August 5, 2022
It’s been a few years since I first posted the recipe for my white currant liqueur Current Currant (since then, there have been other currant liqueur recipes, including strawberry currant liqueur, Strawcurranterry, and mint currant liqueur, A Most Peculiar Friend). In that first Current Currant post, I talked about the little currant bush that could, the history behind it, all that. Well, now the currant bush is much bigger, and takes over a fair amount of my time for a few weeks every year, as I chase off the dreaded white currant grubs (grosser than you’d think), shoo off other pests, water, wait for currants to get ripe and then pick them in the moment before they go bad. It is, my little-no-more currant, a pain! But, it’s part of the family now, so I stick after it. And, the end result – a bunch of small fruits that you’d never want to just eat – does make a mighty fine liqueur. There’s nothing quite like it, though it has shades of affable citrus, light on the tongue, the barest whisper of bitter and sweet, a sort-of sunshine-y flavor all its own. Many things I guess that are a pain pay off in the end? That’s too deep for an old booze blog like this one. When sipping the liqueur, usually chilled, all the taking-care-of seems worth it. And now I have this written to remind myself of that fact next year, when the no-longer-young currant is driving me around the bend!
Current Currant Liqueur
2 very full cups white currants
2-1/2 cups vodka
1 cup simple syrup
1. Add the currants to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle slightly. Add the vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup, and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
June 10, 2022
You probably know this, but just in case, recently the Queen of England had her Platinum Jubilee, which means (another thing you probably know!), that she’s worn the crown for 70 years. It is, in the United Kingdom (and other spots, it seems), a big deal to many, and many parties were had. And, cause she’s so nice, she asked me to come up with a Jubilee Liqueur that she could sip daintily from teacups during the various festivities.
Hahaha, did you believe that, just for a moment? It would have been ridiculously neat if you did. But sadly, it was a lie, the Queen does not know me or my liqueur-making prowess or that my backyard overfloweth with mint (wild and planted) or that I had some extra mandarins lying around lately. Or, at least, if she knows all these things, she isn’t telling me! However! I do have some pals who are from the UK, though currently living in balmy Seattle, and they like many (as mentioned above, in a way) were celebrating said Platinum Jubilee, with a big ol’ English-style knee-up shindig, doing it up right with oodles of eats and drinks and funtimes for neighbors and friends. And I thought – really, they deserve a present fit for a Queen, and so made this here liqueur in her and their honor. As you probably can guess if you’ve made it this far in this paragraph, it has oodles of mint, and some mandarin notes. It’s also based on gin, that most English of quaffs, which is a little different as most homemade liqueurs have a neutral base, while gin brings its own juniper, botanical, spice, citrus, what-have-you nature. Here, go with a good solid London/English juniper forward gin (that’s what I did!). The mint and citrus and gin and sweetness are such a swell snazzy combo, I gotta say – this really is fit for royalty. Including you!
4 small mandarins
3-1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
3 cups gin (English gin, natch – I used Gordon’s)
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1. Carefully peel the mandarins. You want the peel, but you don’t want the pith – hence the care! Mandarins tend to be pithy, so you might need/want to scrap a little of that pith off. I did.
2. Add the peels – being sure to save the mandarins – to a large glass container, one with a good lid. Also add 2 cups mint leaves. Muddle the mandarin and mint.
3, Add the gin to the container, stir, and set aside.
4. We’re now going to make a syrup. Usually when making homemade liqueurs, I let flavorings and base sit together solo for a bit before adding the syrup. But as we’re using the juice from the mandarins just peeled, felt it should be made now. It all worked out! Okay, to start, juice the mandarins. Then add the juice and remaining mint leaves to a saucepan. Muddle gently, just to get the mint oils flowing.
5. Add the water and sugar and raise the temperature to medium high. Stirring regularly, bring the mix to a boil, then bring the heat down a bit. Keep it at a smooth simmer for 5 minutes, still stirring. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely in the pan.
6. Pour the mint-mandarin simple syrup into the glass container from Step 2. Stir well, and seal. Place in a cool, dark spot. Let sit for two weeks, swirling regularly. It looks like this:
7. Strain (maybe twice!) through cheese cloth into bottles or one big bottle. Drink solo, over ice, or play around with it in cocktails, all while thinking monarchistically.
February 25, 2022
First, before any one gets any Coleridgean ideas or something, drinking this will not give you prophetic dreams (as far as I know, though I suppose as somebody said, there are more things in heaven and on earth and all that). However, it is pretty dreamy! And perhaps I can at least prophesize that if you like gin-y types of drinks (Martinis, say), you will most likely like this one! It stirs up a mighty tasty mélange of Kur gin (made right out here in WA, and one I’ve written about before: short story, it’s a classically-minded juniper-y London dry style gin with citrus and fruit accents), dry vermouth (hence the Martini mention), The Blood Orange’s Revenge homemade blood orange liqueur (which I talked about in a recent blood orange liqueur post, but which is to be clear, yummy), and old pal Scrappy’s Orange bitters, which brings it all together with trademark bright orangean-herb notations. What the future holds, who knows – unless you make this drink. Then the future will be you holding a delicious drink (and drinking it).
