end. I sometimes leave the fruit in larger chunks so I can use the fruit at a later time as a desert over ice cream or cake. You can also use rum, whiskey, gin, etc. instead of, or for part of the vodka. It's all up to what gives you a thrill and you think will be tasty. I suggest using at least 3/4 vodka to start.

      Then you put the sealed jar in a cool dark place for 2-6 weeks. Shake the jars every few days to mix them up. I usually age it at least 4 weeks. Then strain out the fruit and filter the liquid. If the fruit is in chunks a strainer or colander will get out the big chunks. I then use a clean bandana or old bedsheet or other fine cloth and pour the liquid through this. If it doesn't go through easily I twist it up in a ball and squeeze it until all the liquid is removed from the fruit pulp. Then I filter it through coffee filters in a funnel several times until reasonably clear. It doesn't have to be totally clear at this point.

      Here's where you decide whether you want infused vodka or a liqueur. For infused vodka filter until clear, bottle and let age at least 2-4 weeks.

      For a liquer make a simple syrup of equal parts water:sugar. Add this to the fruit/vodka liquid to taste. At least 1:2 syrup to fruit/vodka liquid and up to 1:1. When it tastes right or even a bit too sweet you then seal it in jars for at least another month to age and smooth out. You may need to add a bit more citrus juice to bring up the acid level depending upon the fruit.

      It will get slightly less sweet and acidic tasting during the aging. It can be drunk at this time but the longer it ages, up to a year, the smoother and better it gets. Filter one more time or until clear and bottle. You will end up with around 1 1/2 - 2 liters of liqueur.

      Serve straight up in liqueur glasses, on the rocks, or use in cocktails. You can also use it in recipes for cooking and baking that call for syrups or liqueurs.

      3 Replies
      1. re: JMF

        What should I do now... I've had loquat halves sitting in about a pint of vodka for about a year. Didn't use any juice to keep the fruit bright. Currently it's very light amber, not cloudy, fruit light tan. Anything to worry about? What would be the tastiest thing to do with it at this point?

        1. re: Cinnamon

          just stumbled upon this thread again after several years. Since then I went pro, but still learning through trial and error works best.

          Filter the loquat infusion through coffee filters until clear, then taste. See if you think it needs sugar, more alcohol, or a few drops of lemon juice. Then let us know.

          1. re: JMF

            Will do. Just read your blog info - congratulations on the new gig!

      2. It is the perfect time to make nocino, a green walnut liquor. Usually you can find them at farmers markets in June and July.

        1 Reply
        1. I haven't started any yet, but I intend to. When blackberries come in, I plan to try my hand at some blackberry brandy, and I may do something with some stone fruit, as well. I'm also planning to make vin d'orange again. It's a fortified red wine flavored with roasted dried orange peels, based on a very old provencal recipe, that's better the longer it gets to age before it's strained. It's a delicious chilled as an aperitif.

          One sweet liqueur I like as a flavoring for a cocktails or to pour over ice cream or for flavoring yogurt, ricotta, etc., that's not season-dependent is dried apricot liqueur. It gets really good apricot flavor, and the booze-soaked apricots are terrific eating afterwards, too.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Hi, Caitlin, could you elaborate on how you make the dried apricot liqueur? That sounds great.

            1. re: ChristinaMason

              Hi Christina, it's quite simple: Make a simple syrup from a cup each sugar and water and allow to cool to room temp. Chop a pound of dried apricots and put them in a 2-quart or larger jar, and add the simple syrup, 3/4 cup each brandy and 100-proof vodka, the zest of an orange, and a pinch of ascorbic acid. Stick the jar in a cool, dark place for a month, then strain it through a metal sieve, pressing on the apricots. Add simple syrup if you want it sweeter. Filter into bottles. Makes 3 to 4 cups. The apricots will absorb a lot of liquid and retain a good amount of flavor, so they're very worth eating, plain or in dishes.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  This sounds fabulous! Late to the party, but I'm in.

            2. My orange/coffee liquer is coming along well. The sugar has dissolved, and the vodka is taking on a golden tone. I can't believe I only have abou 17 more days left in this 44 day recipe!

              (Pei, formerly known as nooodles)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Pei

                I was given this recipe over the christmas season. It was called 44 liquer. How did it turn out?

              2. We have some bergamotcello going that needs the simple syrup added to it pronto. We plan to make nocino soon, and my husband also wants to make vin de noix with some green walnuts. We are currently saving apricot pits to infuse into some grain alcohol to make a liqueur that tastes like almonds.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Atomica

                  One thing to consider is that Fruits of the rose family--including cherries, apples, plums, almonds, peaches, apricots, and crabapples--contain in their seeds cyanogenetic glycosides, which upon eating release hydrogen cyanide from an enzyme reaction.

                  While eating them in small numbers is relatively safe, in a liqueur the chemical components are much increased so you can't drink too much liqueur made from apricot or other seeds/kernels.

