With Valentine's Day around the corner, I figured I'd have some strawberry liqueur on hand to toss in some cocktails, or if I'm feeling lazy, in some bubbly. And there's no way better to do it than to make it yourself at home. Although I'm a little late on the planning of this, as I often prefer to age liqueurs for at least 4 weeks, I figured I'd still have something decent and usable by V-day, with the remainder being allowed to age even further.
There's more than one way to make a liqueur. A common way is to simply fill a container with flavoring ingredients and a liquor of choice, along with sugar, and allow the materials to merry in a cool dark place for weeks. Well, this time I decided to try a different route, mainly as a means of experimenting, as described below.
Materials you need:
- 2 glass jars
- Enough fresh strawberries to fill one jar, taking into account that several will be eaten before they make it into the jar.
- 100 proof or higher Vodka
- 2 TBLS sugar for now (up to 6 more for the coming weeks)
Before you start make sure your strawberries are rinsed clean and have their stems cut off, as purity is the key to good liqueurs and infusions. Take a toothpick and poke the flesh of each strawberry in several locations. Fill one of the jars with strawberries. Add the 2 TBLS sugar and fill the jar with the vodka. Tighten the lid and shake it around to dissolve and evenly distribute the sugar. Set the jar in a cool place away from light for a week.
It should look like this when you begin:
In a few days you'll notice the strawberries have given off lots of color, and will continue to do so:
After one week, open the jar and strain just the liquid into the other empty jar. Make sure not to lose any strawberries, as you'll still need them. Place another TBLS or two of sugar into the jar with the strawberries. Close both jars and return them to their "waiting room." The sugar that has been added will continue to pull the liquid out of the strawberries. Repeat this process (straining the liquid, adding sugar to strawberries) for another couple of weeks.
Once you've strained the liquid from the strawberries for the final time, you can enjoy your liqueur or allow it to age even further. The aging process mellows out the sweetness and smooths out the flavor. The strawberries will have lost much of their volume by this time, and you can enjoy them as is, or let loose your culinary imagination to see what you come up with. I like making a sauce out of them to top waffles and pancakes, or adding them to a sangria.
There's so much flexibility around liqueurs and infusions that more important than the exact ingredients are the techniques. You can essentially swap out strawberries for other berries or fruits and the vodka for your liquor of choice. I preferred vodka here because of its neutral flavor, which would enable it to totally embrace the flavor of the strawberries.
As I mentioned earlier, purity is key, and that applies to your liquor as well. The vodka I used was a triple distilled 100 proof Smirnoff--something not too pricey but good quality nonetheless. The reason I went with a 100 proof was simple preference. Liqueurs are often very sweet because they're used as mixers, and so I wanted something high enough in proof that could still retain some kick in a cocktail. But the choice is basically yours.
My batch is still in my cupboard biding its time. In a couple weeks when it's done I'll return with the final product and show you a new cocktail I'll be creating with it.
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