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Homemade Apricot Brandy/Liqueur?

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So, as someone who's only been into the whole cocktail thing for a few months, I've been gradually building a home bar based primarily on recipes that I want to try as well as spirits that seem versatile. Apricot liqueur/brandy seems to pop up quite often in recipes I want to try. The problem is that at least in the DC suburbs, Hiram Walker and Bols are the only two types of apricot brandy available. Marie Brizzard Apry and Rothman and Wells get a lot of love on these boards, but I haven't seen either around here, though there are a couple of places in DC that I plan on looking in the next week or two. Whether or not I find those products, I'm thinking about making my own.

Here's the first recipe that comes up for a Google search:

1/2 cup(s) sugar
2 tablespoon(s) honey
3 cup(s) brandy
2 pound(s) dried apricots

Directions

Make the brandy mixture: Combine 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, and honey in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Allow syrup to cool slightly and combine with brandy and fruit in a large, sealable jar. Store in a cool, dark place for 4 to 8 weeks.
Strain the brandy: Line a strainer with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth and strain the brandy. Discard apricots or save for another use. Transfer the brandy to a clean container and store for up to 1 year.

So, to those who make their own, how does that recipe sound? Anything you'd change? I was going to pick up a bottle of St. Remy VSOP today (on sale at $8.99) and set about making some tomorrow night. I suppose this might be better with fresh, ripe apricots, but they don't start showing up until late spring usually, and even then, they're usually not that great up here.

Also, I suppose it's worth asking whether it's more preferable to use vodka as the base spirit. I see a lot of apricot brandy recipes that use vodka and have no brandy in them, which seems odd, but perhaps it's better?

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  1. although supposedly neutral in taste, vodka is actually really bitter and needs a LOT of sugar to overcome this....brandy in contrast does not, and often works better with fruits when making a liqueur. if you make liqueurs with vodka they often have a "medicinal" flavour too, unless you add loads of sugar (which then makes them too sweet)...raspberry and cherry liqueurs often suffer from this....i would always choose brandy over vodka, although some fruits work really well with vodka (cranberry is one to mention here- its natural acidity and bitterness more than overcomes the bitterness of vodka without needing much sweetener)...apricot is a bit too delicate for vodka really, so brandy is chosen instead

    2 Replies
    1. re: scotrob

      Vodka is bitter? Never heard that one before. What vodka do you mean? I have tasted over a hundred vodkas, and none that I would call bitter. Except maybe some real cheap nasty stuff, but that was more just bad ingredients and poor distillation, leaving traces of heads n tails.

      1. re: JMF

        it's hard to explain what I mean; vodka drunk neat is not bitter of course, but if you try to make liqueurs with vodka (even the decent stuff like Finlandia) you get a bitterness coming through which you dont with brandy or rum, a kind of industrial ethanol aroma and flavour...and thus you need a lot of sugar to mask this with some fruits.

        @The Big Crunch: even if you like R&W I would still suggest you make a small batch of your own, and compare the two. You might be surprised how good the homemade stuff tastes. I have used the following recipe with excellent results; the partial cooking brings out the flavour of the fruit so even if the fruit quality isnt great (e.g. too acid, not very sweet or flavoursome) then it still works well:

        Ingredients
        1 1/4 pounds ripe apricots (halved with pits reserved, some pits cracked open)
        2 cups fruity white wine (such as riesling or sauvignon blanc)
        1 cup Sugar

        1 1/2 cups brandy or vodka

        Directions

        Place the wine, sugar and apricots in a large non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer 1 or 2 minutes covered then remove from heat and allow to cool substantially..then add the brandy or vodka then remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid, and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Place the pan in a cool, dark place and let the fruit macerate for 3 to 5 days.

        Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids. If the liquid is cloudy, strain it through several thicknesses of paper coffee filters or cheesecloth. Pour the liqueur into a clean bottle and close tightly. The brandy will keep for 6 months.

    2. I actually found some of the RW a while back, so I probably won't be going through the trouble of making my own :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: The Big Crunch

        The Rothman & Wells is probably the best apricot liqueur on the market.

      2. To add, I would skip the sugar and replace with honey, and cut back the water to 1/2-1 cup.

        Also, make sure container is filled to top and all fruit is submerged.

        I would go for two months infusion with dried apricots. Also shake the container once a week.

        Eat the apricots over ice cream.

        Vodka is fine if all you want is apricot & honey flavor. Using brandy brings in more flavor.