                  Bitter almonds contain the largest amount of the chemical, and while the quantity varies from report to report it takes anywhere from 20-70 of them to kill an adult, 2-10 to kill a child. Eating a handful to a cupful of bitter almond kernels could be dangerous. Sweet apricot kernels are much safer but there have still been deaths from eating them. Also bitter almond and bitter apricot are sometimes mislabeled and sold as the other. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women should probably stay away from any of these seeds/kernels in any form.

                  Do some web searches on apricot kernels, bitter almond, bitter apricot, etc. and see if you feel the risk is worthwhile.

                  1. re: JMF

                    Eh, he makes this every year and we aren't dead yet.

                    Pei, we just save several dozen apricot pits over the course of a couple of months and infuse some Everclear. The pits naturally impart an almond flavor on their own.

                    Luckily the baby seems to like apricots, taking the onus of eating any off of me. I find them too mealy.

                    1. re: JMF

                      I wonder how the makers of Amaretto DiSaronno deal with that, as the liqueur is made from apricot pits.

                      1. re: JMF

                        I am not a scientist or a doctor. Until recently, many naturopaths recommended the consumption of apricot kernels to those fighting cancer (they're high in vitamin B17). For years people were consuming up to thirty a day. It's only recently that the guidelines for apricot kernels have reduced the recommended dosage to 2 per day ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/490... ). So for years and years people with cancer (i.e. pretty immuno-suppressed) were consuming massive quantities, without all of them dying from cyanide poisoning. I personally take comfort in that.

                        Having cooked with apricot kernels, I've found they are particularly strong in flavour, so you could actually keep within those revised guidelines and still make a product with good noyau flavour (assuming you won't be drinking half a bottle of noyau vodka at one go!).

                        I find toasting them in the oven destroys their delicate flavour, so I infuse custards with the raw kernels, roughly chopped, over low heat. Makes a magical ice cream.

                    2. Oh, I'm so curious about almond flavoring. How do you do that? How many pits do you need to save, what do you do to them other than cleaning and drying them, and do you just grain vodka?

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Pei

                        You can get great almond flavored liqueur by just using almonds. Either plain of roasted. To give them a more bitter and complex taste you can add citrus juice and zest. If you leave some of the white pith on the zest you will get bitterness which will aproximate the bitter apricot/peach kernel taste but safely.

                        Also real almond extract works well, although I rarely use extracts if the fresh fruit or nut is available.

                        1. re: JMF

                          Alice Waters points out in her fruit book that the pits of apricot, peaches, and cherries can be roasted at 350 for 10-15 minutes (to kill the enzyme in question), cracked open, and then roasted again (if you're still worried) for a few more minutes.

                          This year I'm doing plum with Everclear instead of potato vodka and green walnut if I can find some walnuts. I like the dried apricot idea mentioned by Caitlin McGrath above. Seems like a great use for those tasty Blenheim apricots you find at Trader Joe's (besides eating them with squares of bittersweet chocolate).

                          1. re: petradish

                            Does she mention where the research is from about this? It sounds great but I want some science to back it up. I did some web research on it but nothing has come up so far.

                            1. re: JMF

                              She doesn't mention how she arrived at that method. Maybe put up a new post on general topics for the scientific types to weigh in on or even contact Alice. The kernels are called noyaux, in case there's some French research available out there.

                              I'm too enamored with its flavor to care, risks and all.

                              1. re: JMF

                                I did some research, heat treating fava beans, which have cyanogenetic glycosides, the precursors to cyanide, only lowered the amounts by 30-60%. That said, for an adult I don't personally feel any danger in moderate consumption for something so interesting.

                                Sadly research is extremely variable about this subject. Some reports state that 10 apricot/peach/bitter almond kernels can be fatal and some say 50-70. Just a few can be fatal if you are on the cancer medication Laetrile.

                              2. re: petradish

                                Dried apricots also make great flavored vinegar. Chop them, put in a jar, cover with white wine vinegar for at least a month.

                                1. re: petradish

                                  What's the advantage of Everclear over vodka?

                                  1. re: petradish

                                    Why Everclear instead of potato vodka... also, more generally, how important is the quality of vodka? If relatively inexpensive vodka is fine to use, that would be great and would allow more experimentation... do the finer points of better vodkas get lost when you infuse and age and potentially make a liqueur?

                                    (Favorite brands for this?)

                                    1. re: Cinnamon

                                      Relatively inexpensive is fine, and you definitely shouldn't waste premium-priced spirits if they're going to be flavored. One book I have prefers 100 proof vodka foe liqeuers and cordials (these are often diluted slightly with a simple syrup), but I have often used standard 80 proof.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          I agree, for the home cordial maker vodka is ok, 100 proof better. But I have found out that in the distillery using NGS (like Everclear) extracts more flavors, faster, with less spoilage rate of sweeter and juicier fruits.

                                2. I made Nocino,apricot cordial and cherry bounce. I will still make plum. Anyone ever make blueberry?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: coralv

                                    Blueberry comes out great, real easy to make as well. I have made it with raw and heat treated bluberries. Different flavor each way. You have to mush up the berries either in the aging jar or in a blender. Heat treated I did the same way as raw but put the jar in a ten minute hot water bath after a few weeks of aging, This made it much thicker bodied, it was hard to strain and filter but well worth it.

