Caramel syrup is a great way to give a rich caramel flavor to alcohol infusions and cocktails.
Caramel Simple Syrup
2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and turn heat on low. Allow the sugar to start melting slowly. No need to stir until the sugar begins to melt (which may take more than 10 minutes depending on how hot your burner is). As the sugar starts melting, turn the melted sugar on top of the undissolved sugar. Allow the sugar to continue to melt, stirring only occasionally. Once the sugar has fully dissolved, allow the sugar to come to a boil, making sure the sugar is not sticking to the sides of the pan.
Continue to boil until the sugar reaches a rich amber/copper color. Once it has reached the desired color, remove the pan from the heat.
I recommend wearing oven mitts/gloves and long sleeves for the next step as this can splatter and melted sugar is very dangerous.
Slowly pour the water into the sugar, stirring continuously until it becomes a smooth liquid. If there are any hard bits of sugar/caramel that won’t dissolve in the water, return the pan to the stove on low just until they melt, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat. Place in a heatproof glass jar and close tightly.
This will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. Be sure to allow this to cool completely before adding it to any alcohol recipes.
This is such a great time of year! No matter which holiday you celebrate, now is the time to get into the holiday spirit. Between holiday parties, family gatherings, gift giving and more, there are many reasons to start a holiday booze infusion right now!
A few years ago, I put together a list of some great holiday infusions (Holiday Fun Time). But since then, I have added a handful of holiday-themed booze infusions to the blog. I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of my favorite infusions for this time of year (and really, any time of year).
So here they are, in no particular order…
1. Gingerbread Liqueur – this one tastes just like gingerbread, and takes only a few days for the full infusion. Plenty of time to enjoy it this holiday season!
This fall, I was making a big batch of apple butter with some delicious, sweet apples from my parents’ farm. As I cored and peeled the many many apples (and no, I do not yet have an apple peeler/corer), I decided it would be a shame to toss all of those fabulous apple scraps. Even though the worms in my compost bin would love them, I figured there would be a much better use… how about apple spice liqueur?
This recipe is very versatile. Feel free to use any apple variety that you enjoy, and the alcohol of your choice. I had a large bottle of silver rum, and thought it would be great with apples, spices, and brown sugar. You can also use whatever spice combination you prefer.
One of the most common questions I get is about the need to refrigerate the infusions. One of the most important factors in avoiding refrigeration is ensuring your final alcohol content is high enough. My rule of thumb when using an 80 proof spirit is to ensure the original liquor content is at least 50% of the total volume. So if you are placing your ingredients into a quart jar, make sure to fit at least 2 cups of 80 proof liquor. As long as you can close the jar, you can add as much of the other ingredients as you like.
I made three versions of the apple spice liqueur, all of which turned out great. I’m actually going to mix them all together for the final product and bottle them for the holidays.
Apple Spice Liqueur
2 cups Rum or spirit of your choice (480 mL)
1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large cinnamon stick
6 whole allspice
Apple peels or apple slices
Place the first 5 ingredients in a quart jar. Add the apple peels and/or slices until the jar is full. Close the jar tightly and shake to help dissolve the sugar.
Place in a dark, cool spot for about a month, or until it reaches your desired flavor.
Brrrrrrr… it’s cold out there! We even had some snow/ice in Portland, Oregon last week! And cold weather makes me long for warm beverages.
So with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I would like to introduce you one of my favorite beverages for this time of year, the Cran-Apple Hot Toddy. These are great to serve for your guests on Thanksgiving (or any cold evening, really). I also found that my Hot Apple Toddy and Hot Cranberry Toddy recipes were a bit strong for company, so this version is a little toned down so that the guests don’t get too smashed…
Below are recipes to serve 2 as well as to serve 6, but feel free to increase the recipe as needed to make enough for your guests. If you serve them in small mugs, I find it goes well with dessert (or appetizers) on Thanksgiving, and you can stretch the batch that serves 6 a bit. (Although I never like to have too little alcohol when I have guests!)
