Making liqueurs is a fun and rewarding hobby. The process used to make most liqueurs is very simple, and experienced liqueur makers can easily create their own unique recipes.
When making a liqueur, most people start with vodka because it very versatile and adds little flavor to the finished product. Rum would also work very well. You can use other hard alcohols, such as tequila or whiskey, but they will alter the flavor of your liqueur. In order to turn the vodka (or whatever base you’re using) into a liqueur, you simply add some sort of flavoring, such as fruit or espresso, and allow the vodka to absorb the flavor. You then add a sweetener to the flavored vodka, and presto – you have a liqueur.
Fruit liqueurs are very popular both to make and to drink. You can use almost any type of fruit, but some will provide better results. Juicy, flavorful fruit is best; many people prefer to use only fresh fruit, but frozen fruit can work, too, especially when fruit is out of season. I personally have had great success with fresh and frozen cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, and pineapple liqueurs.
You will need a fairly large amount of fruit to make your liqueur; the exact ratio of fruit to vodka depends on the quality and type of fruit, but using equal parts is a good guideline. After you have combined the fruit and vodka, you will need to let the mixture sit for at least two weeks. After two weeks have passed, taste the mixture to determine whether or not enough fruit flavor has been absorbed. If the vodka is not flavorful enough, let the mixture sit for a week or two more. If the vodka still does not taste very fruity, try adding more fruit. Once the vodka is done absorbing the fruit flavor, remove the fruit using a colander. Although you will not need the fruit anymore for the liqueur, you can use it in recipes or simply serve them as fruit bombs.
Now that you have fruit flavored vodka, all you need to do is sweeten it. You can use simple syrup or finely granulated sugar. Simple syrup is made by combining equal parts water and sugar. The benefit to using simple syrup is that it is easily absorbed by the vodka; however, simple syrup does contain water, so you are diluting your liqueur. You can make a simple syrup with a higher ratio of sugar to water in order to minimize the dilution. Or, you can add finely granulated sugar. Just make sure that you stir the liqueur well and give the sugar enough time to absorb, otherwise you will be left with a grainy liqueur. How much sugar or simple syrup you add is up to you, although many recipes call for either equal parts sugar and vodka or twice as much vodka as sugar. When adding sugar, add a little at a time and stop once the liqueur is as sweet as you want it to be.
Coffee liqueurs are also very popular. When making a coffee liqueur, you can use instant coffee, brewed coffee, or ground coffee. Instant coffee is the easiest to use, and it produces very good results. However, some people do not like using instant coffee because they consider it too artificial. Brewed coffee works fairly well, but it can produce a diluted liqueur; when using brewed coffee, make sure the coffee is very strong. Brewed espresso works best. Ground coffee works fairly well, but it can produce a bitter liqueur; you will need to add a lot of sugar. Also, the coffee grounds can absorb a tremendous amount of the vodka and be very difficult to remove from the vodka. To eliminate both these problems, try using espresso pods. The ratio of coffee to vodka depends on your personal taste, but common ratios are: one cup brewed espresso to two cups vodka one fourth of a cup of instant coffee to two cups vodka; and three espresso pods to two cups of vodka.
If you use brewed coffee or instant coffee, just make sure that the coffee and vodka are thoroughly combined. If you use ground coffee, you will need to allow a little time for the vodka to absorb the coffee flavor. This does not take very long – usually just a couple of hours. Taste the mixture every thirty minutes until the desired flavor has been achieved. Then add simple syrup or finely granulated sugar, exactly as described for the fruit liqueurs.
Homemade coffee liqueurs are extremely delicious. However, because coffee liqueurs combine alcohol, sugar, and caffeine, they should be enjoyed in moderation. Some people prefer to use decaffeinated coffee when making coffee liqueurs.
Fruit and coffee liqueurs are the most common, but they are certainly not the only types of liqueurs that you can make. I have had success making tea liqueurs; to make a tea liqueur, simply follow the instructions for coffee liqueurs made with espresso pods, but use tea bags instead of espresso. You can also make liqueurs with herbs and spices; the herbs or spices can be the main source of flavor, or they can be used in conjunction with fruit, coffee, or tea.
When making coffee liqueurs, you can also add chocolate or hazelnut syrup instead of simple syrup. Vanilla is a great addition to almost any liqueur, too. You can try using combinations of fruit, and you can experiment with alcohols other than vodka. The entire point of making liqueurs at home, rather than buying them at the liquor store, is to create something unique. So experiment and have fun!
Once you have your finished liqueurs, you can bottle them, create personalized labels, and give them out as gifts. You could also throw a liqueur tasting party. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with drinking the liqueurs yourself.