                                    I did the same with cranberries and it blew away the raw cranberry liqueur..

                                    1. re: coralv

                                      I added lemon to my blueberry, which richened the flavor, but I did it with vodka. I tend to prefer brandy-based liquers

                                    2. Ijust started two bottles of plum liqueur. Thanks for the inspiration.

                                      1. Although I haven't made a lot of infusions lately, I've been collecting *lots* of beautiful vintage bottles at thrift stores and estate sales for my cranberry vodka. They will make lovely Christmas presents.

                                        I did a kumquat infusion a couple of months ago. I'd really like to try raspberry or blackberry--thanks for the reminder.

                                        Here is a photo of my cranberry infusion...

                                        1. Beautiful! How do you close those bottles?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Pei

                                            I first infuse the vodka in huge glass jars.

                                            When ready to "serve", I funnel the finished infusion into pretty glass bottles, then toss in cranberries to the height that looks good to me.

                                          2. The Chez Panisse cookbook has a number of good ideas. I use the proportions to make Brandied Sour Cherries. We use them to top ice cream or as a Manhattan cocktail garnish. The brandy itself is wonderful served with desserts or poured onto steamed puddings.

                                            Brandied Cherries
                                            Use pitted or unpitted sour cherries. If you pit them, retain some pits to add to brandy. They are very pretty left whole with the stems. Do not use overripe fruit.
                                            Use the best brandy you can afford, certainly something that is drinkable on its own. Kirsch is also suggested but I haven't tried it.

                                            For each pound of sour cherries, use 2 cups of brandy and 3/4 cup of sugar. Mix in quart jar and hold for one month in a cool pantry before using. Storing in the refrigerator after the first month.


                                            1. I adore lemoncello. I am having a hard time understanding how to make this, as have not done before. Can you post a recipe especially for this? I have some shrimp and pasta with a lemoncello sauce at an Italian restaurant and now I want to try my hand. TIA!

                                              1. I am also a cordial person, though sometimes I am rude. I'm hoping to start some herb and spice ones soon to tide me over until fruit season is here again. I want to do a clove one and I've been debating about rosemary.

                                                How did your mango come out? Ours was fairly cloudy and not especially flavorful. I'm also very curious about your honeysuckle flowers. Care to expand?
                                                We have had people following us for our pineapple-orange (rum-base), cranberry, and our spiced plum. We've noticed that the plum one got significantly better with time, like over 2 years.

                                                What methods are people using to get the sediment out? Siphon? Strainer? Cheesecloth? Coffee filter? Just interested in a rough poll.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: thinks too much

                                                  Yes, I'm curious about the honeysuckle flowers too. Our honeysuckle has just started to bloom.

                                                  1. re: thinks too much

                                                    I made one from Santa Rosa plums two years ago, it was a beautiful color from the skins. Just halved and pitted them and filled a glass jar, covered with vodka and added sugar. I decanted without straining and don't worry about the little bit of sediment. The fruit got eaten over ice cream. Hopefully the poor tree which seems to be on last legs will give up one more crop.

                                                    1. re: thinks too much

                                                      What about rosemary lavender, with much much much less rosemary? (Lovely scent combo at least.)

                                                      1. re: Cinnamon

                                                        That sounds much more pleasant than a straight up rosemary. Are you opinionated about which alcohol to use? (I would think in this case vodka, though I rarely use it in cordials)

                                                        1. re: thinks too much

                                                          Hmm. I don't know. I'm new to this. I'll vote for vodka too.

                                                          (If you don't like it, it ideally would then still make a lovely pillow/room spray!) :)

                                                        2. re: Cinnamon

                                                          A friend of mine once did hibiscus-lavender tequila, which was then used to pair with tonic and lemon. Deep color and VERY fragrant.

                                                        3. re: thinks too much

                                                          Honeysuckle first version had a great aroma and decent flavor but turned a sickly brown over time. I did it again with some lemon juice and double the amount of flowers and used NGS and it came out much better.

                                                          Mango was also a disappointment the first time but I played with it using differing variations and it too came out better.

                                                        4. This post might be a little old...I hope you guys are still looking at this. I am really new to making these types of recipes, my first attmept was blackberry liqueur and cordial last summer that I was pleased enough with to continue. Can anyone recommend a book or site with pictures to help me along the way?

                                                          1. Wow! Talk about steep learning curve for me! This loos so interesting. What is the shelf life and how do you have to store? How do you seal the bottles? Do you drink these straight? What flavours of these seem to be the most popular? I would love to make some for Christmas gifts.
                                                            Anyone else trying it for the first time. I would love to do the gfood old apricot pit one; but what is the kernel? How many do you actually need?

                                                            1. Wow, you really know what you're doing! I'd love to make a red currant rum... any idea of what proportions might work, based on your experiences? I am thinking perhaps a infused rum and liqueur to see which we like better. Currants can be so sour that I thought we might like the liqueur straight-up and the infused rum in mixed drinks.

                                                              I'm currently (har har) assuming something like 1 or 2 cups of currants per 750 mL, and I am tempted to give the liqueur a 10 minute warm water bath per advice I've seen around Chowhound.

