Is it legal to make your own liqueurs?
For many years there has been much debate on this subject. Here are a few facts from which you may make up your own mind:
Liqueur making does not require the distilling of liquor, which Federal and most state laws prohibit. The spirit base is already produced, licensed and taxed when you purchase the brandy, cognac, vodka or other spirit to be used.
Making the liqueur usually only consists of a process of flavoring, that is, adding flavors to a base spirit to create a new beverage. Should you decide to distill your own spirits, then, it is likely that the Federal government and probably your local police might have something valid to say about it, particularly if you try to sell the distilled products. However, it is unlikely you will have any problems if you simply add spices, coffee, tea or fruits to a liquor base to change it to a liqueur. Additionally, liqueur making also dilutes the strength of the base, producing a lower alcohol-by-volume beverage.
Liqueurs are not usually produced in large quantities and our recipes are generally for no more than one or two bottles worth. While you may produce these without fear, you should not consider selling them as that could get you into trouble if you do not have proper production facilities, a license or the proper tax authority. You may, however, produce sufficient quantities to give away as gifts and many readers of this site have told us they do, and that their friends love them.
You may find yourself in legal hot water if you are not careful with the packaging and production of the liqueurs, particularly if you gift the bottles. It is critical to uphold strict sanitation codes when making liqueurs. Your pots, bottles and other implements must be sterile and the items going into the liqueur should always be at their peak, not rotting or showing signs of damage.
When using things like berries, make sure none are moldy. Fruit, such as bananas should not have bruises or spots. Using the best ingredients yields the best flavor and results. Remember, you don’t want to make your friends sick from a bad bottle of your home-made liqueurs.
If you have any questions about your plans, we strongly suggest you consult with an attorney in your location as some communities or states may have strict alcohol laws that are different from Federal law.