Dana and I don’t really drink too much. Because of that, we’ve got stuff in our liquor cabinet that’s been there for a long time and we haven’t planned to use in the foreseeable future. Repeating the mantra “waste not, want not” over and over in my head, we have started to turn some of this excess booze into some homemade flavored liquors. This year we’ve done small batches of several things, but next year we may take some of the lessons we’ve learned and try to ramp up to larger batches for gift-giving and drunk-getting.
How do you infuse liquor? The “recipe” is really simple: Take some booze. Cram flavorful stuff in there. Let it sit for a while. Strain the liquour out. The hard part is finding combinations that work, and deciding how long to let the mixtures sit before straining.
Here’s a scorecard of the things we’ve tried:
Stuff a pint jar with pitted sweet cherries. Top off with Rum. Let it sit in the pantry for about two weeks. I mentioned in a post a while back that this rum made a great mohito, but the reality is that I wish we had used vodka instead. We just don’t use rum enough (which, admittedly, is why we had such a big jug of it begging to be used). The color was a great deep red and the flavor was very cherry-full. I’m told that tart cherries work very well too, so if we can get our hands on some of those we may give it a shot.
Final Grade: B
We had a watermelon sitting around that we weren’t eating and it was quickly becoming over-ripe. So I chopped it up, stuffed some chunks into a pint jar and covered with vodka. We didn’t start with the best watermelon so the final product is probably not as good as it could be. The pink color of the vodka is great and the flavor does go very well with many mixers, but there is a certain off-ripe bitterness to it that you can definitely taste if you drink it straight. A little bit of simple syrup goes a long way to fixing this problem. I am encouraged to try this again next year with a better melon.
Final Grade: C
Like many of these other applications, we had some green seedless grapes laying around that weren’t being eaten as quickly as they needed. I cut several handfuls of them in half, stuffed them into a pint jar and topped with Absolut. The final product had a very feint greenish hue and had a good grape flavor. It was a little bit bitter, but mixed extremely well. We liked it a lot with some simple syrup and club soda.
Final Grade: B+
When pick-your-own season started up, we were covered in apples. I took two 8-oz jars, put a single diced jonathan apple in each, and topped with bourbon. After sitting for a few weeks, shaking occasionally, I put it into a little flip-top bottle. The resulting liquor is much smoother than it was going in, but the apple flavor is very muted and subtle. I was hoping for something a little bit more obvious. Oh well. Next year I plan to make a much larger batch of this stuff, with different varieties of apples and a few other changes.
Final Grade: B
Homemade Limoncello and Apple Bourbon
The most complicated recipe on this list, Limoncello is made by steeping the lemon peels in alcohol instead of the flesh of the fruit. Then you finish it off with some simple syrup to give the classic sweet flavor. Most recipes call for a grain alcohol or an over-proof vodka, but we had regular 80 proof Absolut on hand so that’s what we used. Lemons are something we’ve had in surplus lately; many of our canning recipes call for lemon juice and I try to use fresh lemons instead of bottled lemon juice when possible (I usually go extra on the quantity, to make sure the pH is safe). Instead of juicing them and tossing them, I’ve been squeezing them AND peeling them before the final trip to the big compost pile in the sky (in my back yard). I’m told that a similar process is used to make home-made Triple Sec, and using something besides vodka could give us something closer to a home-made Grand Marnier. Maybe we’ll try something like that next. The final product has a great lemony flavor and a taste comparable to a store-bought variety or better.
Final Grade: A