                                                              What do you think? Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

                                                              9 Replies
                                                                1. re: kimeats

                                                                  I read in another CH thread that it's a very good way to make a thicker liqueur, and I was excited to try it out. I'll see if I can find the thread...

                                                                  Oh, too funny, it's this one! JMF posted about the water bath appx. 15 posts upthread.

                                                                  1. re: sfumato

                                                                    Well, three years later I am back to update! I just strained and re-bottled that batch of red currant rum (local red currants, local honey, white Bacardi rum + 10 minute water bath) from July, 2008, and at the moment it looks gorgeous and tastes divine!

                                                                    For the next batch, I'm going to use red currants and spiced rum to see what that does. Currants should be out soon, and if I can find black ones, I may try those with white rum as well.

                                                                    1. re: sfumato

                                                                      Well now I don't feel so bad for ignoring my rhubarb vodka for 3 years until last night. I did remove the fruit back then, but it still needed another round of filtering. Flavor was mild, but it blended into a nice drink with lime and cassis. I also tried my 3 year old raspberry aquavit and that is fantastic. Why haven't I drunk it up yet? Lesson to everyone out there, by the way--Label your bottles!! Trust me, you won't remember years later which is which.

                                                                      1. re: dct

                                                                        I knew which was which by the fruit (which did not suffer at all from being left in for a few years- totally delicious!), but I didn't put dates on everything! Argh. Thankfully, I e-mailed myself the ingredient lists when I put everything up, so I was able to label all the bottles this time. Lesson learned!

                                                                        Also, my 2008 bottle is ready to drink and the 2009 is still too boozy (in a not pleasant way). Patience is sooooooooo key here.

                                                                        1. re: sfumato

                                                                          Seriously, you left your fruit in for 3 years!? Was it just the currants?

                                                                          1. re: geminigirl

                                                                            Yes, I did! And it was just the currants in the red currant rum. I did the same thing with the apricots in the (faux) umeshu and it didn't do any harm, either. Both concoctions are totally delicious so far.

                                                                            1. re: sfumato

                                                                              interesting. Also, when did you do the 10 minute water bath, now or prior to straining. I love the cranberry vodka but JMF post makes me want to try the bath with the next batch...thanks

                                                                              1. re: geminigirl

                                                                                I did the water bath at the very beginning when the fruit was fresh, so well before straining.

                                                              1. Has anyone tried this recipe. A friend emailed it to me; based on Jamie Oliver's. I would do regular organic lemons and not sure where to get the proof.
                                                                6 sorrento Lemons skins, cut off not peeled (unwaxed) regular organic
                                                                1 litre of the 98% proof alchohol
                                                                1 kg of granulated sugar
                                                                1 litre of water

                                                                De-skin the lemons and place in a large conatiner (i usually add some juice from 2 of the lemons). Poor the 98% proof booze over the top and leave to 4 weeks, shaking/ mixing occasionally, (remember this alchohol will evapourate so seal the container).
                                                                remove the lemon rind from the liquid, (it should have taken some colour on by now), boil the water and add the sugar to make a syrup. Cool for 15-20 minutes and add the 2 liquids.
                                                                Hey presto an authentic Limoncello, bottle and store in the freezer, remember to serve ice cold.Can be kept in the freezer too.

                                                                It is 50% proof, you may want to water it down, or not!
                                                                Also, any citrus can be used, Arancello (orange) is seen occaisionally in Italy.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: itryalot

                                                                  sounds good except you have to use only the colored outside zest of the citrus peel, no white pith or it will be bitter.

                                                                2. I currently have:
                                                                  Ginger, Blackberry, Raspberry, Fresh Apricot with Cinnamon, Rosolio( Red Rose and Vanilla), Meyer Lemoncello, Tangerine, & Cherry liqueurs going. Ginger and Blackberry are my current Favorites. I'm about to try blueberry.I tried Mint, faux-Baileys,& Cofee- feh! Honeysuckle sounds interesting. Does it avoid tasting soapy?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Zul

                                                                    Zul, would you please provide details on your Fresh Apricot liqueur? What proportions did you use? Which alcohol? How long did you infuse? How do you store once infused? Did you save the apricots for further use? How do you store those? Thanks a bunch! I am thinking of buying some excellent Blenheim apricots this Wednesday and giving it a go.

                                                                  2. Any advice on how to increase the tanginess of a liquer? I have some great aroma for a pineapple/rum liquer and flavor, but not enough tartness. Has anyone experimented with grinding up vitamin C's for the Ascorbic Acid?

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: thinks too much

                                                                      You can buy citric acid granules (or other things like that), sometimes it's at grocery stores. I'm not up on the subtle taste differences between that and phosphoric acid etc.

                                                                    2. I'd like to do a serrano chile infused rum. Can anyone think of a good reason I can't just slice up some chiles, drop them in the bottle of white rum, and let them sit there?

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: litchick

                                                                        I can think of no reason whatsoever. Sounds perfect.

                                                                        1. re: litchick

                                                                          I would like to try this as well. But, I am going to make two batches as an experiment.

                                                                          The first, using the simple method you mentioned.

