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Recent Duty-Free Visit Yields 190-Proof Grain Alcohol...Now What?!

I just came back from my first trip to New York City. Great times. Great city.

At the duty-free I snagged a 1.75L bottle of grain alcohol, presumably for making my own bitters/digestifs/aperatifs...but now I'm spoiled for choice and can't decide what to make!

I don't know when I'll get my hands on this stuff again so I want to make the best recipe I can with what I've got.

Any recommendations, folks?

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  1. Limoncello....many recipes available soak lemon rind in alcohol till all color is removed from fruit. Sweeten and dilute. Serve icy cold from freezer.

    1. Limoncello is a great idea, I just made some a few weeks ago, if you can find Meyer lemons use those for a slightly different taste.

      1. Within a couple of days the alcohol will leech out all the flavorful oil and color from the fruit. When I made a batch recently with 190 proof the peels ended up dissolving, making it cloudy, after a few weeks. So I'd make sure to take them out once they turn white.

        Put as little pith as possible. Just use a zester or finely grate the peel so you're getting mostly the flavorful part.

        You could make 3 different flavored drinks instead of just limoncello, like tangerine, orange or grapefruit. I wonder how lime would come out!!!


        2 Replies
        1. re: gourmandadventurer

          I was thinking of trying it with sour cherries, did you ever try this with whole fruit rather than just the peel?

          1. re: gourmandadventurer

            What if you ran it through a coffee filter??


          2. As a winemaker/brewer/distiller I can't really think of much you would use 95%abv/190 proof for. Even for gin, pastis, absinthe, etc. you lower the proof to 1/3 that for infusion before distillation.

            The exception would be limoncello and other citrus zest/oil based liqueurs, and it's pretty strong for that. A weeks infusion instead of 4-6 weeks is probably more than enough. Remove the zest as soon as it gets white and hard, filter, then sweeten and lower to 60-50%abv.

            You would have to keep a close eye on the extraction time if you use it for bitters. A week or less then reduce the strength. Most original bitters recipes call for 42-50% alcohol for the infusion, for one week to ten days, filtering, then reduced to 30%abv.

            Many digestifs are white wine based, although you could make a bitter infusion and add to the wine to fortify it. Sort of a vermouth, although I wouldn't do it that way.

            The digestifs that are spirits based are usually distilled, like absinthe, pastis, etc. I assume you won't be doing that.

            For fruit liqueurs where you might use the 190 proof NGS think a much shorter infusion time and check on a regular basis. It really depends upon the fruit, some work well with the higher extraction rate, others don't. It's all amatter of timing, quality control, and personal taste.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JMF

              Wow, great details! Thanks for the replies, folks!. I'll consider the input and let everyone know how it goes.

            2. Just hope you didn't fly with that grain alcohol. It's pretty much flammable, and it's kinda, well, illegal.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ted

                Good point, ted. Pretty much anything over 100 proof will sustain a flame...and this stuff is 190!

                Yeah, those airlines aren't too fond of the clear liquids anymore...especially the combustible ones. I moved my stuff in a minivan.

              2. I've had excellent results with Buddha's Hand Citron, height-of-the-season strawberries, and maximally fragrant pink-fleshed guava, all from the farmer's market. My rule is, if it smells fantastic, buy it and stick it in some grain alcohol that day. Grain alcohol dissolves the flavor and color of fruit much faster than vodka - within a few days, as opposed to months. I like to add Estate Gold Liquid Cane Sugar when I dilute down the infused alcohol, even though it adds a caramel tinge - but I don't care about the color of the final product, just the fragrance and taste.

                No method I've yet tried preserves the flavor and fragrance of fresh, perfect fruit as well as infusion in alcohol. It's lovely to be able to smell perfect summer strawberries in December.

                1. Just a head's up: 190 proof liquor is pretty cheap at the regular liquor store. Golden Grain and Everclear are the most common.

