Some of our favourite liqueurs are fruit-based. Just think of Cointreau (orange), crème de cassis (blackcurrant) and cherry brandy. The good news is that fruit liqueurs are simple to make and almost any fruit or combination of fruits can be used for flavouring. All you need is fruit, alcohol and sugar. Oh and some patience!
Vodka and gin are the most popular choices. If you use vodka, the fruit will be the dominant flavour; alternatively, gin will bring its own taste to the finished liqueur.
Whether you have bought the fruit or picked it yourself, wash it well before use.
- Hard fruits like peaches or pears, need to be diced and the stone or core removed.
- Berries with a distinct skin can be left in the freezer for a few hours before using to encourage the skins to burst open to allow their flavour to escape more easily.
- There is no need to remove the stones from cherries.
You need a large lidded glass jar that should be carefully washed or sterilised before use.
Place about 450g prepared fruit in the jar. Cover with about 1 litre of 80 proof vodka. Replace the lid and store in a cool dark area for up to 1 month. Stir weekly. During this time the fruit soaks up the alcohol and the alcohol absorbs the flavours of the fruit.
Drain the liquid through a colander into a clean container, squeezing the pulp to extract every last drop of juice. (You may like to use the left-over fruit as a boozy topping for ice cream or pudding!) Return the liquid to the lidded container and add about 350g granulated sugar. Shake well. Leave in a cool dark place for about 3 months to mature.
Taste before bottling.
- If you find your liqueur too sweet, add a little more vodka: water on 1:1 ratio.
- Alternatively, if your liqueur makes you screw up your face with its sharpness, add some more sugar and leave to age a little longer.
- If the alcohol content is too high add extra water or fruit juice and sugar; if it’s too low, add sugar and vodka.
To perfect your liqueur-making, experiment a little. After the first straining, store the liquid in a carefully-labelled (e.g. first straining) bottle. Return the fruit to the original jar, layering it with sugar. Tightly cover and leave for a few days so the sugar can draw the alcoholic juices out of the fruit. Strain off into another labelled (e.g. second straining) bottle. Repeat this process as many times as you have patience for or until the fruit has given up most of its goodness and looks withered. Then you can begin mixing the bottles, blending and sampling the products. Bear in mind that the first liquid drawn off will be the most alcoholic and the final the sweetest and least alcoholic. When you are satisfied, bottle and enjoy.
A simple lemon liqueur
- 6 lemons
- 400 ml granulated sugar
- 800 ml 80 proof vodka
Place the sugar in a large jar with the zest from the lemons. Pour on the vodka, shake, and leave, tightly-lidded, in a cool dry place for about a month. Strain into a bottle.