Fruit liqueurs don’t have the best reputation. As with flavored vodkas, most options available for purchase taste cloying and artificial. But homemade fruit liqueur can be a wondrous thing — all you need is fruit, vodka, and simple syrup.
Fruit liqueur is one of the easiest alcoholic beverages you can “make yourself.” There’s no fermenting or distilling, and barely any measuring. You just have to lightly mash some fruit in a couple of cups of vodka (or other spirit) and let it sit for a few days, then strain the solids out and sweeten with simple syrup.
The procedure will vary slightly depending on your fruit. Soft berries release their juices more readily than a firm melon, but most juicy fruits will get the job done in two or three days. Crisp fruit like apples and pears can take up to a week — though I’ve seen some recipes that recommend a whole month — and orange liqueur is best made with peels, not fruit, and can take several weeks to infuse. The method we’re discussing today is best suited to juicy summer fruits like berries and melons, and stone fruits such as peaches and nectarines.
I’ve been using a rough ratio of two cups fruit (chopped if needed) to two cups of alcohol and one cup of simple syrup. Vodka works well, especially if you want a fruit-forward liqueur, but sometimes I’ll supplement with a little brandy, particularly if I’m making a berry liqueur. You can also mix two different fruits together, or toss in some herbs, citrus zest, peppercorns, or cardamom pods for a more complex sip — play around and create your own recipes. (I added a big sprig of tarragon to my Hood strawberry liqueur, and it ended up being a very good decision.)
To make a liqueur from juicy summer fruits, you will need:
- 2 cups of fruit (Keep berries whole; cut melon and stone fruit into roughly 1-inch pieces)
- 2 cups alcohol, either all vodka or 1 1/2 cups vodka and 1/2 cup of brandy
- A couple of sprigs of herbs or a few strips of citrus zest (optional)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
Add the fruit and alcohol to a big jar or other sealable container and lightly muddle the fruit with a wooden spoon. Place in a cool place out of direct sunlight for 2–3 days.
Give your mixture a taste to see if the fruit is coming through. If it’s not quite where you want it, let it steep for another day. Once it’s got enough fruit flavour, make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Let cool completely.
Strain out the solids while the syrup is cooling by running it through a mesh sieve to remove the larger pieces of fruit, then through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove the smaller particulates.
Once the booze is strained and the syrup is cool, add half a cup of syrup to your fruit-infused ethanol, stir, and taste. If you want it sweeter, add more syrup. Once you’ve nailed the level of sweetness, funnel it into a pretty bottle and chill for 24 hours. Sip, stir into cocktails, or splash into some bubbly. Fruit liqueur will keep in the fridge for at least two months.