Bad Axe City

Qui nos opprimere velint, illos libenter devoramus

Random Recipe Showcase: Homemade Liqueurs!

My mom used to make homemade wine, using methods she’d learned from her father.  I was never into doing that amount of hard work (though I may change my mind later), but in the meantime I’ve discovered an entire world of homemade liqueurs.

Pink Lemonade Limoncello

Pink Lemonade Limoncello (Photo credit: fritish)

Summer Solstice Cordial

Steep herbs and fruit in the port wine for one month then strain the herbs from the wine and enjoy. Make a summer party cooler by putting this cordial over ice and adding seltzer water and fresh squeezed lemon or lime.

 How to Make Summer Solstice Cordial

1) Put dried herbs into a mortar and pestle and mash them as much as possible

2) Chop dried peaches into small pieces with a knife

3) Put herbs, fruit and wine into a sterilized jar.

4) Let sit in a cool, dry place for one month

 Decanting the Cordial

After one month you will participate in the ancient art of decanting (Fancy term for straining out the herbs from the alcohol).

To decant your cordial you will need a clean sterilized glass jar, funnel and cotton muslin.

1) Place a funnel into the jar and lay the cotton muslin on top of the funnel

2) Pour the wine and infusing herbs and fruit through the muslin and funnel being careful not to let the herbs spill over the side of the muslin into the funnel and jar

3) If the herbs spill out of the muslin into the jar, get a clean jar and start over

4) When all of the liquid has drained through the cotton muslin cloth and funnel into the jar, then squeeze the rest of the liquid out of the dried plant material through the muslin into the jar.

5) Discard the strained out herb material into the compost or just put it on the dirt in your garden. The liquid left behind is your herbal cordial.


Bottle of slivovitz

Bottle of slivovitz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slivovitz is a plum schnapps or brandy made all across Eastern Europe and — under different names — in Germany, France and Italy. It’s made in home kitchens with whatever plum is local. It’s sharp and strong and will be much appreciated at the holidays. 

The pit lends a crucial character to the final product, so don’t pit your plums first. Also, choose perfect, unblemished fruit. 

If you intend to give this as a gift, buy some pretty bottles for a nice presentation. Serve it in small glasses, accompanied by cookies.

You’ll need one half-gallon jar or two 1-quart jars, with tightly closing lids.

MAKE AHEAD: The slivovitz needs to sit on the counter for two weeks and then in a dark place for 90 days.

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 quarts

  • 2 1/2 pounds quetsch (Italian prune plums)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 1-inch pieces lemon peel
  • 4 cups vodka or Everclear grain alcohol, plus more as needed

Use a sharp paring knife to pierce the fruit through to the pit, cutting each plum 3 or 4 times and examining each one to make sure it’s perfect. (Bruised fruit ferments too quickly.)

Pack the fruit into the jar(s) and add the sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Pour in enough vodka or grain alcohol to cover the plums, and cap the jar securely.

Every day for 2 weeks, invert the jar. It’s a good idea to place the jar in a bowl, to contain any leakage, then pour the contents of the bowl back into the jar. At the end of 2 weeks, the sugar will have dissolved.

Place the jar in a closet or other dark space for 90 days.

Strain the finished slivovitz through a coffee filter and transfer it to a storage container or gift bottles.


Krupnikas (Lithuanian Honey Spirits)

Makes a little over 2 quarts


 All spices should be cracked lightly if possible to maximize flavor.

  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1/2 nutmeg seed, cracked
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 3 inch piece of ginger root, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 inch piece turmeric, cut into 4 pieces
  • The peel of 1 orange
  • The peel of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 1/2 lbs honey
  • 1 quart water
  • 750 ml Everclear (190 proof grain alcohol)


 Take a stroll through your kitchen and gather up all the spices. 

Next, bring the honey and water to a simmer. Skim off any foam that surfaces, then add in all the spices (everything but the Everclear). Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the mixture smells like “good” and tastes even better. 

Add the Everclear to the still-hot mixture, stir to combine and then strain the mixture. (Tip: use the spices again to flavor a vanilla ice cream base, chocolate, flan, etc- yummmmm)

Pour the golden goodness into sterile bottles (run them through the dishwasher before using) and set aside for two weeks (or up to a year).

Through the quiet of this winter, the heat of next summer and the chill of autumn, the spirits will settle. They’ll go from super cloudy, And end up clear as day.  The gunk that settles on the bottom of the bottle is perfectly safe. Some Lithuanians like to shake their Krupnikas up, while others go so far as to filter it out. I love the idea of using it to add a bit of boozy oomph to a fruitcake.


