How to Make Orange Liqueur

Orange liqueur is a definite cocktailing essential, but it can end up being quite expensive. If you’re like me and you want high quality taste without a high quality price, then the ultimate dilemma is, “How can I justify buying that bottle of Grand Marnier when I only finished it a month ago?” In BC, it runs $38.49 for a 750 ml bottle, and while it leaves behind a neat golden hue, the price does not justify it for me. I wouldn’t be satisfied with a bottle of triple sec, and Cointreau is too similar a price point to the Grand Marnier.  Keep in mind that making it yourself does not save you much money (only a few dollars cheaper), but you end up with leftovers of the ingredients, can customize it further to your palate, and creates less glass waste!

I searched high and low for an orange liqueur that I thought sounded like what I wanted to produce, and this recipe on Serious Eats sounded the best to me. What distinguished this recipe from others I found is that this one uses equal parts vodka and brandy, rather than just vodka. What I love the most about Grand Marnier is that it’s an orange cognac liqueur, so this seemed appropriate. While I would have loved to use cognac in my homemade concoction, if I could afford something like Courvoisier or Remy Martin, I wouldn’t be ruining it with a pile of flavour and sugar! Brandy would have to do.

I made the recipe exactly as given, to see how it would taste. I really don’t have any modifications to suggest. Some people left behind comments on the recipe page that indicated they didn’t like the taste of cloves and omitted it from the recipe, but I did add the cloves and there is certainly no clove taste in my final product. It was added to the final day of steeping, long enough only to round out the flavour.

As for authenticity, since I consumed all of my Grand Marnier, I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I tried it in a margarita (1.5 oz reposado tequila, 0.5 oz orange liqueur, 1 oz lime juice, 0.5 oz simple syrup, shake and pour into a salted rim glass), a daiquiri (same as a margarita but with a white rum), and a beautiful (0.5 oz orange liqueur, 0.5 oz cognac), and all of them were quite tasty!

Smirnoff and St-RemyI used cheap spirits, Smirnoff vodka and St-Remy VSOP brandy. I bought the bitter orange peel from a local home-brewing supply shop. The recipe said to use “navel oranges”, and I’m not sure if that’s what I brought home; I used small-ish firm oranges that weren’t mandarins. The major point is to use a combination of sweet and bitter orange peel, like the store-bought orange liqueurs would use. I used a zester on the oranges because if you use a grater, you run the risk of having too much of the white bitter pith (bitter in the bad way, not the good way!) end up in the infusion and make it less palatable.

I’ve included some pictures of progress after the recipe directions, so you have some idea of how it will look along the way. I will absolutely be making this again!

Orange Liqueur Recipe (from Serious Eats)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup zest from 3 small naval oranges
  • 1 tablespoon dried bitter orange peel
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine zest, dried orange peels, brandy, and vodka in a small sealable container. Seal and shake. Let steep for 19 days at room temperature. On day 20, add the cloves, then seal and shake. Let steep for an additional day.

  2. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat stirring to dissolve. Let this simple syrup cool. Strain the contents of the jar through a fine mesh strainer and then through a coffee filter. Discard the solids. Combine the strained mixture with the simple syrup in a jar or bottle. Shake and let it rest for a minimum of one day before use. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to one year (it’s best within three months). I didn’t have a 1L bottle, so I used two leftover 750 ml bottles.

Here are the pictures of progress:

How it looks a day after adding the ingredients.

How it looks a day after adding the ingredients.

I made sure to add 4 whole cloves (like the one on the left), as I felt the one on the right was missing the little head!

I made sure to add 4 whole cloves (like the one on the left), as I felt the one on the right was missing the little head!

Double filtered. First time through a mesh strainer, second time through a coffee filter. Definitely necessary.

Double filtered. First time through a mesh strainer, second time through a coffee filter. Definitely necessary.

After adding the orange mixture to the simple syrup.

After adding the orange mixture to the simple syrup.

After shaking and letting it sit for a day, now it's yummy and homogeneous.

After shaking and letting it sit for a day, now it’s yummy and homogeneous.

Advertisements

How to Make Irish Cream

Irish Cream, or better known to many as “Bailey’s” is dead easy to make at home.

Now, you might be thinking “But adding alcohol to dairy is going to make it curdle!” And you are right. You might think “EEW gross!” but think about it this way: if you are buying Bailey’s and it’s not curdling and can be left warm on a liquor store shelf for months at a time, what are they putting in it to keep it from doing that?

