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Homemade Liqueurs

This photo demonstrates how beautiful homemade liqueurs can be, when filtered and bottled to give to guests as gifts. (© gedankenspieler/123RF photo)

Homemade liqueurs make excellent gifts and taste they taste amazing.

Most liqueurs, brandies, and schnapps, are nothing more than alcohol, sugar, color and flavor. That means it’s easy to make your own. These simple recipes show how to make your own citrus vodkas, fruit schnapps, raspberry, vanilla, anise, mint, and almond liqueurs, without spending a lot of money.

Homemade Liqueur Recipes

Most liqueurs, brandies, and schnapps, are nothing more than alcohol, sugar, color and flavor. If it sounds like you could make them at home, that’s exactly the point. Why buy into hundreds of dollars of obscure bottles of liqueurs, when they are nothing more than vodka, sugar, color and flavor?

You won’t be able to replace Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlua, or any of the other complex liqueurs. However, when it comes to plain flavors like mint, anise, licorice, vanilla, or anything marketed as a fruit schnapps, those can be replaced with homemade ones.

Also, since the liqueurs are used in such small quantities, most people can’t tell home made from store bought, when mixed with all the other cocktail ingredients. Those who can tell the difference, usually prefer the taste of the home made ones, because they taste clean and fresh, without chemicals or preservatives.

This base liqueur recipe is simple. Since most generic liqueurs are 17–25% alcohol by volume, take rich simple syrup and dilute it 1–1 with a 40% spirit like vodka. This will give a sweet 20% alcohol by volume liqueur base. Now add any pure extract, a drop at a time, until the desired flavor strength is achieved. Then add a single drop of pure organic, or natural food coloring to make blue curacao, or green mint.

  • 4 oz of cooled 2-1 rich simple syrup
  • 4 oz vodka, or 40% alcohol spirit of choice
  • Drops of pure organic extract to taste
  • Drops of pure organic food coloring if desired

Mix together gently and store in the fridge. Makes 8 oz (240 ml) of home made liqueur.

When looking for extracts, the ones sold in the supermarket baking isle are usually artificial, or synthetic. It’s not to say that you won’t find any pure extracts, but usually it takes a bit of digging around online, or a trip to a specialty food store to find them.

There are also a lot of ‘homemade’ liqueur recipes online. Many have been used for generations. Others were just copied from random websites and never tested. So rather than make a bottle of it and be disappointed, focus on micro batches. That way you can have fun experimenting, while looking for that perfect flavor balance.

There are also liqueur ‘kits’ available from many manufacturers. If you look into their ingredients, most consist of an artificial flavor and a base compound. It’s nothing more than sugar, artificial thickeners and chemical stabilizers. You’re welcome to try them, but you’ll probably end up disappointed.

If planning a party, scale up the home made liqueur batches into the 4–8 oz range, depending on which cocktails you plan on making. Put them in fancy tincture bottles on the bar and you’ll look like a mixology wizard, with all these little bottles, showcasing your magic potions. They’ll put a sparkle into the drinks and keep the conversation going, as you impress your guests with your home made liqueurs.

Homemade Vanilla Liqueurs

Vanilla is one of the oldest and most sought after spices. It acts as a flavoring, a perfume and a medicine. It comes from the seed pod of the vanilla orchid, which only grows as a vine on host trees like cocoa.

For making vanilla liqueur to replace parfait amour and vanilla liqueurs, use 24 drops (.5 ml) of vanilla extract per 1 oz (30 ml) of liqueur base. Gaya Pure Vanilla Extract from Papantla Mexico is an excellent choice with its all natural ingredients. It’s the ‘dark chocolate’ of vanilla, that’s bold, rich, nutty and concentrated with notes of cocoa and mature wood.

Homemade Citrus  Liqueurs

Pure citrus extracts are fairly easy to find. They can be used to make orange liqueurs like triple sec, Curacao, and lemon flavored vodka.

To make homemade triple sec, use the liqueur base but use white rum instead of vodka. Add 1/4 tsp (1 ml) of orange extract per 1oz (30 ml) of liqueur base. Increase it drop by drop until you reach the desired flavor intensity. Now add in a 3–4 drops of Angostura Orange Bitters to make it taste more authentic. If a blue curacao is required, add one or two drops of blue organic food coloring.