(Douglas Derrick, Nostrana, Portland, Ore.; adapted from Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy)

  • 1.75 liters of Everclear, or other strong or overproof spirit
  • 18 lemons, whole, well washed, preferably organic
  • superfine or white sugar
  • food-grade cheesecloth, rinsed and wrung out
  • strong butcher’s twine
  • large sealable glass vessel or urn, with lid.

It helps to have another pair of hands while setting this up, but once you’ve gotten the initial setup in place, it takes care of itself.

Limoncello, Week 5 (+ 1 Day)

Limoncello, Week 5 (+ 1 Day) (Photo credit: Dave77459)

Pour the spirit into the well-cleaned urn. Drape the cheesecloth in crossing swaths, making sure to gauge the length so that once the weight of the lemons is pending, they cannot reach the spirit. Bind the cheesecloth tightly in place on the outside edge of the urn with the butcher’s twine, wrapping it under a lip to make certain it is well held.

Place the lemons into their hammock and cap the whole with the lid. If the lid has a plastic or rubber gasket, you may wish to remove it, lest it leach any off-flavors into the mix.

Store in a stable environment out of sunlight for nine weeks. Given variables like temperature and humidity, your limoncello may be ready before then. Warmer climates will speed up the process. Avoid opening the jar, as it will set the curing process back, but do pay attention to the color of the mix; you want it rich with a kind of varnished yellow, but it can actually go too far, over-extracting into a brown color with an intensity that can be too much for some people’s taste.

At the end of the aging period you should have roughly 1.4 liters of unsweetened lemon spirit at roughly 60 percent alcohol by volume, or 120 proof. Make a simple syrup of ½ liter water and the same of sugar. When dissolved fully, add to the lemon spirit and mix well. Taste for strength, balance and sweetness and adjust water for dilution and/or sugar if necessary. Be cautious not to drown the lemon’s bite and aromatics with too much sugar, but also bear in mind that if you’re serving your limoncello from the freezer, you will perceive slightly less sweetness in the frozen mixture.

Rock and Rye

Rock and rye is an American classic. Rye whiskey, sweetened with rock candy and flavored with pieces of fruit and sometimes horehound, was among the remedies used to treat colds in the early part of the 20th century. In days gone by, every bar had its own creation of rock and rye.

  • 2 cups rye whiskey
  • 6 ounces rock candy
  • 2 orange slices
  • 2 lemon slices
  • 2 cherries
  • pineapple slice (optional)
  • horehound (optional)

Put all ingredients in a quart jar. You can start enjoying after one day; however, flavor will change as rock candy dissolves with time. As you deplete, add more whiskey and candy as needed. No need to start all over with fresh batch each time. If the fruit slices show signs of breaking down, replace. Always keep fruit covered with alcohol.


We love to take that homemade rock and rye and make cocktails. Here’s one of our favorites that uses white port. White port, unlike ruby, tawny, and most any other style, is made with all white grapes. It’s usually light and fruity; although, some styles do exist that are aged and are a bit drier. For this cocktail, we use Dow’s white port priced around $12.50 at the store. We prefer to use the Vya dry vermouth in this cocktail due it’s more floral aromatics, but play around with whatever dry vermouth you have and see what you prefer. Just make sure it’s fresh. If it’s been sitting on that home bar shelf for months on end, throw that shit out and get a new bottle. It is a wine product and will oxidize. Pump the air out and store in the fridge to extend the life. Better yet, just drink the damn stuff. Buy small bottles if you tend to be afraid of vermouth so you don’t waste it.

1 oz rock and rye

1 oz white port

½ oz dry vermouth

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. I sometimes garnish with a lemon twist. This is also pretty damned good served as a “cooler” on the rocks in a tall glass and topped with soda water.


Milk Liqueur/licor de leite (from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite)

  • 2 1/2 cups grappa (or unflavored vodka)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
  • 1/2 lemon, seeded and chopped, with rind

Pour the grappa and milk into an impeccably clean half-gallon glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Scoop in the sugar, chocolate and lemon. Cover tightly and shake well to help the sugar begin to dissolve. It will look curdled, and it should. Set aside in a cool dark place and shake or stir well every day for 10 days.

Set a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl and pour in the mixture. When the mixture has finished draining, squeeze the cloth to release as much liquid as possible, and discard the solids.