                                                                          The second: I'll wear rubber gloves, cut the chili's lengthwise and remove all the seeds and white veining on the inside of the chili. The seeds and white veining contain most of the heat of a chili, so by removing them before infusion, I hope to create an infusion with more chili flavor and a little less heat.

                                                                          1. re: litchick

                                                                            UPDATE: The serrano chile run turned out great! And it was fast. Just 24 hours!

                                                                            I sliced 4 serrano chiles lengthwise, and then chopped each half into about 4 equal sized chunks. I removed the stem, but left all the seeds and internal white parts on the chiles. Then I took a new bottle of Barbancourt white rum (decanting a little bit to make room for the chiles) and plopped the chopped chiles into the bottle. I shook it a few times, and stuck it in the fridge.

                                                                            24 hours later, a taste test revealed that the rum had become wonderfully spicy with a fresh/green/vegetal backnote. I decanted the rum into a pitcher, removed the chiles from the rum bottle, then strained the rum back into its bottle. (I got all the seeds out of the finished rum, but there's still a little particulate matter in there.) I topped off the bottle with the rum I'd reserved at the beginning of the process to bring the bottle back up to full.

                                                                            I love the finished product. I was in search of something that was pretty spicy, to be used as an addition in small quantities in various cocktails.

                                                                            First cocktail made: my twist on a drink called the Cilantro Sting, originally from Sensing in Boston. Muddled cilantro + 1 part minted simple syrup + 1 part Serrano rum + 2 parts tequila + juice of 1/2 lime. Shake vigorously, then strain.

                                                                            This is also good with mint and ginger root instead of the cilantro.

                                                                            (At Sensing, they use vodka instead of rum -- in a ratio of equal parts vodka and tequila -- and they just muddle a fresh chile instead of infusing the liquor. Also, no mint notes in theirs.)

                                                                            Question: do y'all think I should store this in the fridge since there are still particulate remnants of the chiles, or will the alcohol content make it safe to keep room temp in the cabinet?

                                                                            1. re: litchick

                                                                              You could try straining it through a coffee filter to get the bits out.

                                                                              1. re: litchick

                                                                                It is perfectly fine in at room temperature. The alcohol is the preservative.

                                                                                1. re: litchick

                                                                                  litchick--Just wanted to drop a note and thank you for improving my marriage :-). As soon as I saw your description above I knew it was basically the essence of my wife's personality distilled into a cocktail, and I was quite right. She loved it. I used vodka instead of rum for the Serrano distillate, and no mint, but she thought it was fantastic.

                                                                              2. Wow, just ran across this old post of mine from four years ago. Who would have thought that I would now be a food/beverage writer and consultant, professional distiller, winemaker, brewer, and mixologist? And have owned a winery, brewery, and distillery in Maine since then, and opening a new, 350 acre farm distillery in NY this fall. All because of making some home liqueurs.

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: JMF

                                                                                  Dude.. You are a true Renaissance Man.
                                                                                  I'd also like to personally thank you for sharing advice here over the years.

                                                                                  BTW, I was floored when I saw the photo of your wall of 115 tinctures.
                                                                                  I only have about a dozen, so I have a way to go!

                                                                                  1. re: jerryc123

                                                                                    Thanks. As for tinctures, i haven't counted lately, but I think it's up to almost 150. Once my new distillery is open, I'll have a larger lab and plan to increase the amount of botanicals greatly. My goal is to focus on native North American botanicals at this point.

                                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                                      I'm up to 163 tinctures now, and 31 botanical distillates...

                                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                                        Medicinals? Those are fun. I swear that Campari reminds me of (good/fresh) Valernian in a tincture.

                                                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                                                          Now up to 183 types of botanical tinctures.

                                                                                  2. None of my infusions ever work.. I think I'm using the wrong kind of jar. I attempted to make Mulberry (no flavor) and candy flavored (yucky looking) vodkas. What am I doing wrong?

                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: YAYME

                                                                                      what do you mean about not working? give us details about what you did, and what it came out like.

                                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                                        Well for the Mulberry Vodka I picked fresh mulberries from a nearby tree and put them in a bottle of mostly finished vodka. I screwed the cap on put in the fridge and left it. It turned purple and tha'ts it, For the Candy Vodka I filled another mostly finished bottle of vodka with variety of candy Starbursts and jelly beans. I put It in dark shelf in the closet turned a murky color and tasted awful.

                                                                                        1. re: YAYME


                                                                                          If this is your first foray into liqueur making, I recommend you start with something easier, such as lemon peel for limoncello, or fresh cherries in brandy. That way, you will not be so discouraged.

                                                                                          As for your first two failed experiments? Have fun with it and learn from your mistakes. I enjoy the process of experimentation.

                                                                                          But, Starburst and jelly beans? Seriously? You expected good results from that? I think that is something college kids ( aka inexperienced drinkers) do for the novelty, and bright color.
                                                                                          There are so many low-cost candy fruit flavored vodkas on the market, why would you try to reproduce them at home?
                                                                                          OK , let's move on.