Cran-Apples Toddies (to serve 2)
6 oz apple juice
1.5 oz cranberry juice (100% cranberry *not cranberry cocktail)
3 oz water
spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves)
honey (2-3 swirls around pan – or about 2-3 teaspoons)
1.5 TB Sugar (or to taste)
2 lemon wedges (small squeeze into mug, plus top with a lemon round)
4 oz brandy (or other booze of your choice – bourbon or rum would be great)
1 oz cointreau or triple sec
Cran-Apple Toddies (to serve 6)
2 1/4 cups apple juice
4.5 oz cranberry juice (100% cranberry juice – *not cranberry cocktail)
9 oz water
6 lemon wedges (plus a bit more lemon juice to squeeze on top)
spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves)
2-3 honey (6-8 swirls around the pan – or about 1-2 Tablespoons)
4.5 TB Sugar (0r to taste)
1.5 cups brandy (or other booze of your choice – bourbon or rum would be great)
3 oz cointreau or triple sec
In a small saucepan, combine the apple juice, cranberry juice, water, spices (cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg), honey and sugar. Place pan on stove until starts to simmer and the honey and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat, add the alcohol, and stir. Pour into glasses, squeeze a few drops of lemon and top with lemon round. If using whole spices, feel free to add a few to the mugs for decoration and flavor.
When I am serving this at a party or group dinner, I find it works well to keep it in a coffee pot (after heating) with the warming setting on. Alternatively you could place it in a crockpot (especially for a really large gathering). Please be careful to make sure that the lid is vented so that the alcohol vapors can escape. And safer yet, you can just mix the alcohols separately, place in a small bottle next to the carafe of hot juice, and allow guests to add their own alcohol to the drink (then there is also a non-alcoholic version available as well).
For the spices, you certainly don’t have to use whole spices. I find it tastes great both ways, but if using ground spices, beware of the final pour, it can be very spice-heavy.
As for alcohol, I typically make this with brandy, but it would be delicious with a large variety of spirits.
And a final note on the cranberry juice… I can’t say enough about how delicious the strong, utterly tart flavor of 100% cranberry juice is. If you have only ever tried cranberry cocktail, this flavor may be very strong for you. It is the 100% cranberry juice that really dictates adding so much sugar and honey to this recipe. If you are not able to find 100% cranberry juice (although it is usually very easy to find in the healthfood section of most large grocery stores) you could try substituting cranberry cocktail – but then please omit the sugar and honey. I have not tried this with cranberry cocktail, and the flavor would probably be lost in the rest of the drink.
For those of you who have been paying attention, yes, it has been a *very* long time since my last post. I’m very sorry about that. I missed you all! I will try not to do that again! Plus, it is the holiday season… and who doesn’t love infusing booze around the holidays?
If you like whiskey and honey, and a little bit lot of spice, this one is for you!
It is fun to come up with booze infusion ideas for friends. All you have to do is pay attention to things that they like, and do your best to infuse their favorite flavors into their alcohol of choice.
A friend recently told me that she loves honey whiskey. She also told me that she likes spicy food, “the hotter the better”. That same friend just had a birthday. So her birthday gift was Habanero Honey Whiskey. Well, Habanero Honey Whiskey and glitter, because “glitter and whiskey define me” she said.
Habanero Honey Whiskey
1/4 cup honey (about 85 grams)
1 medium cinnamon stick (about 4 grams)
1 habanero pepper* (optional)
Lemon zest – from about 1/3 to 1/2 of a medium lemon (about 5 grams of zest)
1 1/2 ounces Water
1 cup Bourbon or Whiskey of your choice
Remove the stem of the habanero and quarter the pepper, keeping the seeds intact. Place the first five ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on low heat. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the habanero with tongs or a fork. Allow the rest of the mixture to cool completely. Strain out the solids with a mesh strainer.
Pour the honey mixture into a pint jar or other infusion vessel. Add the bourbon or whiskey, and close the jar tight. Shake well to combine.
After 24-48 hours, strain through a coffee filter, and let the infusion rest for a few days before drinking.
Depending on how much heat you can take, feel free to use only part of the habanero or omit the seeds.
* Use caution when handling hot peppers. Use gloves if possible and wash hands thoroughly.