Line a sieve with a paper coffee filter.  Pour in the liqueur and let the mixture drip through to a clean bowl–this can take up to 24 hours. Change the filter when it becomes clogged with the residue from the liqueur. You can repeat this step once or twice to clarify it as much as possible.

Pour the liqueur into a clean decanter with a tight-fitting top. It will keep at room temperature for up to 6 months.


44 coffee beans, 44 sugar cubes, 1 orange and 750ml vodka,  steep for 44 days. Whadda ya get? Liqueur 44, something that tastes remarkably like Grand Marnier. Recipe from a Patricia Wells cookbook.

To make your own Liqueur 44 make small slits in the orange peel and stud with the coffee beans. Place in a large jar, spoon in the sugar and cover with  vodka. then leave to sit in a dark cool place for 44 days. Shake jar each day until sugar has dissolved.  After 44 days decant liquor into a bottle.

Serve as an aperitif, after dinner liqueur or mixed with sparkling wine, for a long drink.

Crème de Cassis

1 ½ lb fresh blackcurrants (online source)

3 cups vodka
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick, cracked or crushed

Rinse and drain the blackcurrants and remove any damaged fruit. In a large bowl, crush the currants with your hands (or pulse a couple of times in a food processor) and mix well with the other ingredients. Put into clean jam or mason jars and let steep for a month. Some recipes recommend leaving the jars in the sun, but a warm place in the kitchen is fine. 

After a month, strain the mixture through a few layers of cheesecloth, squeeze out as much juice as you can, and bottle.

Ratafia de Cerises

Take cherries* and their pits, & put them in a pot to crush them, & let them ferment 24 hours. Usually three pounds of cherries produce a pint of juice. When you strain them, squeeze them to extract all the juice, & put as much of eau-de-vie (brandy*) as that of juice, pint for pint; add a quarter pound of sugar per pint; i.e., on a jug of twelve pints; three pounds sugar; & to that jug; you will add a piece of cinnamon and a handful of crushed cherry pits & stopper the jug, letting it infuse six weeks. After six weeks, strain, bottle and cork, and set back in a cool place for at least 4 months. This ratafia only gets better with age.

Make certain your cherries are ripe and mature, without being spoiled; otherwise all the spices, which one has habit to put at it, are not worth anything for ratafia.

*If you use Royal Ann (Napoleon or Bigarreaux) cherries, use a white brandy (Marc, vodka). If you use a dark cherry (Bing or Black Tartarian) use dark brandy.


 Secarica (Caraway Brandy)

Makes about 3 cups


1/4 cup caraway seeds 

1/3 cup sugar

1 750-milliliter bottle brandy


Using a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a glass measuring cup on a cutting board, lightly crush and bruise the caraway seeds until fragrant. Using a funnel, transfer seeds and sugar to the bottle of brandy, and seal. Let sit at room temperature, shaking the bottle every few days, for 1 month.
Pour brandy through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a large glass measuring cup, and discard solids; clean bottle and return brandy to bottle, and seal. Serve right away or chill.


Cherry Bounce

“Cherry Bounce” is one of this country’s oldest libations. Martha Washington even included her own special recipe in her writings:

Extract the Juice of 20 pounds of well ripend Morrella Cherrys Add to this 10 quarts of Old French brandy and sweeten it with White Sugar to your taste—To 5 Gallons of this mixture add one ounce of Spice Such as Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmegs of each an Equal quantity Slightly bruis’d and a pint and half of Cherry kernels that have been gently broken in a mortar—After the liquor has fermented let it Stand Close-Stoped for a month or Six weeks—then bottle it remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.”

Cherry Bounce is also a longtime staple in the environs of New Orleans. There are nearly as many different recipes for the drink as their have been drinkers. But the four things (nearly) all of them have in common are cherries, whiskey, sugar, and time.


2 qts Cherries, unpitted (sweet, sour, or the traditional wild.)

1 qt Bourbon

3 C sugar (less if using sweet cherries.)

2 sticks cinnamon

Combine the cherries, sugar and cinnamon in a glass container or earthen crock. cover with cheesecloth or screen and sit in warm place for two weeks to two months. There’s no rule here. Just look for a sticky brown syrup to develop.

Then pour bourbon into mixture and let set for at least a week, and up to another month. Then strain all ingredients into bottles, and either drink immediately, or seal and wait until Christmas.


If you enjoyed these recipes, check out the Boozed and Infused blog for further recipes!


Single Post Navigation

Comments are closed.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 635 other followers