sauced for the holidays: boozy infusions and DIY liqueurs
October 24, 2016 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Infuse Your Booze! Don't let the gift-giving season catch you unawares; whip up a big batch of homemade liqueur this week and all you'll have to do is wait. Some of my tried-and-true favorites under the fold.

🍸 Amaretto: Perfect to bestow upon a buddy along with a bottle of homemade sour.
🍸 Apricot liqueur: For a taste of pure summer in the darkest depths of winter.
🍸 Cherry bounce: A favorite of George Washington, mine, and (hopefully) yours.
🍸 Ginger-infused vodka: Lovely and warming to sip on its own but downright ambrosial when paired with a copper mug, ice, a splash of soda, and a lime wheel.
🍸 Grandma's Apple Pie 'Moonshine': Apple juice, apple cider, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, Everclear, and vodka. Just under 20% ABV, 100% chuggable.
🍸 Kahlua: Instant coffee required (yes really), vanilla beans optional.
🍸 Orgeat: A delightful sweet almond liqueur for the tiki drink lover on your list.
🍸 Vegan Irish Cream: Enough said.
🍸 Yuletide Spiced Brandy: Chock full of all the best warming spices - throw a couple pods of green cardamom in, too, if you have them. Tastes like Christmas.

posted by amnesia and magnets (36 comments total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
Strawberry Whiskey (make in the summer when strawberries are cheap and drink whenever, but in the winter it tastes like summer)

1 lb strawberries
Cheap whiskey (bourbon, drinkable, but not strong flavored. I like Ancient Age)
2 quart mason jars

Cut the stems off the strawberries. Put half in each jar. Cover with whiskey.
Let sit for two weeks.
Strain and bottle. Store somewhere dark and cool (if you don't the flavors change from fresh, jammy strawberry flavors to almost a strawberry/raisin flavor)

Infused alcohols make life worth living.
posted by Seamus at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

On a friend's advice, I put some lemon peels in a sealed jar of vodka nearly 2 years ago. I keep meaning to bring it out and try it but over time I've become more and more afraid of what my laziness may have wrought.

Same friend is a great experimenter and lover of cocktails. She bought herself a portable woodchip burner/smoker so we can enjoy applewood smoked drinks (super tasty). One of her early trials was making and infusing her own gin with some kind of herb which turned tasting rather like a certain sexual act on a vagina-owning person which we do not refer to in polite company, but in raucous and rude company refer to as "C**t Gin" (for notes: quite delicate, slightly musky, slightly mineral, a little salty, some faint hints of the ocean).
posted by fight or flight at 1:49 PM on October 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

This is relevant to my interests.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wrote a little strawberry cilantro gin tutorial for The Billfold a few years ago, in case anyone needs more step by step instructions on how to put stuff in alcohol.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:53 PM on October 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I once visited some friends in Northern Ireland who bought poitin by the gallon "from a farm" for these sorts of experiments.
posted by lagomorphius at 1:57 PM on October 24, 2016

My mom gave me a big bag of vanilla beans from Tahiti a couple years ago. I did the usual things with them but making my own vanilla extract with cheap vodka was underwhelming. Not very strong, took a long time to infuse.

Than a friend who has his own still (it's a long story) gave me a jar of pure ethanol. (Note: technically not pure as 100% ethanol is sufficiently hygroscopic to pull water in out of the air so it's no longer 100% pure)

A vanilla bean infuses into a jar of that in about 2 days. It's amazing. It turns a much, much darker colour.

So my advice on making infused alcohol is to find a source of basically illegally concentrated alcohol, infuse that and then dilute it.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on October 24, 2016

We makeabout 70 different flavours of our own house gin for my bars. Roquefort gin is surprisingly tasty.
posted by conifer at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yay! I went on a serious liqueur kick about ten years ago and was cranking bottles out all summer. I don't drink too much, though, so I ended up having to get rid of a lot by giving out to friends (they had NO problem with that) and still had a couple bottles I had to ditch years later because I could not remember what they were.

