Neutral grain spirits for making digestifs
I'd like to make a few of the digestifs from the projects here on chowhound, but I've had some trouble finding Everclear in my state, and I need to start soon. I do have the option of buying an NGS called Graves Grain Alcohol, but it's 190 proof whereas Everclear 151 is, well, 151 proof.
I've scoured the net, and the boards here, and I did see some advice pertaining to making limoncello, suggesting that the infusion time be lessened, for instance from 4 weeks to 1 week.
With the digestifs recipes, which call for around 6 days using Everclear, should I try, say, 3 days with the higher proof Graves?
Also, with the digestifs recipes, the infused Everclear is diluted with a certain amount of simple syrup --would I increase the amount of simple syrup to get a "proper-ish" final proof for the digestif, or will that make it too sweet? Are there other things to dilute it with?
Clearly a newbie to liqueur making here!
Also, I'm wondering if anyone has used Graves or other neutral grain spirits near the 190-proof mark --I may have to try finding the highest-proof vodka instead.
I made those and they are fantastic! I will tell you that I used the Everclear and thought that next time I would use a mix of Vodka and Everclear as there was a sharp, (not unpleasent but a touch rugged) spike of alcohol on the finish. I did use more simple syrup but found that it made it a touch too sweet so I would look for the highest proof Vodka before cranking up the abv level.
Good luck and you might ask a retailer in your area if they can order the Everclear for you.
Everclear is only 151 proof in certain areas. Here (Colorado) the Everclear I use for Limoncello is 190 proof as well. I generally steep the zest for about a week in 190 proof Everclear.
I don't think you'll see a drastic difference in infusion times for 190 versus 151, but you might want to shorten them slightly. When it comes to simple syrup addition you have two things that you are trying to accomplish.
1. Reducing the proof down to a target for a finished product
To adjust a recipe from 151 to 190 what you need to do is calculate the target alcohol by volume in the finished product. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 750 ml bottle of 151 and the final volume after addition of simple syrup is 1.5 liters then you've diluted the alcohol down to 37.75 percent or 75.5 proof. To get 75.5 proof from 1 750 ml bottle of 190 proof you would need a final volume of 1887.4 ml (initial volume x proof as % / target proof in percent), so you would need to add 1137.4 ml of simple syrup.
Now the second thing you need take into account is the sweetness. If you add more of the same concentration of simple syrup to dilute a higher proof starter down to your target then you will end up with something that is too sweet. So you will need to do a similar calculation on sweetness. So if the initial recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar (dry) per 1.5 liters just make sure that you have 1 cup of sugar per 1.5 liters in your final volume.
And of course, make sure to taste.
Thanks to all these excellent replies! Between these, a bit of judicious googling, some actual book-reading, and the generous advice of the seriously clever liqueur guy A. J. Rathbun (author of Lucious Liqueurs), I ended up gifting several handsome bottles of orange infused spirits. I haven't decided whether to call it elixir, cordial, or digestif, but it tastes real good straight from the freezer after a good second-jule-day dinner.
Mr. Rathbun advised me to add my sweetener earlier than just before I bottled it, and that seemed to work out well. Next time I will adjust the sweet a little backwards as I found the finished product just a bit too sweet. I really like Josh's suggestions for thinking about the ratio of sweet to liquor.
Again, thanks all!