Liqueurs are as important to a cocktail recipe as the liquor is to making a drink. For those not in the know, a liqueur is defined as a spirit containing added flavors and sugars, usually from fruits, nuts or herbs. Though liqueurs can be enjoyed neat, over ice, or can be used in cooking and baking, more often it’s found in a mixed drink. Yes it’s versatile, but there are dozens of different types which if you’re trying to create your own cocktail bar, it could add up to a lot of money. What do you do? How about making them yourself?
Trust me, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. If you can fry an egg, you can definitely make your own liqueur. Plus, a benefit in homemade liqueurs is that you can get creative with it. Add some rosemary to that simple syrup base. Maybe toss some matcha in that coffee liqueur. Go crazy with it. Well…maybe not swedish chef crazy, but you get the point.
Here are two recipes that I’ve tested and were very useful for any home bar.
The first is the one and only amaretto. This almond flavored liqueur is a-must have for classic cocktails like a “Godfather,” or can be found in contemporary sweeter drinks such as an “Orgasm.” Originally recipes call for almonds but many contemporary brands use pits from peaches or apricots because they all produce benzaldehyde–the same compound that makes that bitter almond aroma.
To make it an easy project I just used almond extract which worked perfectly. The intent is not to mimic big brand amarettos but to make your own, but as I said earlier, play around with the ingredients. I added vanilla extract to the mix in hopes of brightening up the sweeter notes that come from the liqueur.
- ½ cups of water
- 1 cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of almond extract
- 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
- 2 cups of vodka
- Combine and bring to boil water, sugars, almond extract and vanilla extract. Lower heat to a simmer and mix thoroughly for 8-10 minutes.
- Turn off the flame and give 10-15 minutes to cool the ingredients.
- After cooled down mix ingredients with vodka and funnel the ingredients into a glass container that can be sealed.
The second recipe is a ginger liqueur that adds a bite to any cocktail. This one will take a little longer than the amaretto, but the longer the wait the more likely the ginger flavors soak into the liqueur. Recipes found online vary, so if you have a clue with how creatively different you want the liqueur compared to store bought ones, you can easily reproduce it. I was hoping for something more fruit forward while retaining that ginger punch, so I chose brandy for the liquor and added grapefruit and oranges for the zest. Here’s a tip, if you want more of a ginger edge double the amount of ginger used, and extend the time that the ginger is in contact with the liqueur.
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1½ cups of water
- 1 cup of ginger
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1 orange
- 1 grapefruit
- 1 ½ cups of brandy
- Peel the skin off the 1 cup of ginger. You can use a vegetable peeler but using the back of a spoon works even better. Don’t believe me? Check out the video.
- Combine and bring to a boil sugar, water, vanilla extract, ginger. Then let it simmer in low a lower heat until ginger is soft. This could take 15-25 minutes. Once it is soft turn off the flame and let it cool down.
- While that’s simmering zest the grapefruit and the orange. Then pour the zest into a glass container that’s sealable.
- Pour the brandy and the mixture you’ve just cooked into the glass container that already has the zest inside.
- Seal the container and wait week.
- After waiting so patiently for a week strain the ingredients out from the liqueur. Coffee filters worked well for filtering. Now it’s ready for use.