I've recently been experimenting with homemade liqueurs, and was wondering if anyone else has any experience in the area. I'm a very light drinker, and if I'm going to be consuming alcohol, I'd prefer for it to be the good stuff....and goodness knows I can't afford it. It's a nice way to make use of in-season local fruit, including things that you won't or can't actually eat - apparently, crabapples are terrific.
So far, I've got some cherry liqueur (made from Trader Joe's dried cherries) and mango liqueur (itty-bitty clearance mangoes from the store pureed with a whole lot of cheap rum), and have had great success with my homemade aquavit, which is as good or better than the stuff at the store at a fraction of the price! (The only difference is that mine is a sort of amber yellow. I'm not sure why the commercial stuff isn't.) I'm hoping to try producing a grapefruit liqueur using grapefruit zest (the outer layer of the peel) to infuse 190-proof liquor before diluting it to drinking strength (40 proof) with fresh grapefruit juice, and use a similar high-alcohol extraction process to make coffee liqueur as well. Also, while I can't stand it personally, the huge amount of wild mint around here does make producing some creme de menthe very tempting.
One potential issue I have is the subject of pulp extraction from the finished product. Traditionally, most folks just shove a bunch of fruit in some alcohol, then remove the fruit and dispose of it; because most of the flavoring has been seeped out into the surrounding alcohol, the fruit tastes pretty nasty. However, in the interest of increasing surface area to reduce infusion time and potentially allow for greater liquid extraction efficiency, I've chosen to produce a sort of fruit-alcohol slurry from which I can hopefully extract the juice. So far, all I've thought of is either finding a centrifugal juicer (fairly rare) or using a hydraulic press to extract the liquid - does anyone have any suggestions?
Anyway, my recipe for aquavit is as follows:
3T carraway seeds (whole)
1.5T anise seeds (whole)
750ml 80-proof vodka. (Use the cheap stuff. Ordinarily decent liquor is worth buying for use in liqueur, but this much carraway could cover the flavor of nuclear waste.)
1. Rinse carraway and anise seeds well in cold water.
2. Place vodka and seeds in a 1-quart mason jar, preferably one with a good seal.
3. Place in a dark, reasonably warm place (not the fridge!) Wait one week, agitating occasionally.
4. Filter the mixture through a coffee filter, and enjoy!
Apparently it's supposed to be even better if you allow the filtered mixture to wait a while, but I brought mine to a friend's house immediately after decanting and it disappeared rather rapidly. If you don't like neat aquavit, try mixing it with sprite - it's actually a whole lot nicer than it sounds.