Prophecies and Dreams
2 ounces Kur gin
1 ounce The Blood Orange’s Revenge
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all the dreams and prophecies (meaning, all the other ingredients). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink while sleeping (no, no, that’s a joke!).
February 18, 2022
Blood oranges are strange (in a good way, like so many strange things). They can appear from the outside as many of their citrus siblings, from oranges to mandarins. But then, cut them open, and the blood (or blood-esque juiciness) starts flowing. Though, within that bloodiness, there can really be lots of variation in color, even if the darker rich ruby color is probably the main type (hehehe). At first, I was a bit freaked out by them, but now I love them and their sweet, tart, tangy flavor. They can make, as you might imagine, a memorable liqueur, like so many fruits. Years back when I was writing Luscious Liqueurs (a book renowned by at least my mother for its genius), I played around with blood orange liqueur ideas, and came up with the below, which I am still fond of – the hint of cloves adds a strange, and strangely nice to me, touch. So, when I ended up with a batch of blood oranges recently, I decided to revisit the recipe, and still was fond of it.
It’s a yummy winter’s treat, too (hitting hints of the season while reminding of summer).
The Blood Orange’s Revenge
4 blood oranges
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 cups vodka
1-1/2 cups simple syrup
1. Peel the oranges and lemons, getting just the fruit rind and as little of the pith as possible. Place the peels in a large glass container that has a good lid.
2. Then remove the layer of pith from the flesh of two of the blood oranges (juice the final two oranges and the lemon for drinks or cooking). Cut each of the two un-pithed oranges into pieces, and add the pieces to the container. Stir slightly with a muddler or wooden spoon to smash up the oranges.
3. Add the vodka and cloves to the fruits. Stir a little more and seal. Place the container in a cool, dry spot away from the sun. Let sit for two weeks, swirling occasionally.
4. Once the two weeks have faded into the past, add the simple syrup to the container, stir well, and reseal. Let the mix sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
5. After the next two weeks have passed, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, to filter out the larger orange parts. Be careful that you strain into a container big enough that no liqueur is lost.
6. Next, strain the liqueur through double sheets of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other container, one that easy to pour from.
7. Finally, strain the liqueur through two new sheets of cheesecloth into bottles or jars, or one larger bottle or jar.
A Note: Blood oranges, if you don’t know, are a member of the orange family whose flesh contains the pigment anthocyanin, which turns it a dark red color. Their taste is similar to oranges. You do not have to be a vampire to eat them.
January 14, 2022
Way back last year (haha, I kid, I kid – I mean, it was last year, but solely weeks ago, not months) right before Christmas I had a recipe for a delicious (said humbly) Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. It was so delicious (said, again, humbly, or ‘umbly, if you’re feeling like Uriah Heep in David Copperfield), and a hit around the holiday fires, that I had to make another one to satisfy all the requests. But instead of making another batch of the same version, because where would be the fun in that?, I decided to tweak the recipe, and then tweak a little more, to move into new territory. It is the new year! Though, admittedly, my tweaks did make this almost more winter-holiday-y, which leads to the name Holly Jolly. See, I went with a few winter-y spices (cinnamon, ginger), and also changed the base to vodka slightly infused with mandarin orange zest and juice (mandarins seem a little winter holiday-y to me, too). But it’s still lush and lovely and velvety and creamy, just veering off in the flavor hints. A hit, me thinks (humbly, of course).
Holly Jolly Homemade Cream Liqueur
1-2/3 cups vodka
Peel (pithless as possible) and juice from 1 mandarin orange
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Add the vodka and mandarin peel and juice to a good-sized glass container with a lid. Let sit in a cool, dry spot at least a week, swirling occasionally.
2. Strain the combo from Step 1 through cheesecloth into a pitcher, and then pour the mandarin-bit-less vodka into a blender (or just strain straight into the blender, but do make sure you get the bits strained out).
3. Add all the other ingredients to the blender. Blend well. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator. Consume within two weeks.
October 1, 2021
It was, say two months ago, basil season (I take it to be late August, though your basil-ing may vary), which is a fragrant green season indeed. Usually, one thinks: basil, an herb, used in cooking, see pesto, etc. However, I (and maybe others, too) also think: basil, an herb, used in making liqueurs and other drinkables, see Basil Grappa, etc. I first made Basil Grappa way back in the halcyon days of writing a book called Luscious Liqueurs (I originally saw the idea in a small Italian language pamphlet of liqueurs, and then tweaked it up a tiny bit), and it’s featured in said book, and I’ve been making it fairly regularly ever since – including this very year! It’s a straightforward recipe, just basil, grappa, simple syrup, and a little lemon juice for balance, and one that’s a little less sweet than some liqueurs. Why? Cause while I love the basil, I still wanted to let the grappa shine through, and not have its grappa-ness (that lovely grape-ness, vineyard-ness, and wine’s-older-brother-ness) completely smoothed away. This liqueur is, for those grappa neophytes, an easy path into the world of grappa by the way, grappa being a spirit that is mostly misunderstood here in the US, but one also that has many varieties (as many as wine itself, I suppose). While not always super available here (if you are US-based, that is), I’m finding more grappas around, but if you can’t track down a bottle, hound your local liquor store until they bring some in!
