Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holiday Spirits

If I told you I’m thinking about holiday liqueurs, you might conclude fall has been gruelling.  It has been, actually, but that’s beside the point.  The real reason I’m considering holiday liqueurs is because I plan on making them, and most require 4-6 weeks to develop.  If I start the six-week liqueurs now, they’ll be ready to bottle the week prior to Christmas.  By then, we’ll probably need a tipple or two.

This is one crazy-hectic season!  So, why am I making liqueurs?  Really, they don’t take much time – only a half an hour (or less) to mix the ingredients and store the mixture.  Some require occasional turning or shaking, but most just sit in a cool, dark place, quietly maturing.  Though time isn’t our deciding factor, I definitely appreciate the ease of preparing this holiday treat.

For us, budget dictates this type of spending.  We don’t drink much alcohol, and don’t stock a bar.  However, come the holidays, we like to offer a range of beverages, both alcoholic and non-, and liqueurs can be one of the most expensive ingredients.  They are also one of the most versatile, adding pizzazz to cocktails, but they’re also good served alone, on the rocks, mixed with sodas, creams, milk or in drinks like coffee or hot chocolate.

Each recipe I have uses some sort of spirit:  whisky, vodka, gin or brandy.  While there’s still a significant cost involved, the results are thriftier than buying similar name-brand liqueurs.  Flavour can be compromised by using poor quality ingredients, but even when using finer spirits and whole ingredients like vanilla bean, the liqueurs ultimately cost less than an equivalent quantity of name-brands.   With one 750-ml bottle of whiskey, the recipe I use produces more than 1500 ml of coffee liqueur.  Over time, I’ve adjusted the recipes to suit our tastes; it’s as easy as adding a little more or less water and/or sugar.
If your budget is groaning at the mere thought of the holiday season, but you’d still like to offer your guests some holiday “cheer,” consider making your own liqueurs.  Here’s a few recipes from my repetoire:
  1. Coffee liqueur with vanilla bean (sits for 4 weeks)
  2. Coffee liqueur with vanilla extract (sits for 6 weeks)
  3. Cherry Bounce (“bounced” every day for 3 months – sorry, too late for this holiday season)
  4. Orange Liqueur (shaken once a day for 1st week, then once a week for 3 more weeks.)
  5. Plum (Christmas) Liqueur (turned everyday; ready when clear – approx. 4-6 weeks)
  6. Irish Cream (keep refrigerated; will not keep long; make ahead to allow bubbles to settle.)
If these recipes interest you, post a comment sharing ways you plan to save money this holiday season, and then send me an email ( with “Holiday Spirits” in the subject line and noting your choice of recipe(s) in the body of the email.  I’ll include your recipes in the body of my reply.