Fresh fruit + vodka = summer in a glass, all year round.
I’ve been making fruit-infused liquors for about 10 years. I get it from my mother, who makes jars of lemon verbena liquor and blackberry brandy (and amazing Irish Cream in the winter).
I know the whole fruit infusion thing has been done to death in higher-end bars the last few years, but it’s still one of my favorite ways to keep local berry flavor around all year.
Gather your equipment
You’ll need fresh fruit, a bottle of your favorite liquor, and a little patience. It’s not necessarily much cheaper than hitting the package store, but you can’t beat the quality of the cordial—or the boasting rights to making your own booze.
* Large, tempered glass jar
* Wine bottles or canning jars
* Sealing wax (optional)
* High-proof liquor (vodka, tequila, etc.)
* Bar sugar (optional)
Pick your ingredients
Chances are, if you like it, other people will, too. I usually use what’s in season—and test my ideas first by soaking a mini-batch for a few days. You can finetune your recipe, and you don’t waste a lot of ingredients if you’re not crazy about how your creation tastes.
Want to make peach brandy? Hit an orchard and let the fruit sit on the counter until it hits peak ripeness. Also, don’t rule out savory or spicy ingredients. I like to use dried Chinese chilis for a hot pepper vodka (the longer these steep, the hotter your drink will get) to use in Bloody Marys. Here’s the one I have going right now:
Infuse your booze
1. Sterilize a large, tempered glass jar with boiling water, and add your fruit
Wash your fruit and pat it dry with paper towels. If you�re using berries, pick out any stems and bruised pieces. For larger fruit, chunk it up, discarding any pits or seeds. There can be a lot of flavor in a peel or rind�especially with citrus fruits�but leaving it on is your call. If you keep it, avoid a toxic cocktail and consider going organic and pesticide-free.
2. Add your liquor
Layer your fruit in the bottom of your jar, and cover with your alcohol of choice. For a sweeter cordial, add a little instant-dissolving bar sugar. When in doubt, skip it. You can always add sugar later, but once it�s in there, you can�t get it out.
3. Cover your jar and set it aside
Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside in a cool, dark place. Every few days, check on your concoction and shake the jar a little to mix it up.
When is it ready?
Trust your nose�and your taste buds�on this one. I usually start tasting after about a week. Your liquor will have taken on a little�or a lot�of the fruit�s color. In general, the more delicate the fruit, the less time it will take to give up all its flavor and color. Berries are usually spent after a week, while citrus and stone fruits can be soaked for a month�or longer.
Taste your creation one last time before you bottle it to make sure you really like it.
- Sterilize your bottles with boiling water.
- Line a regular metal kitchen strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Ladle your infusion into the strainer, pressing the fruit with the back of the ladle to squeeze out the last bits of juice.
- Pour the strained concoction through a funnel into the sterilized bottles
- Seal with corks or screw caps, and store in a cool, dark place. Some cordials greatly improve after they�ve aged for a month or two.
A note on food safety (or, how to not poison yourself or your friends)
A few things to be mindful of:
- Use a high-proof liquor, like vodka.
- Inspect your fruit, and toss any pieces that are bruised.
- Use super clean hands, bowls, and utensils, and sterilize your containers by boiling them.
- Use all your common senses: If your infusion looks funky or smells like you wouldn�t want to drink it, don�t.
Because you’re using strong alcohol, your chances of running into trouble are probably less than with traditional canning. But since I�m not an expert on canning or preserving by a long shot, you can read more about food safety from the good folks at the USDA.
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse�/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.