Basil Grappa Liqueur
1-1/2 cups fresh basil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups grappa
1/2 cup simple syrup
1. Add the basil and lemon juice to a large glass container. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle them together cozily.
2. Add the grappa to the container, and stir well. Put it in a cool dry place, and let everything get acquainted for two weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Add the simple syrup to the container, stir, and put back in that cool, dry place, once again, swirling.
4. Strain the Basil Grappa. I’d suggest once through a fine mesh strainer, then through cheesecloth – into a glass bottle, or a number of small bottles if you’d like to share (sharing is nice)!
July 2, 2021
Those, like you, who have been reading this blog for the last 10 years know that I have a white currant bush that I’m a tad bit obsessed with, and which I usually use the fruit from to make a white currant liqueur called Current Currant, which is darn delicious, and then also last year made a white currant and mint liqueur called A Most Particular Friend. See, the currant bush is now large enough that it has fruit usually for two batches or so of liqueur, unless making a very big batch (it can be devilish tricky to pick the currants, as they tend to fall off easily, and bounce around, and are fairly small for one with thick old fingers, but it’s worth it, I feel, to get that white currant taste, which is a bright citrus-y June-y taste all its own). Recently, I actually picked the first round of currants, as not all the little balls of joy ripen at the same moment; hence the first round being ready, well, first. Anywho, I wasn’t sure what to do with them, as I didn’t think there were enough for Current Currant, and so I decided to try something new – strawberries and currants (I had some strawberries around)! Check them out:
The sweetness and summer-ness of strawberries felt a good match for the tangy burst (with the barest hint here and there of bitterness) currants deliver. And, this time, I was right! The final liqueur-ing has the kissy nature of a good strawberry (I doubled down on the strawberry-ing by making a strawberry simple as our sweetener), but then the above the cloud citrus notes of the currants lingering. Dare I say, it’s summer in a glass? I dare, I dare!
Strawcurranterry, Strawberry and White Currant Liqueur
1/2 cup white currants
2 cups chopped strawberries
3 cups vodka
2 cups sugar
2 cups chopped strawberries
2 cups water
1. Add the currants and first back of strawberries (2 cups) to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Add the sugar and second batch (2 cups) of strawberries to a medium-sized saucepan. Muddle briefly, mellowly. Add the water to the pan. Raise the temperature to medium high and heat to a boil, stirring regularly. Reduce the heat a touch, and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes, stirring here and there. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
3. Open the jar from Step 1 back up, add the simple syrup, strawberries and all, to the jar, and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
4. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
May 21, 2021
Friends, my friends, make the cocktail bar (and the world) go round. Exhibit A: recently, and good pal of mine had an extra helpful or two of bitter oranges, the big, sometimes gnarly-skinned, oranges that live up the bitter name, and which are used in making a number of things, medicinal to marmalade-y to booze-y. She made it all, and still gave my wife and I some leftover oranges, mostly to make Vin d’Orange (the French-styled wine-based aperitif; we used, as did said pal, the recipe from Bon Appetit, or slight variations thereof). But I had a few of the ol’ bitter oranges left over, and decided I should try to make another sipper with them. Now, here’s where the friend quotient jumps to another level, as another good pal had in the past given me some swell fennel seeds they’d harvested. Sadly, this second friend, passed away recently, far too soon, which makes every sip of the below a tribute, as well as a way to remember. Drinks aren’t always for bubbly laughter, but sometimes for different types of celebration, the celebration of a friend or family-member much-loved, but now gone, in this case. Fennel and orange deliver a wonderful slightly bitter, slightly citrus-y, slightly herbal-y, layered homemade liqueur, which, if you can find the ingredients, is well worth making and drinking while you remember, tell stories, think of friends old and new. You’re a friend, too, after all, too. And don’t forget to hug your friends between sips, as you never know when they’ll be gone.
Fair Nature Bitter Orange and Fennel Liqueur
Peels of four bitter oranges
1/8 cup juice from a bitter orange
1/4 cup fennel seeds, plus 1 tablespoon
2-1/2 cups vodka
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1. Add the orange peel, juice, and 1 tablespoon fennel seeds in a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle all the above well, friendly-like. Add the vodka, stir, put that lid on, and place container in a cool, shady, place. Let sit for two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Add the sugar, water, and remaining fennel seeds to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, stirring regularly, and let simmer for five minutes. Let cool completely, and then add all to the container in Step 1. Stir well. Let sit for two more weeks, swirling.
3. Strain through cheesecloth into a pitcher, and then strain again through another layer into a glass bottle (I like the flip-top types). Serve neat, over ice, or try it out in cocktails.