Many years ago my Grandmother used to make her own liqueurs in the basement of our home in New York. She would bottle a variety of concoctions annually and use them in cooking, for entertaining or give them as gifts.
I remember growing up seeing, and tasting, some of her wonderful creations and recall today, each time I taste a commercial equivalent, how much better, richer and nicer Grandma’s version really was.
Making liqueurs is not, as some would suggest, illegal. However, you cannot bottle your own liqueurs for sale. You can, however, bottle them for gifts and personal use and now I’ve turned my hand to this glorious craft. Much to my surprise, I’m as good as Grandma was more than 50 years before me.
In creating liqueurs one must first remember that they have a very high sugar content, sometimes as much as 500% more sugar than liquor. This, plus the addition of fruits, nuts, berries and other ingredients will dramatically lower the alcoholic content of almost every liqueur.
Today, the price of commercial liqueurs is sky high. An average bottle of an orange-based liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Courvoisier) sells for more than $25. However, when I make them at home, I spend less than $15 for the same volume. If you entertain or cook with liqueurs, you’ll appreciate the cost savings. I certainly do.
Admittedly, that first bottle is much more expensive than the commercial variety, simply because of the cost of any equipment needed, but once you have what it takes, the cost benefits are superb. For me, the investment was repaid quickly, as I find myself trying new recipes every week and producing good volumes of liqueurs in a wide variety. Like Grandma, I give them to my friends (most of them request more), and use them in cooking. Surprisingly, I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, but I do enjoy using these in cooking with outstanding results. I’m surprised more chefs are not producing their own liqueurs for use in their kitchens.
The process of making most liqueurs is relatively simple. You find a recipe, preferably one in our Liqueurs Section, and combine the flavoring with a base alcohol, usually vodka or brandy. The base picks up the flavor of the additive, and is given a thickness by adding glycerine, in some cases. Left to mellow, the liqueur matures, somewhere between a week and six months, depending on the recipe.
The results are really amazing. Decanted into elegant glass bottles, or recycled ones, completely sterilized, of course, the liqueurs may be stored for some time, or given as gifts. These are particularly appreciated for the holidays.
Now if you’re worried about the liquor content, be assured that the process of making liqueurs greatly reduces the alcohol content.
If you’re worried about the government cracking down on you, worry not. Making liqueurs is perfectly legal, provided you don’t try to sell them. Because the taxes have been paid on the base alcohol, there’s no additional tax due on the blended liqueur. Should you try to sell them, well, then you may face a number of problems, such as liquor licensing for manufacture, sales tax registration or Federal food and beverage production facilities requirements, not to mention your local health department.
Making your own liqueurs for your personal use or gifting will not cause you legal grief, but will add great flavor to your cooking.
Superb flavors extracted into the liqueurs from herbs, fruits, spices and other flavorings create wonderful enhancements to your cooking. Can you imagine Duck a l’Orange without orange liqueur giving its unique flavor to the glaze and sauce? From appetizers to desserts, liqueurs bring out the best in recipes generally without the risk of becoming intoxicated, though a few, such as Baba au Rhum and some candies can, to be honest, be quite dangerous if you eat and drive.
The flavor of homemade liqueurs, greatly improved over any commercial variety, add both unique and intense flavors to recipes in which they’ve been added. We urge you to try making your own liqueurs at home and using them in cooking.
Home cooks should definitely make an attempt to create their own liqueurs. The easiest are orange or coffee liqueurs, with recipes here on Epicurus.com Liqueurs Section.