                  Aside from that you can make any kind of citrus "cello" you want.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    If only they sold it in Ontario...
                    The best we can get up here is Bacardi 151. I was looking for the strongest, most flavour-neutral spirit I could find. I suppose the end result (190-proof neutral grain spirit) is just a high-proof vodka.

                    Even if they sold it in Ontario, it would probably cost $55.00 to $65CAN for 1.75 L...and if I'm gonna pay THAT much for booze, I want it aged in a barrel on a remote island.

                    1. re: Chandler84

                      Nevermind, you win! ;-) I'm not sure of the exact price here in Georgia, but I remember it being around $25-$30 for a 1.75L bottle when I worked for a liquor store.

                      1. re: Chandler84


                        Which duty free store did you get it in??


                        1. re: Chandler84

                          I don't know if the LCBO has it, but the SAQ in Quebec (a monopolizing 'you need us more than we need you' monster) carries this


                          and you're pretty much spot on (exhorbitant) with the price; $60 for 1.14l, not 1.75!

                          Anyways, I had an old-timer, Italian friend who showed me how to make limoncello with the stuff. Also a tangerine liqueur. Not quite what I was looking for, but with more experimentation, would have eventually gotten something worthwhile.
                          He also went on about making an infusion in Italy with fresh bay leaves. Sounded kinda strange, but he assured me it was delicious. It also makes sense with infusing herbs into alcohol.

                          Good luck and let us know the results!

                          1. re: porker

                            A former neighbour's FIL made shine in Ukraine and flavoured/coloured the liquid with pecan scraps.
                            It was outstanding. It got your attention though.


                            1. re: Davwud

                              An uncle on my mother's side used to make all kinds of homemade hooch. Not distilled, mind you, but simple fermentation jobbies. He'd make 'potato wine' (asked neighbors to save their potato peelings) or 'apple-jack' with autumn fruit (conveniently 'picked' by hand) and somesuch.
                              Never made it to the bottle - he and friends would scoop it out by the coffee-cup full, right outta the vat (this was the '40s and most everyone here was poor).
                              Then there was the time Mounties stormed our house looking for homemade wine - looked as they might, never found it. My dad (rest his soul) pretended to be using the 5 gallon 'night pail' (this was the '40s before widespread indoor plumbing here) and was sitting on the homemade wine...

                      2. Whatever you do............DO NOT SMOKE! A lighted flame around that stuff, even if it is in your throat, will cause you to be the Great Flambini!
                        Otherthan that, have fun!

                        1. back in college days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the answer was clear

                          RHINO PUNCH

                          grain alcohol and whatever other fluid you can get your hands on, until you have a full garbage can of the stuff

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: thew

                            I thought it was called Purple Jesus....

                            1. re: porker

                              i dunno - felt more like a rhino,from what i remember

                          2. I can get Everclear across the Ohio river and I make what I like to dub "Kentucky Cognac". Take 1 C of alcohol and pour it into a glass pitcher. Turn a shot glass upside down and place on the bottom (or use anything that rises above the surface of the alcohol). Place a piece of whole citrus (oranges and lemons work best) on top of the shot glass making sure that the skin doesn't touch the alcohol. Cover the pitcher and wait 1 week. After a week remove the citrus (which by this time has completed its sweat of oils). Add 1 C of simle syrup. I've been told it lasts a week. I've never had any left over after my friends find out I've made a batch so I can't vouch for its longevity.

                            Enjoy responsibly. Or go wild, I'm not your mother.

                            1. D'oh! Double post edit. Now I've gotta do a shot.

                              1. As one-eyed Dell used to say drinking hootch after hours of laying patch up in the High Sierra, "Don't light no match".

                                1. I often make Apple Pie. 1gal apple cider, 3tbsp vanilla extract, 4 cinnamon sticks, 2cups sugar. Bring to a simmer until stcks turn dark . Add 1one 16oz bottle of apple juice and let cool over night. Add entire bottle of 190. Stir and fill into quart size mason jars. Turns out to be about 80 to 100 proof depnding on how much did cider you add.