Ingredients for Making Liqueurs
Alcohol can be found in any spirit shop, bottle shop, etc. Not all proofs, e.g. 190° alcohol, are sold legally in every state, and specifically not at all in Canada. For this reason each recipe can be made using three different strength alcohol's; 190° proof, 153° proof and 100° proof.
190° proof (95%) grain alcohol and other lower proof alcohol's (non-flavored) are generally used as the base in each recipe. If you use vodka, it is best to use vodka that has been manufactured in the United States. It is required by law to be colorless, odorless and tasteless. United States’ made vodka and grain alcohol are superior to other bases—gin, rum, whiskey, etc.—as they will not inflict unwanted flavors upon the final product. Sometimes the flavor of the base is desirable. Vodka that is imported from other countries does not have to comply with this law. Each recipe can be made using different strength bases; usable bases are given in the recipe.
Note: The correct ratio of alcohol to water determines the proof of the final product. Each recipe can be made with 190, 153 or 100 proof alcohol. I have included these adjustments for each recipe in the book. Why three different base alcohols?...simply for convenience and availability, i.e. 190 proof alcohol (Everclear) is not sold everywhere.
The purer the water, the less obvious any unwanted flavors will be. Distilled water is the best and should be used at all times. Tap water can be used, but I strongly recommend against its use as it contains countless impurities, either natural or man-inflicted.
Common household white granulated sugar (sucrose) is generally used in the form of simple syrup. Simple syrup dissolves quickly and easily—neither alcohol nor water dissolves quantities of sugar readily.
- Simple syrup - 1 part water to 2 parts sugar
example: 2 cups water to 4 cups sugar
Use the same measuring device to measure both the water and sugar.
Mix sugar and water together in a covered saucepan. Slowly heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Keep below boiling. Sugar is completely dissolved when the mixture becomes crystal clear (20-30 minutes). Do not boil as this degrades the syrup’s stability and causes crystallization—if it does boil, remove it immediately; it still can be used. To avoid boiling altogether, make syrup in a double boiler. Store syrup in clean, airtight bottles at room temperature. Do not let it become contaminated or it will spoil—keep your fingers out! The syrup will keep for 1 to 2 years. Makes approximately 3 cups (24 ounces or 710 milliliters).
Brown sugar can be used as a sweetener and for its flavor. Honey that is light colored, usually clover, can also be used. Dark honeys tend to predominate a liqueur’s flavor. None of these sweeteners are used in this book.
- Whole flavorings: fruits, nuts, herbs, etc.—fresh or dried\
- Concentrates and syrups
- Oils and extracts
Whole flavorings require a lot of preparation and are holistic. Maturing time can be from a few months to as much as a year or more. They require filtering; a major disadvantage. Whole flavorings usually color the liqueur adequately. Quality materials are very important here; if they do not taste good or if you do not like their flavor, do not use them. The materials used directly affect the final flavor of the liqueur.
Concentrates and syrups are easy to use but are harder to obtain. They require less maturing time than whole flavorings but more than oils and extracts. Filtering may be required. These are not used in this book.
Oils and extracts are the easiest of all flavorings to use. Some can be purchased locally and others abroad. There are limitations as to the varieties available. Maturing time can be as little as a few days or less. No filtering is required, which is a major plus. You can make these liqueurs over and over again and get the same results every time. This does not always hold true for whole flavorings, concentrates and syrups. These liqueurs usually have little or no color, thus requiring a colorant. Essential oils are very potent and should be handled with care. With some flavors, a fraction of a drop can ruin the entire batch (mints are one of these). Make sure that you use edible or internally consumable oils and extracts. There are some oils and extracts that should NOT be taken internally—be careful; read the label!
- ¾ ounce alcohol
- ¼ ounce water
- 1 tablespoon powdered 100% cocoa
Shake all ingredients together in a small jar. Macerate for 2 to 3 days shaking often. Strain through a wetted coffee filter and store in a small, airtight jar. Keeps for years.
- ¼ cup ground rich coffee beans (Mountain Sumatra Gayo)
- 2 ounces water
- 1½ ounces alcohol
Mix all ingredients in a jar, and macerate for 2 days in a cool place; strain through a wetted coffee filter and store in an airtight jar. Keeps for years. Note: Using different coffees will give slightly different flavors.
- 1 drop spearmint oil
- 50 drops alcohol
Add alcohol to a small jar and then oil; shake vigorously to dissolve the oil. Store in a small airtight jar. You may want to quadruple the recipe. Keeps for years.
Note: Alcohol used in the previous extracts is 190° proof. If this is not available to you, use the highest proof you can get.
Food coloring - works very well for coloring liqueurs.
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 ounce water
In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil; stir once with a metal spoon. Continue boiling the mixture over medium heat; it will soon start to turn brown and smoke in approximately 10 minutes, dark brown in 20 minutes, and black in 30 minutes. After approximately 30 minutes, the mixture will look like a black rubber-like mass of “lava”; at this point, it will begin to rise, shooting out thick black smoke; when this happens, stir the mixture down for 1 minute. Make sure that you have good ventilation because the smoke will roll, a lot of it—and make sure that there are no distractions! Immediately add:
- 1½ cups water (pre-measured at room temperature);
Stir and press out the mass to extract the colorant with the back of a spoon and scrape the sides down for 2 minutes; remove from heat and let cool. After approximately 15 minutes, the mixture will be warm and ready to filter; wet 10 coffee filters and set aside. Place a coffee filter into a large funnel on top of a collecting jar. Fill half with mixture; draw up the sides of the filter and twist and press out as much liquid as possible. If the filter should break, envelop it with another filter and continue; once all the liquid is pressed out, throw the mass away and continue filtering the rest of the mixture. Store caramel color in an airtight bottle at room temperature; keeps indefinitely. Makes approximately 8 ounces. Caramel color has a slightly bitter taste; it is unnoticeable in quantities used. You may want to use an old saucepan, as this mess is difficult to clean up. The pigment concentration will vary slightly if the instructions are not followed closely; this does not cause any harm except that you will have to adjust the coloring in the liqueur recipe. 125 drops caramel color = 1 teaspoon.
Colorants can be left out of a recipe; but without them, you will loose visual appeal.
Glycerin - is vegetable-fat by-product that is added to liqueurs to enhance their viscosity and smoothness (body). Glycerin is available in drug stores—use food grade; using U.S.P. grade is okay (it is not as pure). This also can be left out of the recipe if you want. Glycerin can be bought at drug stores and craft stores (used in cake frosting).
Oils and extracts - can be found in drug/pharmacy, grocery, nature, health food, specialty, craft and natural healing stores. Brands to look for are Lorann Oils, Frontier - oils, Aura Cacia - oils, Schilling - extracts.