To make citrus or lemon vodka, just add 1/8 tsp (.5 ml) of pure lemon extract per 1 oz (30 ml) of undiluted vodka and adjust to taste. This is the process that most distilleries use. They don’t make brandy from the fruit. They make vodka from grain and add the flavorings after distilling and filtering.

Anise & Licorice Liqueurs

For homemade licorice flavored liqueur, just 2 drops per 1 oz (30 ml) of base liqueur is plenty. You can always add more to taste, if you want to increase the licorice intensity.

The Merchants Spice Anise Extract is an excellent all natural flavoring. It can be found in most specialty grocery stores in the mediterranean isle. It is very intense in aroma and flavor, so pouring and mixing over a sink is recommended.

Homemade Mint Liqueur

Pure mint extracts are relatively easy to find. Most grocery stores have them. It’s so powerful that just 2 drops per 1 oz (30 ml) of base liqueur is enough.

If you want to pretend that you have green creme de menthe, add one drop of organic green food coloring. If you want some other colors it’s a good idea to get a coloring kit with 4–8 colors. That way you can make any color you want.

Homemade Almond & Nut Liqueurs

Pure almond and organic bitter almond extracts are easy to find online, or in specialty grocery stores. To get a nice strong almond flavor, start with 12 drops or .25 ml of pure bitter almond extract, per 1 oz (30 ml) of base liqueur and adjust to taste.

If you can find hazelnut, walnut, pecan and other nutty extracts, feel free to experiment, alternating drops along with almond into the base liqueur. You might discover a new flavor combination, that tastes better than anything you can buy at the liquor store.

Apricot Brandy & Peach Schnapps

The apricot and peach extract flavors vary widely between brands. That said, they are some of the least intense, requiring more extract than most other flavorings. A good start would be 1/2 tsp (2-3 ml) per 1 oz (30 ml) of liqueur base and adjust to taste from there.

Homemade Berry Liqueur

Blackberry, Raspberry & Current Liqueurs

Good tasting organic berry extracts are the hardest to find. The short growing season, along with the demand for the frozen fruit and juice, means that little remains for extracts.

You could buy one of the organic berry syrups, or juice concentrates, on the market, then dilute it 1-1 with vodka, or spirit of choice. But a better option would be to make your own berry syrup following the recipe on the Syrups and Flavorings article.

By adding vodka to that syrup, it makes a bright liqueur that tastes fresher than any commercial offering. Plus you can experiment further by adding dashes of bitters and other extracts.

To make the homemade berry syrup into a liqueur, double the amount of rich simple syrup in the recipe to 2 oz. After stirring the syrup into the juice, note the amount in the measuring cup and dilute it 1 to 1 with 40% alcohol by volume vodka. For example, if there is 200 ml of liquid in the measuring cup after adding the 2 oz of simple syrup, add 200 ml vodka. This will result in a 20% alcohol by volume liqueur.

  • 1/2 pint berries (6 oz or 170 g by weight)
  • 1/2 cup hot water (4 oz or 120 ml by volume)
  • 2 oz rich 2-1 simple syrup (60 ml by volume)
  • 200 ml vodka 40% alcohol

Follow the directions for cooking and filtering the homemade berry syrup in the Syrups and Flavorings article. This recipe will make 14 oz (400 ml) or so of liqueur, depending on how much gets lost in the filtering process.

Bottle the berry liqueur in an airtight container and refrigerate it for best flavor. Due to the high alcohol content it will keep indefinitely, but to preserve freshness, try to use it up within 3 months.

Experimenting For Fun

Keep in mind that all the recipes and ratios provided here are just guidelines. You’ll need to adjust them to your own personal taste. A big part of mixology is having fun and experimenting with the ingredients to find what you like.

If you find the homemade liqueurs too sweet add more booze, or dilute the syrup. You can also play with the common mouth feel additives like glycerin, gum arabic (gomme), and propylene glycol. Although not required, or even healthy, many liqueurs and bitters have them, so feel free to experiment if you must. Just be sure to get the ‘food grade’ ones that are approved by the FDA, or your local food agency.

If you don’t like the mint, licorice and vanilla liqueurs provided here, don’t use them. They are not intended to replace the real thing, if you intend to drink them straight.

What these faux homemade liqueurs do, is let you get a taste of the real recipe, without spending a lot of money. If you discover that you enjoy flavors like licorice, mint and vanilla in cocktails, you’ll be happy to purchase Anisette, Creme de Menthe and Parfait Amour. At least now you know what flavors you like and more importantly, what to avoid.


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