                                                                                          What kind of jar to use? I use new quart mason jars, or larger glass jars with the "bail" type glass top and wired locking lid. Old liquor bottles work, if you can get your stuff in and out of the narrow spout. I can't be bothered. Obviously, don't reuse jars that have been used for pickling, or that still have an odor.

                                                                                          Any infusion (yes, even your starburst vodka) will improve in appearance after a straining through a fine strainer and then coffee filters.

                                                                                          If you picked your own ripened fruit, you noticed you stained your fingers during the process. The color is the first thing to leach into the vodka, the flavor will take more time. With your mulberry vodka experiment, you probably strained it too soon. Also, it will need to be sweetened afterward.
                                                                                          I have a large tree in the yard, and last season, my wife tried to make jam from them. It was without much flavor. This led me to do some research, as I am intent on making use of the profusion of fruit, and trying my own mulberry liqueur.
                                                                                          There are over a dozen varieties of mulberry in the US, and not all of them produce fruit bursting with flavor. One variety, the Chinese white mulberry, was brought over for silkworm production during the colonial period, and it's fruit is supposed to be relatively tasteless. Many of the mulberry trees that are winter hardy in the north are not flavorful varieties. Some varieties are bred for tastier fruit, and I would like to believe that if you bought your fruit from a knowledgeable grower at market, they would be from one of those varieties.
                                                                                          But if, like me, you are stuck with a tree cultivar that does not produce exceedingly flavorful fruit, then you might want to try a few work-arounds.
                                                                                          Even with a good cultivar, mulberries ripen at different rates on the tree, and you will often find pink, red, and dark fruit at the same time. Be sure to pick only the dark, ripened fruit. When fully ripened they will be a dark purple, but not as dark as a blackberry. You will also need more fruit then you think, and will be competing with birds, who also adore the darker fruit. Leave the stems behind, I've read they may be slightly toxic.
                                                                                          This season I am going to freeze a good deal of ripened fruit. Then I am going to try a first infusion of fresh fruit into high proof neutral spirits. After a few weeks, I will strain that infused spirit into more fresh (if still available) or frozen fruit, and do that repeatedly until, after several infusions, I get something that is more flavorful. Then, I will adjust with sugar, and let it age. I will either end up with something delicious or downright nasty. I will let you know.

                                                                                          This is a handy link you may like...

                                                                                          1. re: jerryc123

                                                                                            Jerryc123: Actually I'm planning on making skittles vodka for a friend's bachelorette party. I love this friend to death but in terms of food and booze all her taste is in her mouth.

                                                                                          2. re: YAYME

                                                                                            Your description of your process is somewhat vague. How much mulberries to how much vodka, and for how long?

                                                                                            Mulberries aren't the best fruit to use. They are pretty mild tasting. I'd juice a whole bunch, then just use it in cocktails. I wouldn't bother using them for an infusion.

                                                                                            As for infusing candy, why bother. GAG!

                                                                                            1. re: JMF

                                                                                              I don't really remember I think I infused the mulberries in quarter of vodka for a week. Yeah, I know infusing candy is disgusting but I think next time I'll try to make Lemoncello or something.

                                                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                                                Glad to see people are still posting to this thread--I've gleaned quite a bit of useful info from it over the past year or so. JMF--I'm fascinated by your mention in the OP about planning to try day lillies next. Did you ever do that, and if so, did it work? Can you give me details of your method? I'd love to give that a try if you think it was a worthwhile effort.

                                                                                                Also, do you have websites or other links for your ventures in Maine? I'd love to read more.

                                                                                                1. re: JMF

                                                                                                  I don't live in the area but I regularly travel through NY when visiting friends in Rhode Island so I'll keep my eyes open.

                                                                                                  I think I will give some day lilies a shot. What, based on your experience, do you think would make a good ratio? Buds or open flowers? And should I dry them first or use them fresh?

                                                                                                  1. re: JMF


                                                                                                    Can you elaborate more, on why you think dried flowers are better than fresh flowers, when making infusions?
                                                                                                    Would you say the same for leaves of plants?

                                                                                                    Also, you are using NGS for dried flowers?

                                                                                                    1. re: jerryc123

                                                                                                      I use NGS for all tinctures. If I am making a infusion for drinking I use 80 proof vodka, but I don't do that too often. For liqueurs I may use vodka, rum, brandy, or even tequila or mezcal for the infusion, and work from there.

                                                                                                      Fresh vs dried: Day lily's are very 'fleshy' as are some other types of flowers. Lots of vegetal matter. Rose petals are the same. They tend to have lots of vegetal flavors besides the floral ones. The vegetal flavors disappear when dried and all you get are the floral tones.

                                                                                                      Dried botanicals, leaves, twigs, roots, have different flavors when fresh and dried. For many drying improves them, and/or concentrates the flavor. For some aging does too. Aged dried juniper berries are much preferred for making gin over fresh and/or unaged dried.

                                                                                                      On ratio's, you have to experiment. It depends upon fresh vs dried, and the type of botanical you are infusing. I tend to go with small amounts and increase as needed.