Now that we’ve established that it will curdle, how do we prevent that? Aside from keeping it in the fridge, a nice hearty shake of the container will bring it back to its luscious velvety state in no time. I tested this out when my handy dandy mason jar was full of homemade Irish Cream, half full, and even when there was only a couple ounces left. No matter how lumpy it started, it always reverted to the desired texture after shaking.

Next question: does it taste as good as the original? HELL YES. I’m not exaggerating. I would even say it tastes better than the original, simply because it’s fresher. Mine tasted a little bit less sweet (which I’ll discuss below the recipe),  but that didn’t change the authenticity of the flavour all that much.

Of course, you must be wondering: “But how will it taste and mix into my coffee?” Again, exactly like the original.

However, the best part about making it home: you have to use Irish whiskey. Which means that not only are you given the power to choose which Irish whiskey you use, but you’ll have some left over after you make it. My biggest hesitation to buying Irish Cream or any other liqueur I would largely have simply to put into coffee, is that I’m going to drop $30 on something I use infrequently. Irish whiskey however, is far more versatile. I could mix that in anything or just drink it straight up; the possibilities are endless!

The recipe I used from sourced from All Recipes, and I knew it was good because my friend made it for me and gave it to me as a birthday present. She also used soy milk and cream, though I am not certain how she found a non-dairy replacement for the condensed milk, or if that hadn’t been taken into consideration.

I tested it out at half the recommended yield (4 cups on the recipe page), as I wanted to ensure I would enjoy it. The great thing about All Recipes is you can specify what yield you want and it automatically modifies all the quantities for you.

“Original” Irish Cream Recipe
Makes 2 cups

  • 1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream (35% MF)
  • 7 oz condensed milk (half a 14 oz can)
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp + 1 tsp Irish whiskey
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 tbsp chocolate syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

In a blender, combine whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk, Irish wIrish Cream Gift Bottlehiskey, instant coffee, chocolate syrup, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Blend on high for 20 to 30 seconds. Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Shake well before serving. Keeps for about 2 months in the fridge.

I did not have chocolate syrup on hand, so I used 1 tsp of cocoa powder instead. This made my version slightly less sweet but did not change the flavour otherwise. Next time, I will add 1 tbsp of sugar as well.

Saffron Twists on Old Classics

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. You may not have seen it before, as it doesn’t quite look like it could be food. yellow perfection It looks like tiny little strands that are picked by HAND, one by one, ever so delicately like the teeny little flowers that they are. You would know however if you had something saffron-flavoured because those tiny little strands stain food a very bright yellow. Saffron is common in middle-eastern cooking and its taste is hard to describe. It’s not a strong flavour and yet its subtlety still enhances a typically bland dish (e.g. white rice) into something more extraordinary. Or, perhaps everyone is just captivated by the way it tints everything a VERY BRIGHT YELLOW. 

Being the freak-spice-food navigator that I am, I wanted to know what kind of drinks that a saffron syrup would go well with. I had many results to my Google search, but none really striked my fancy or were that yummy to make (one example was adding it to a gin & tonic – changed the flavour almost 0%). So, I made some syrup and started experimenting.

But first! The saffron syrup recipe:
The threads which were strained outCombine equal parts water and white granulated sugar into a pot at low heat (about a “3”). I used 3/4 cup water and sugar and added the sugar slowly until it dissolved. Once dissolved, I added about 30-35 saffron threads. Cook gently for about 15 minutes or until the mixture gently bubbles. Once it bubbles, let it do that for about 3 minutes and then set aside to cool. Strain and add to a container of your choice (I use mason jars that are 1 cup and it makes about 1 cup of syrup).

Now that you have your yummy saffron syrup, here are two twists on some classics. One warm and one cold; both taste very different but do add a wonderful flavour to these cocktails that may not be distinctive but will be noticed.

Saffron Hot Toddy:
– 2 oz bourbon/whiskey or blended Scotch
– 0.5 oz lemon juice
– 0.5 oz saffron syrup
– hot water
Mix the components together and add the hot water at the end. Bada bing bada BOOM.
Choose whichever bourbon or blended Scotch that you like. Don’t choose something expensive as the sugar will dampen the flavour of the spirit (which should be enjoyed neat, anyway). I had my first hot toddy with Ballantine’s blended Scotch which was like a punch to the face. But I loved it. I’ve had it with a peaty Scotch which I personally did not feel added to the flavour of the cocktail and ruined a perfectly good Scotch. I’ve used Wild Turkey 81 and so far, that’s been my favourite. (yes, I did also post a recipe for a pear hot toddy before – if you are finding this too repetitive, use some amber rum instead – add a pad of butter on top and some “holiday” spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves and now you have saffron hot buttered rum!)
This drink goes well with winter, tucked into a coffee tumbler for secret drinking. Because when it’s -20C outside, you won’t care! You are equipped with liquid sunshine!!

