Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Making Liqueur

In my last blog, I talked about adding an alcoholic spirit to wine to increase the alcoholic content. But one can also add juice, sugar, and other flavorings to a spirit to make a liqueur. Only the act of distilling is illegal, but if you purchase an already distilled alcoholic spirit and convert it into a liqueur, it is legal so long as you don’t sell it.

Let me back up and say that a spirit is a wine or beer that that been distilled in an attempt to capture only the alcohol, and it is completely dry with no sugar in it. Examples of this include vodka, rum, tequila, gin, brandy, whiskey, and others. A liqueur is a spirit in which flavoring and sugar has been added to it, such as schnapps, Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and others. All liqueurs start off as a spirit.

It isn’t hard to find liqueur recipes on the internet. Some of them are quite simple. My grandfather used to take vodka and mix it with hazelnut syrup that you would use in coffee, and he would call it Frangelico. Some are a little more complex.

According to, the basic recipe for a general fruit liqueur is as follows:

1 lb. (450 g) berries or fruit
3 cups (710 ml) 80-proof vodka (or 1.5 cup pure grain alcohol + 1.5 cup water)
1 1/4 cup (300 ml) granulated sugar

Rinse the fruit or berries. Fruit must be cut into small pieces. Place berries or fruit in a container, add vodka. Cap and store in a cool, dark place, stir once a week for 2 - 4 weeks. Strain through metal colander. Transfer the unsweetened liqueur to an ageing container (glass bottle or container with tight cap). To 3 cups (710) ml unsweetened liqueur add 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) granulated sugar. Let age for at least three months. Pour carefully the clear liqueur to a new bottle. Add more sugar if necessary.

The fruit used for liqueur making can be used as deserts: mix with sugar and use with ice-cream.

Storage of liqueurs
The flavor of almost all liqueurs improves during storage. Fruit and berry liqueurs should be stored for at least 6 months for maximum taste. Some lemon liqueurs (e.g. Limoncello) should not be stored for a long time.

Sugar content
Liqueurs should contain approximately 1 cup sugar per 3 cups finished liqueur (300-350 g sugar per liter). If your liqueur is too sweet, add a mixture of vodka and water (1:1).

Sweetness change during storage
Sugar is converted to glucose and fructose which are simple sugar types with less sweet flavor. Therefore sugar must sometimes be added to homemade liqueurs after storage for some months.

Alcohol content
The alcohol content should normally be 20-30% for fruit and berry liqueurs, except for citrus liqueurs which might have higher alcohol content. If your liqueur has too strong alcohol taste, add some water (or fruit juice) and sugar. If your liqueur has too low alcohol content, add vodka and sugar.

Liqueurs of fruit mixtures:
Don't mix more than two types of fruits or berries in liqueurs. You can make successful mixtures of bitter berries with mild ones, like blueberries and cranberries. If you mix more types you might end up with a sweet-sour drink with no interesting flavor.

Other liqueur making websites:

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