                                                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                                                        Thanks JMF;

                                                                                                        It's day lily picking time.
                                                                                                        Do you recommend using the not yet opened, the fully opened, or spent (and closing) flower?
                                                                                                        Also, before drying, is it best to remove any part of the flower? I am thinking the stamen and pollen should go.

                                                                                                        1. re: jerryc123

                                                                                                          I'd say pick the ones that have just opened. Dry the whole thing.

                                                                                                        2. re: JMF

                                                                                                          I am a little confused, could you clarify?

                                                                                                          Upthread you wrote that NGS "extracts more flavors, faster, with less spoilage rate of sweeter and juicier fruits."

                                                                                                          Do you now prefer using vodka for liqueurs? To make a cherry liqueur, for example, would you recommend using 80-proof vodka, 100-proof vodka, or an NGS such as Everclear?

                                                                                                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                            For a home made liqueur 80 or 100 proof is fine, depending upon what you have or how strong you want the final product to be. With herbs/botanicals, especially dried, I go with 190 proof like Everclear, make it very concentrated, steep for a short period of time, days, sometimes hours with things like cinnamon or cardamom, then drop the proof and add sweetener.

                                                                                            2. Have lots of roses in the yard and they are finally blooming well after a few down years. I would like to try rose petal gin or cordial. Should I dry the petals first or can I use them right off the bush? Can I just use mid-tier gin or vodka or would you recommend something else? If I were to mix rose petals with some kind of fruit can I infuse at the same time or should it be separate processes?

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: MinistryOfPie

                                                                                                Oh just noticed your comment above about drying rose petals... I would still like to know about whether I can mix them with other items or infuse separately.

                                                                                              2. My thoughts and experience making various liquors lead me to an import conclusion. The commercial cordial makers and many experienced homemakers use UNRIPE fruit. Maybe not completely green but close. Nocino is made from green walnuts and I have been told to use lemons and other citrus fruits with green skins for liquor by people in the know. The tart and tannic nature of the unripe fruit is easily dealt with by adding sugar and the plant pectins are not soluble in alcohol water mixtures so the resulting liquors and creme cordial is much easier to clear upon extraction. Finding unripe fruit at the fruit stand isn’t a big problem as so many fruits are picked green for ease of shipping. I can only guess that the fruit fragrances are developed earlier than the sugar content as starch and pectin are digested by various enzymes associated with the ripening process. Soft ripe fruit will definitely lead to haze and cloudy liquors and problems with over ripe flavors in the final liquor or cordial. Cognac and Armagnac producers also use grape varieties with high taninns and low sugar for a low alcohol wine before distilling in the age old Alembic stills. Their process seems to maximise flavor and aroma compounds in the final product although long aging is required to make the brandy hit peak potential.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: dsweedler

                                                                                                  This is REALLY interesting. Thanks for posting.

                                                                                                  1. re: dsweedler

                                                                                                    As someone who has become a professional winemaker, brewer, distiller, etc. since I started this thread five and a half years ago, I have to disagree with your comments. You have some partial truths, but most of that information is just plain incorrect and cobbled together from questionable assumptions.

                                                                                                    That's untrue about using unripe fruit. The fruit has to be of the highest quality, just barely ripe, still firm, and not mushy or over ripe. It is over ripe fruit that shouldn't be used, also windfalls that have been contaminated by lying on the ground and/or are starting to ferment with wild yeasts. All liqueurs become cloudy, acids are need to stabilize and preserve them, and they all need filtering to be perfectly clear.

                                                                                                    Nocino is a very specific use of young walnuts, there are also liqueurs made from fully grown walnuts.

                                                                                                    Citrus fruit needs to be ripe as well, but not over ripe because with citrus you need the oils in the skin. Older citrus lose their oils, especially since they may sit for weeks or months in storage.

                                                                                                    With cognac it is high acid, low sugar Ugni Blanc grapes. these are not high tannin grapes as anyone who has had a Trebbiano wine knows. The tannins come from the barrel aging. Also only cognac is made in Alembic/pot stills. Armagnac is made in column stills.

                                                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                                                      I am not going to argue about the difference between unripe green fruits and slightly ripe fruits etc. Your advice doesn’t really contradict mine. Don’t use ripe fruit. Fruit varieties that are not so pleasing to our taste may give great results when extracted with alcohol and sweetened with sugar. I have had real problems with clarification of my liqueurs and filtration is slow, messy and wasteful. So I have switched to unripe fruit and my liqueurs have clarified much faster. I think people need to realize the eating the fruit out of hand is not the right idea for picking fruit for liqueurs. The sweet juiciness you want for fruit to eat is not a quality you will appreciate in the liqueur.

                                                                                                      The best Calvados is made from apple varieties with high tannin, low sugar and high fruit acids but the fruit is allowed to hit the ground before it is gathered and not picked off the tree. That would sound like a case of over ripe fruit but ripeness is relative and most of these apple varieties do not taste sweet when eaten out of hand and produce very little juice when pressed compared to more modern American apples. The same is true for French cider apples and pear cider varieties used to make their famous dry farmhouse ciders. Eric Bordelet cider is only 4% alcohol but packs a wallop of sophisticated flavor from those low yielding ancient pear varieties he farms. Just don’t expect to eat one of his pears and enjoy it out of hand.

