Making Liqueurs

Liqueurs were often made by distilling alcohol that has been flavored with fruit, cream, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts and bottled with added sugar. Distilling alcohol at home is not permitted, however liqueurs can be legally produced by blending fruit, herb and spice infusions together.

Liqueurs may be classified into a few groups:

  • Herbal liqueurs - Dom Bénédictine, Chatreuse, Goldwasser. These are strong spirits around 40% alcohol, 400 g/l sugar. Infusions are made with 50-55% alcohol. It is difficult to generalize the amount of dry roots, herbs and spices for an herb liqueur. People in different countries exhibit different likings, for example in Austria or Germany there is a preference for very aromatic and bitter liqueurs which call for 100-300 g of herbs to 10 l of product. In other countries little herbs are added, about 10-50 g/10 l which results in a more subtle flavor.
  • Bitter liqueurs - Stondsdorfer, Boonekamp, 32-40%. These are very bitter liqueurs and it is improbable that a person will take them in a large quantity. A drink or two is taken before a meal as it is considered an herbal remedy, an aperitif that stimulates the appetite and helps digest the food.
  • Fruit liqueurs - Cherry Liqueur, Cherry-Brandy, Cassis, Maraschino, Peter Heering Cherry Liqueur. Fruit liqueurs contain less alcohol, 25- 35%. Liqueurs made from citrus fruit fit into this group, for example Cointreau.
  • Liqueurs with a distinctive, original flavor - Amaretto almond liqueur, Kahlua and Tia Maria coffee liqueurs. Those liqueurs contain about 25-32% alcohol.

Herbal Liqueurs

These are sweet and strong liqueurs averaging around 400 g sugar/l and 40% alcohol. Bitter herbal vodkas may not appeal to most of us, however, the large amount of sugar that is added to liqueurs transforms the spirit into something completely different and delicious.

1. Take herbs/spices and macerate for 2 weeks with 50% alcohol. In most cases you will be using dry herbs which are known to retain a lot of alcohol. It is a good habit to create aromatic and herb infusions in the ratio of 1 part dry herbs to 10 parts of alcohol. For 10 g dry herbs take 100 ml of alcohol. After straining you are not going to obtain 100 ml of infusion as the herbs are holding quite a lot of alcohol. You can compensate for that by:

  • Adding 50% more alcohol, eg. around 150 ml 50% alcohol and 10 g of dry herbs OR
  • Making two infusions: the first one with 100 ml alcohol, 10 g dry herbs. Macerate 2 weeks, strain the liquid.
  • The second infusion: add 50 ml alcohol to the same herbs, macerate for 2 weeks, strain the liquid.
  • Combine both infusions together.

You should obtain about 100 ml infusion and each 10 ml corresponds to 1 gram of dry herbs.

2. Such an infusion becomes your base material for making a liqueur. You may create your own favorite combinations. Usually you will need 30-40 ml (3-4%) of such an infusion for making 1 liter of liqueur. The rest will be sugar syrup 73%, 400 ml (40%), and 525 ml (52.5%) 75% alcohol, other ingredients and possibly some water to bring the liqueur to the 1 liter mark. The strength of such liqueur is 40% alcohol.

3. Bottle and age. The older it is, the better it becomes.

4. Always label every bottle and remember to date it. Keep detailed records.

Fruit liqueurs and citrus fruit liqueurs follow the same rules which were presented in making fruit vodkas. The main difference is that liqueurs contain around 40% sugar (400 g/l).

Liqueurs With a Distinctive Original Flavor

Most of those liqueurs, such as caraway, mint and anise are popular in less sweet vodka versions. Others like cacao or coffee liqueurs are made using a typical infusion/vodka making process:

  1. Making cacao or coffee infusion. Take 100 g ground cacao or coffee beans and macerate for 2 weeks in 1000 ml of 50% alcohol. Filter and bottle.
  2. Use as a base material for making a liqueur. Follow recipes.

Some people like caraway more than others. Caraway seed is added to rye bread, sauerkraut, pickles and it has a peculiar flavor. Caraway makes very original vodka but it absolutely shines in caraway liqueur known as Alasch.

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