January 28, 2009

Happy Hour: Homemade Strawberry Liqueur

by Payman Bahmani


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.

Come back every Wednesday for Paystyle’s weekly Happy Hour column.

18 Comments

  • kayoko
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    and they are so pretty!

  • kayoko
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    can’t wait to see your next creation with these! great idea, Pay!!!

  • Vanessa Bahmani
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Amazing idea. I think you’ve scored a touchdown with this one and I can’t wait to try it.

  • Vanessa Bahmani
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    You’re so creative, and now that you’ve mentioned it I really want to taste all the recipe ideas you have for the strawberries. They all sound like a home run to me!

  • vanessa bahmani
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    I think you’ve really scored a goal with this one!

  • Onabike
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Hi,

    After you have strained the strawberries for the first time, you simply add more sugar and no liquids? That’s it?
    My (first) jar is in my cupboard as well :D

    Thanks.

  • Paystyle
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Onabike:

    Hello and thanks for reading the post. Yes, after draining the strawberries, add more sugar (2 or more tbsp) but no more liquid. The whole purpose is to allow the sugar to draw out the remaining liquid from the strawberries.

    Once you’ve added the sugar, roll the jar around a bit to distribute the sugar as evenly as possible. You’ll notice after a day or two that more liquid has accumulated.

    Then in another week, repeat the same process again (drain, add 2 or more tbsp sugar, wait a week) for a few more weeks, until it appears that the strawberries don’t have much more liquid to give. You’ll know b/c the strawberries will be a fraction of their initial size, as most of their mass in liquid will have been lost, not to mention their color.

    Hope that answers your question.

  • Onabike
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Hi and thanks for your reply,
    This morning I’ve found out that the jar I got was not hermetically sealed like the shopkeeper had promised me (I got a glass jar with a plastic lid) so I’ll be swapping jars when I’ll draw out the liquids this Friday.
    But I can tell you right now that the smell of it is absolutely divine!

    Thanks!

  • Paystyle
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Onabike:
    FYI, I don’t think the seal is all too important,so long as it closes properly b/c there’s no issue regarding oxidation or anything like that. And the usage of the overproof vodka prevents any bacterial formation.

    In fact, if your jar lid is too tight, you’ll realize that it can be very difficult to open, since you’re dealing with dissolved sugar that can accumulate and harden b/w the opening and the lid.

    I simply used cleaned out mason jars that once held store-bought pasta sauce and it was fine. Just thought you should know.

    And you’re absolutely right about the smell, and it will look and taste great as well! Keep coming to the site b/c I’ve devised another unique cocktail with it that I’ll post in a week or two when your batch is ready that you won’t want to miss.

  • Onabike
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 11:25 am

    WHOA!
    Just finished dividing the 1st jar into two jars and “accidentally” tasted one of the strawberries…. strong stuff.
    Anyway, I transferred my batch to tightly sealed jars now and we’ll see how it goes. Just so you know, I used 1Kg of strawberries covered with 1x750cc 96% alcohol I got in the store so I’m not sure about overall quantities (those jars of yours look like they’re 0.5 Kg, right).

    I left one more strawberry out of the jar, gonna used it as a chaser now :D

  • Paystyle
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Yeah the strawberries are pretty strong. Honestly, you lost me w/the Kg and cc stuff, as I’m not accustomed to using the Metric System. But I think you’re estimation is correct, as my jars hold about 24oz each, so that’s roughly .6 or .7 kg.

    That’s not so important however. Regardless of the size of jar you used, just make sure you placed enough strawberries to fill it, and that you have ample sugar. So I used 2-3 tbsp of sugar each time, so if your jar is double the size of mine just double the sugar.

    The other crucial thing to remember is that regardless of the type of alcohol you use (I used vodka, but if you prefer to infuse gin, rum, etc. that’s fine), it should be of a high quality. I like to use something that’s at least triple distilled, since I’m introducing outside elements into it.

    I just strained my batch for the last time. I could’ve probably drawn a little more but it would’ve been a negligible amount, and didn’t want to risk spoilage.

    I bit into one and since it lost most of its liquid mass, it was no longer soft, but it was very sweet. So I thought I’d see if I could try my hand at making candied strawberries with them. I placed them on a wax-paper lined baking sheet and sprinkled some sifted confectioner’s sugar on top, and put it in my oven @ 170 deg, for as long as it takes to dry them out. If you have a better method I’d like to hear it.

    If it’s successful I’ll post it.

  • Conrad
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for the comments. Infussions are so easy for how complex the tastes they create.

  • Onabike
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Well, I’m the lazy type so I figured when my batch is over I’ll use some in a hot chocolate fondue and the rest I’ll mash and use it in jello.
    I think mine will have to be diluted a bit, or aged. It’s still pretty strong :D

  • Paystyle
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Onabike – I think the ideas you posed are probably better than mine. I made the candied strawberries, and they were ok especially since I basically winged it, though certainly not mindblowing or anything. Maybe I’ll post about them at some point.

  • Onabike
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Hi,

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve bottled my liqueur last night. It’s pretty strong and the alcohol is pretty dominant in taste so I’ll let it sit for a while before doing anything with it. IF that won’t reduce the sting I’ll add some sugar syrup to dilute it a bit.
    The smell, though, is intoxicating :)

  • Paystyle
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Onabike – Awesome job!

    I agree that letting it sit in your dark cupboard/liquor cabinet should mellow it out a bit, which you’re likely to do anyway unless you’re going to drink it all right away!

    I personally like the strength, as I rarely drink liqueurs straight, but rather mix them in cocktails. If you like a less potent liqueur perhaps next time go with a standard 80 proof liquor.

  • Anonymous
    Posted March 19, 2009 at 9:07 am

    do you think you can do this with marichino cherries?

  • Paystyle
    Posted March 19, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Probably, though I’d rather put regular cherries in brandy or bourbon or something like that. I don’t think I’d want to impart the artificial Maraschino flavor to a liquor.

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