                                                                                                      Liqueurs can be sweetened easily with added sugar after extraction of the fruit esters and acids by the alcohol. Lemoncello producers use "green lemons" to avoid extraction of the bitter pith and high alcohol as it is less able to extract the citrus bitters but fully able to recover the citrus terpenes found in the skins. I am sure green doesn’t mean completely immature fruit but fruit with a real blush of green still visible on the skins. Early season lemons are sometimes sold in that condition.

                                                                                                      It really isn’t so different than canning and pickling fruits and vegetables, as the canner prefers smaller more immature specimens to preserve the size and shape of the product.

                                                                                                      1. re: dsweedler

                                                                                                        This is all very vague. "Don't use ripe fruit." But you have lumped together everything from citrus to apples to walnuts, which are vastly different and need to be treated as such. Unripe vs ripe is one issue, but variety, treatment, weather, are others.

                                                                                                  2. So six years ago I started this thread. I just found several boxes of these original liqueurs and infused spirits. I spent awhile tasting them and many are as good or better than when I originally made them back when I was a novice. I think I'll take some of these liqueurs to a party I'm going to tomorrow night. The raspberry liqueur is fantastic.

                                                                                                    1. Day lilies, two types, check on this, some may be toxic. Tiger liLy buds are food. Not so sure about the smelly ones, research it first.

                                                                                                      1. Old thread...but Rumtopf advice anyone, JMF? Just started my first batch with strawberries today. Some recipes I have seen say the fruit shouldn't float but mine are. I'm thinking this will be fine after a day or two in the rum? Thoughts? Thanks!

                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: geminigirl

                                                                                                          You don't want the fruit to be in contact with the air. Either add more fruit, or more booze until the container is full, or weight it down with a plate or something..

                                                                                                          1. re: geminigirl

                                                                                                            One thing to do is sliver the strawberries as they can have air pockets after hulling. Whole berries are more likely to float and also present less surface area to the alcohol/sugar. Get them submerged so they don't spoil.

                                                                                                            1. re: pivulis

                                                                                                              Thanks to you both for the quick reply. I am using a large glass jar with a narrow lid so there is no way I can fill, I am hoping to add more fruits as the summer goes on, and the top is to narrow to put in anything to weight it down....heading to the hardware store or Walmart tomorrow to see if I can find a better jar. In the meantime I did cut up the strawberries so making progress.....thanks again for the input!

                                                                                                            2. re: geminigirl

                                                                                                              One other thing. You can agitate the container if it has a good lid. This will help things mix and settle. I use el cheapo jug wine bottles screw cap and with that little handle on the neck. Buy the wine and make santgria, then you have the bottle(s). A tight cork might be preferable to reusing the plastic lined screw top as ever clear can dissolve quite a few things. Gemini? Happy birthday!

                                                                                                              1. re: pivulis

                                                                                                                Thanks! Woke up this morning to some condensation in the jar which I'm thinking can't be good....it's a kilner jar if that helps, so maybe too tight a seal? I've done other fruits before and never had this problem, but I forgot how airy strawberries are....canned them before and had similar problems, but they still were tasty.....hoping the same thing happens here and I'm just over thinking.....I also found a strawberry vodka recipie I'm going to try, but this one calls for crushing the berries first with the sugar.

                                                                                                                1. re: geminigirl

                                                                                                                  tight seal is good, otherwise alcohol will evaporate. shake the jar once in a while. kilner is a spring lid. very good choice. portion of berry above waterline is not going to soak like the submerged part does and might ferment. that could explain the condensation. shaking the jar will get alcohol onto the floating part. not rocket science though, just keep everything in the liquid. if it is really strong alcohol, it will not spoil at all. everclear gives off so much vapor that it is highly flammable and permeates the fruit even if floating if the percent is high enough nothing will go wrong. what are you soaking the berries in?

                                                                                                                  1. re: pivulis

                                                                                                                    Thanks, update is I changed jars, a glass cookie jar sort of jar and have put a plate on the berries and somehow managed to submerged them all! Sealed with Syrian wrap and lid and resting in the basement. I'm doing a Rumtopf similar to this recipie and cherries will probably be next, using a dark rum. Thanks again!


                                                                                                            3. Old discussion but why not.

                                                                                                              Cherries in brandy. Made some last week and they turned out well.

                                                                                                              Take a quart pickle jar. I had to rinse it and the lid with fresh lemon to get the garlic smell out. Fill it with the blackest cherries you can get. Add a vanilla bean that has been split. Fill it with a good Cognac that you would drink on its own. Let it sit a week or two, shaking it when you remember. I don't add sugar. Aging it too long makes the cherries soggy.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                                                                                                Sour Cherries are ripe on trees in new england now. Keep a lookout while driving. I have picked several trees this week. Unfortunately i can not seem to recall exactly where they are....somewhere in the northeastern us...ha.try the portuguese recipe for ginginha, look it up, it is sour cherries in clear brandy with sugar.

                                                                                                                1. re: pivulis

                                                                                                                  Here are a couple of good resources for sour cherries in case you can't find your trees again:)