It is easy to make delicious fruit and berry liqueurs. It is, however, more difficult to produce herbal liqueurs with good flavor, mainly because the flavor of a single type of herb or spice is very distinct. In addition herbs often contain a mixture of wanted and unwanted flavor compounds.
Most commercial herbal liqueurs are made from a large number of herbs and spices. They are normally produced by distillation of alcoholic extracts of the flavor ingredients used, or made by using pure essential oils. Thereby unwanted flavor compounds can be excluded from the final liqueur.
In the 15th to 19th centuries liqueurs made by just one type of herb or spice were more common. These liqueurs were used for their “medical” properties and not for their flavor. Today the medical use of liqueurs is limited, as far as I know the principal “medical use” is to improve the digestion, for example by drinking bitter liqueurs which are common for Germany and Italy. However, the amount of herb or spice needed in a “medical” liqueur might be so high that the flavor will not at all be regarded as good.
The most wellknown herbal liqueurs are Benedictine D.O.M. which is made of 27 types of herbs and spices and Chartreuse which is made using 130 types. It is impossible to create good copies of these liqueurs at home because of the large number of different raw materials used and because it is illegal to perform the distillation at home.
Do Some Testing
Some delicious liqueurs are, however, quite easy to make. To improve your understanding of different flavors you can make small test batches of simple herbal liqueurs to learn how alcoholic extracts of different herbs, spices and mixes taste. Remember to add sufficient sugar: most liqueurs contain approximately 30% sugar.
For herbal liqueurs it is best to use a sugar syrup which is made as follows:
In a saucepan combine:
1 lb. (450 g) sugar
1 cup (2.4 dl) water
1/4 tsp. citric acid
Heat the mixture and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to simmer on reduced heat for 15 minutes.
The principal herbs and spices used for making liqueurs at home are the following:
Allspice (Pimenta Dioica Merr.) – berries
Angelica (Angelica Archangelica L.) – root and seeds
Anise (Pimpinela Anisum L.) – seeds
Cardamom (Elettaria Cardamomum Maton) – seeds
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Bl.) – bark
Cloves (Eugenia Carophyllata Thunb.) – flower buds
Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum L.) – seeds
Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare Mill.) – seeds
Gentian (Gentiana Lutea L.) – root
Hyssop (Hyssopus Officinalis L.) – leaves
Juniper (Juniperus Communis L.) – berries
Lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis L.) – leaves
Marjoram (Origanum Majorana L.) – leaves
Oregano (Origanum Vulgare L.) – leaves
Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita L.) – leaves
Star anise (Illicium Verum Hook.) – seeds
Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris L.) – leaves
Turmeric (Curcuma Longa L.) – root
Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia Andr.) – seeds