intending to make holiday gifts for my loved ones, i really went nuts with liquers this year. once i had about ten luscious little brews going i realized that most of my gift-ees either don’t drink or only like bud light or zima. aaand…it takes more than 2 weeks of macerating to get the most flava out of some of these babies. so, now merry christmas to me i have a LOT of liquers. here are a few of the winners:
the most inspired was a mexican-style chocolate liquer. the idea was to blend “spicy” and ”lovely” into the perfect drink. i took 2 dried chipotles, 3 cinnamon sticks, a nutmeg and several large pinches of raw cacao nibs, a whole vanilla bean and some brandy. into a quart jar. let me tell you. 2 whole chipotles is too much. 1/2 of one would be just right for me. experiment according to your own taste.
the most boring but truly versatile and also drinkable was ruby slippers. very easy. take a whole bag of frozen raspberries. blend with enough vodka to fill a 1/2 gallon jar. wait. strain. it is brilliantly red. vanilla bean is a bonus here, as is cinnamon. this is blendable too.
the most fancypants liquer i made was chestnut. i had read in the ny times(dining) that italian chestnut liquer was over a hundred dollars a bottle and thought
“screw that, i’ll make my own!”
sure, theirs was probably aged and in a lovely bottle and all…
so i roasted 2 pounds of fresh chestnuts. in a cast iron pan in the oven. just keep an eye on that. after they cooled, , i halved them and filled quart jars halfway. to one i added 2 scoops of raw honey, to one i did not.i prefer the insweetened, and this is adjutable. it is really rather exquisite. and easy! it’s like “what is that flavor?”
i also tried a roasted hazelnut liquer, along the lines of frangelico. same idea as the chestnut. very smooth. this combines well with vanilla and nutmeg too.
i came across some very nice satsumas at the market and i peeled 3 and filled a jar with the pieces. i added a little maple syrup and several cinnamon sticks. this one does not have a snappy name yet. when you use whole fruit it helps to press it out in your tincture press or a jam or cheese press. to really get that juicy goodness some muscles should be working. you know what i’m saying?
or…you can save the fruit in there and enjoy a little summer flavor in the dead of winter. for example, i will cut up some peaches, cover in brandy, then eat them as a dessert in winter. mmm.
for a real warmer try the blend i call “ice fishing”–though we haven’t had much ice this year, it’s an homage to my childhood. i filled a quart jar about 1/8 of the way with dried ginger, added a vanilla bean and filled it with brandy. yes, that was a little too much ginger, i need to dilute it. so i would suggest 1/10-just cover the bottom of the jar. or cut with seltzer. this is very nice with citrus zest. truly warming, good with anything apple…pie, crisp, baked apples, etc. also lovely in a mug of tea. ginger hot toddy, anyone?
the solstice liquer i make every year– but change just a little bit each time. it is a fruity winter warmer with as many organic oranges as i can fit into a big jar. i add a lot of cinnamon sticks, or chips, 1-2 vanilla beans depending on how fancy you are,whole cardamon pods, a nutmeg, and a few peppercorns.any kind. fill the jar with brandy and sit for 6 weeks. this one requires a press to squeeeze out the orange juice. it is delicious. the peel stays on while macerating to give a little hint of bitter. i don’t mix it with anything, it is very orangey. this one is my go-to holiday brew. it’s warming and practically health food.
there is nothing like a nip of handmade warming goodness on a cold night to warm and relax or a toast with friends and family to celebrate the bounty of our earth. i encourage you to try your hand at a little something, and of course to drink responsibly and don’t drive or operate heavy machinery.