I do still make limoncello, though; because a) it's easy, b) it's my go-to house drink for "I have had a nasty shock at work today", and c) I have a sorbet recipe that uses it so I have a prayer of using it up. I found this web site run by a guy who has made it his life's mission to perfect his limoncello recipe, and have followed it the past couple batches.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:09 PM on October 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

No sous-vide recipes? Shorten some of those longer cook times down to mere hours. Example: Sous Vide Limoncello Vodka Cocktail.
posted by christopherious at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

"So my advice on making infused alcohol is to find a source of basically illegally concentrated alcohol, infuse that and then dilute it."

I have found the higher strength Everclear 190-proof/95% ABV is very good for infusions and I am fairly certain that 95% is about as high a concentration as is practically possible.
posted by bz at 2:31 PM on October 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a big jar of nocino steeping in the corner, made from unripe walnuts I scrounged from trees in a local formal gardens. Walnuts don't ripen here, which means this is the only good use to which they might ever have been put.

I also have a few bottles of sloe gin on the go. We make that regularly as blackthorn grows in so many hedgerows in Ireland. We've done blackberry brandy, too, which was too sweet for me. The thing I love most about about infusions is how many recipes are based on odd berries and fruits you can forage.
posted by distorte at 2:40 PM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cherrybounce has always been a favorite of mine.
posted by cherrybounce at 2:57 PM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I cannot recommend Szechuan peppercorn vodka highly enough, for anyone who's got a few in their kitchen.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:03 PM on October 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if this counts as an "infused liqueur", but I once tried popping a couple of habanero peppers in a bottle of rum. I got a definite (and very good) taste of the pepper before the heat overwhelmed me. I ended up not ever being able to finish the bottle.

Lessons learned: (1) seed the pepper first, and (2) start with flesh of one pepper and see how it goes - maybe even test with a little bit of rum in a small jar, and add it back to the bottle to taste.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:29 PM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been making this blackberry whisk(e)y to great Christmas gift giving acclaim the last bunch of years.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:09 PM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Storing leftover peeled and sliced ginger in a mason jar of vodka is a great way to get two bangs for your buck.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:36 PM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

That "whip up" link went somewhere shady on my phone FYI
posted by beandip at 5:17 PM on October 24, 2016

[With OP permission, removed the link to liqueurweb, which seems to be giving some folks spammy redirects.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:25 PM on October 24, 2016

Everclear or vodka, neutral spirits
barbecue wood chips, either toasted or not, depending

two to six weeks

whiskey or vodsky, depending on your preferred nomenclature


toasting the chips decreases the infusion time for the smoky wood esters to leach into the booze, presumably because as the wood chars it expands and the surface area of the wood increases. small bottles, .5 to 1 liter, work best on the same principle, that of increasing the ratio of liquid to wood surface.

less-toasted and charred wood produces something more like an irish whiskey; more smoke produces something more like a kentucky bourbon. Everclear skews to Kentucky as the corn base carries a spicy heat; vodka to Ireland.

Supposedly, harvesting, drying, and toasting random samples of local-to-you moss can bring some of the peat notes of Scotch. Researching potential toxicity of PNW moss varieties has me hung up on this step.

Sadly, I have not found that this particular cast of alcohol-oriented insanity has produced an overall economization in my booze budget. It has introduced novelty to my palate and dismissive eyerolls from my spouse and dear friends. I highly recommend it!
posted by mwhybark at 6:30 PM on October 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

oh yeah and vodka or everclear + juniper and whatever herbs you have laying around is a fine route to gin. the fun, for me, is in the woodchips though.
posted by mwhybark at 6:33 PM on October 24, 2016

I've done jalapeno, habanero, and ghost pepper infusions in bourbon. It makes a great gift.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 9:11 PM on October 24, 2016

I bought a copy of The Drunken Botanist after (I'm pretty sure) reading a recommendation on MetaFilter. It tries to answer the question "what plants have been used in making or flavouring booze"?