Saffron Amaretto Sour:
– 2 oz amaretto (I recommend DiSaronno)
– 1 oz lime juice
– 0.5 oz saffron syrup
– 1 egg white
Add all the components into a cocktail shaker with ice and pour into a sugar-rimmed rocks/Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with lime twist if desired.
This is also the less sweet version. If you like cocktails that give you cavities like I do, decrease the lime juice by 0.5 oz and increase the saffron syrup by 0.5 oz. A nice little dessert to end your dinner with.

Pear Syrup & A Warm Fall Favourite

I love Bartlett pears. A lot. I am pretty convinced that all imitation pear flavouring emulates the flavour of Bartlett pears. I love them so much that I actually can’t understand why other varieties of pear exist; they all taste like wet cardboard to me.

There are many pear liqueurs out there but knowing that they were likely made with the inferior non-Bartlett pears and were on the pricier side, I chose to go the simple route and make simple syrup in a Bartlett pear flavour.
(NB: this recipe will work for any variety of pear, you just have to promise me that whichever pears you choose, that you absolutely adore them. Don’t just grab any pears off the shelf!)

I sauntered down to the grocery store nearest my place and I bought 3 Bartlett pears. I left them out on top of the kitchen table to ripen. Just like using over-ripe bananas to make banana bread, I let these pears ripen far past their “yummy-to-eat” date, until their bottoms looked a little brown and soft. There were also an alarming amount of fruit flies trying to stake claim on my precious pears!

Once the pears were over-ripe, I rinsed them and chopped them in half and scooped out the soft brown bits. I did not peel the pears as I knew the skins would just get filtered out later anyway. While I chopped them up into little cubes, I prepared a water-sugar mixture on the stove. Here’s the exact recipe I used:

3 Bartlett pears (over-ripe)
1/2 cup of water (125 mL)
3/4 cup of white sugar (~180 mL)

Put the pear and the water and the sugar all into a small pot and put it on the stove on low-medium heat. meshstrainerStir it frequently for 15 minutes, being careful not to let it boil. Then, turn up the heat a little higher to about medium heat until the mixture bubbles ever so slightly for 3 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and filter the mixture through a mesh sieve and push all the pear goo with a spoon in the sieve to make sure all the syrup comes out. I did this over top a mason jar.
NB: my finished product did have some tiny little fibrous pear bits in it that did pass through the sieve, so I would recommend doing another filtration through some doubled-over cheesecloth.

Put the finished product in the fridge to cool before using. It should keep in the fridge for about a month. The final yield for this recipe was a little over a cup of syrup.

leftoverpeargoo I also kept my leftover pear goo in the fridge. Could be used for many things, such as filling tart shells or put it in an omelette with brie and blue cheese!

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, what kind of a drink uses pear syrup?

Since the weather is getting colder, the season of warm drinks is upon us and I decided to do a variation of the classic Hot Toddy. It’s a lovely cocktail that tastes more like tea than alcohol and feels oh-so-soothing when you have a cold! Neo Citran, eat (drink!) your heart out with this one:

Pear Hot Toddy

2 oz bourbon (or Tennessee whiskey or a blended Scotch of your choice)
2 oz pear syrup
Fill up with boiling water
Add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
(Garnish with a cinnamon stick if desired)

The bourbon/Tennessee whiskey/blended Scotch choice is up to personal taste. I recommend bourbon/Tennessee whiskey over a blended Scotch simply because I find they are thicker and more syrupy than a blended Scotch. You could opt to use a peaty Single Malt Scotch however, I think that’s a waste of an expensive Scotch that is best served alone. The sugar in the syrup is going to change the flavour of the Scotch too, so best to use something that is not too expensive and complements the sweetness of the pear and spices nicely.

If you happen to have pure maple syrup on hand, I also recommend using 1.5 oz pear syrup and 0.5 oz of maple syrup instead. That’s just my Canadian showing. ;)