(Spoiler: All of the plants.)
posted by Harald74 at 11:52 PM on October 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

While out wandering this past weekend I FINALLY found some sloe berries so this weekends project is to start to make some sloe gin (well I'm going to make sloe vodka). I think I'm also going to take some of the seeds from the berries and start them growing inside. That way I can go back and plant some minibushes next year in a few spots around and have better access to the berries in the future.
posted by koolkat at 5:08 AM on October 25, 2016

Hm, I wonder if those Mason Jars you always see mini jar pies done in would be just the right size for emergency gifting. (You know, the drawer of shelf of things you keep on hand so when you're invited last minute to something that's gifty, you can just pull something out and look like you weren't caught flatfooted.)
posted by Karmakaze at 7:16 AM on October 25, 2016

Okay, so this is a bit outré and against the spirit of hipster artisanship, but... since that amaretto recipe is basically just a basic homemade syrup (water + sugar + almond extract + vanilla extract) added to vodka, is there any reason I couldn't make shelf-stable hazelnut liqueur (a la Frangelico) by adding shop-bought hazelnut syrup to vodka?
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 7:31 AM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Every year, the Siberian folk choir of which I'm a member holds "Vodka Bash." It's a gigantic potluck with as many species of animal on the table as we can source, and lots of drunken revelry. Various members have taken to infusing vodkas in the weeks before the party, and we generally have a good number of novel flavors of infused vodka for toasting. Some greatest hits include:
Vanilla bean and Black peppercorn
Bánh mì: (Cilantro, galangal, keffir lime leaves, thai basil, ginger, lemongrass and jalapeño)
Earl Grey - Just drop the teabags in there for a few days and serve with a squeeze of lemon.
Horseradish & Garlic
Anisette-Lite (star anise, some coffee beans)
Basically anything you like the taste of, you can throw into a bottle of vodka (or everclear) and get some interesting results.
posted by onehalfjunco at 7:58 AM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had never considered this, what a great idea! I think I'm gonna make 1-3 for our annual christmas party. It's a shame this thread is gonna run out before it happens, we may need a Meta post in early January for everyone to report back.
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:27 AM on October 25, 2016

The Hannibal cookbook has a recipie for shittake infused scotch that im itching to try...
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on October 25, 2016

Oh! I just started a batch of amaro on Sunday! It's got: allspice, bay leaf, cassia cinnamon, cinchona bark, corn flower, gentian root, ginger root, lemon grass, lemon zest, marshmallow root, orange zest, sassafras, star anise, vanilla, and wormwood. And probably some other stuff that I can't remember!

I hope it'll be good!
posted by aubilenon at 5:25 PM on October 25, 2016

“You know, the drawer of shelf of things you keep on hand so when you're invited last minute to something that's gifty, you can just pull something out and look like you weren't caught flatfooted.”

Bit by bit you people keep teaching me how to be an adult.
posted by traveler_ at 9:27 PM on October 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh! An infused liqueur that requires no waiting: Polish Fire Vodka:

1.5 cups honey
2/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
.25 tsp nutmeg
8 sticks cinnamon
2 cloves
3 2-inch strips lemon peel
1 bottle (750 mL) vodka

Simmer everything except the vodka in a saucepan for five minutes.
Remove from heat and immediately add vodka.

You can serve it hot, but I love this ice-cold after being stored in the freezer!

posted by Greg Nog at 10:10 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Does Polish Fire Vodka benefit or change at all with aging?
posted by Karmakaze at 2:00 PM on October 26, 2016

is there any reason I couldn't make shelf-stable hazelnut liqueur (a la Frangelico) by adding shop-bought hazelnut syrup to vodka?

Really I suspect combining them at use time would have much the same effect.

Actually, can we think of bitters as use-time infusions?
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does Polish Fire Vodka benefit or change at all with aging?

Not that I've noticed!
posted by Greg Nog at 5:06 PM on October 26, 2016

Look, Greg, not drinking it for a week is hardly an aging metric.
posted by mwhybark at 5:33 PM on October 26, 2016

regarding JIT infusions via syrups and teas:

I actually started the woodchip experiments by making woodchip teas, with water, woodchips toasted and not, and this and that (actual teas, certain savory herbs), the idea being that capillary diffusion increases with molecular motion.

True enough, but the dilution of the host booze, including Everclear, was sufficient to reduce the woody goodness. I presume there may be a long-molecule entanglement effect as well, where the long molecules of both the wood esters and the booze entangle more effectively than if joined by larger smounts of H20, but I for damn sure hain't lookt into it.
posted by mwhybark at 5:40 PM on October 26, 2016

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