This infusion has the sweetness of the honey, the heat of the habanero, and it sure makes me want some honey whiskey!
Happy 2014! My New Year’s Resolution is to infuse more booze! I mean it. I didn’t post very many new recipes last year, and I promise you that this year will be different.
Our first infusion for this year is Winter Spice Bourbon. Let’s get right to it.
Winter Spice Bourbon
1 medium cinnamon stick (about 4 grams)
3 whole cloves
10 whole allspice berries
zest of 1 orange (I peeled it into large strips, but you could use a microplane)
20 grams (about 4 halves) dried plums or other dried fruit (you could use raisins or currants)
2 cups (480 mL) Bourbon or whiskey of your choice
Combine all ingredients in a large jar or bottle, close tight. Shake well and let it sit for a few days to a few weeks. I filtered mine at 12 days, and the flavor it strong. I think you could certainly filter sooner if it tastes to your liking. Let the infusion rest for a week or so after filtering, the flavor will mellow.
This infusion will be great in lots of cocktails. Try it in a winter hot toddy, a manhattan, old fashioned, or just sip it on its own.
I have more infusions in the works… so stay tuned!
What do you do if your Secret Santa recipient says they like peppermint bark candy and Grey Goose Vodka? You make peppermint bark liqueur!
The flavor of this liqueur is very pepperminty! The chocolate flavor is more subtle, but to remedy that, I’ve increased the cacao nibs in the recipe. (Plus, I had to gift this to my co-worker before it had a lot of time to infuse. A longer infusion time will definitely help!)
Peppermint Bark Vodka
1.5 ounces Candy Canes (about 10 mini candy canes) or Peppermint Candies
1/3-1/2 cup Cacao Nibs
1 1/2 cups Vodka
4 Tablespoons Simple Syrup (or to taste)
Crush the candy canes. Combine first three ingredients in a jar, and close tightly. Shake well to combine. The candy canes will dissolve quickly, but it will take a while for the cacao nibs to infuse properly into the vodka. Ideally, you would wait about 4 weeks for full infusion. I only had 10 days for mine. I tried filtering the liqueur, but I wanted the cacao nibs to infuse further. So I added the simple syrup to taste, and then put some of the nibs back into the gift bottle. Normally I am not a proponent of gifting without filtering, but what I liked about this infusion is that the cacao nibs in the liqueur give it a bit of a “snow globe” look. The presentation is actually lovely.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own peppermint bark liqueur, or if you like it much heavier on the chocolate, I would recommend the Peppermint Bark Liqueur from Eastside Distilling. It is very chocolatey and very delicious.
Last year, at the suggestion of Evelyn from Momsicle, our small group of Portland area bloggers got together for a Halloween candy-inspired infusion party. This post is intended to continue the series of Halloween infusions that we started last year. The infusions we made last year included Caramel Apple Liqueur and Chocolate Orange Liqueur.
The recipe I am about to give you was originally made for that same gathering. When I think of Halloween, I have visions of popcorn balls and caramel corn. I was determined to make a caramel corn liqueur. I made two variations. One was with raw corn, the other with boiled corn. I infused them each in vodka and added caramel syrup. The trouble was, the corn flavor was not very strong. I probably should have infused actual popcorn into the vodka. The resulting liqueur was still delicious! It just didn’t quite have the flavor profile I was going for.
Eventually, I gave a few bottles of the caramel corn liqueur to two different friends. Both of them declared that this was their favorite! So I decided I should share the caramel-goodness with you too!
Caramel Corn Liqueur
1 medium-sized ear of corn (about one cup of corn kernels)
You can try either raw corn or cooked (as mentioned above, we tried both raw and boiled). I think grilled would be nice (or try adding air-popped popcorn). Cut the corn off the cob, and place it in a canning jar or other bottle. Add the vodka, and allow to infuse until it reaches your desired flavor (we infused for about 2 months, but I’m sure you could do a much shorter time).
Make the Caramel Simple Syrup according to directions. Allow the syrup to cool completely before adding to the corn-vodka infusion. Begin to add the caramel syrup to the corn-vodka infusion one Tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired flavor.
Chill, and enjoy on its own, or in some sweet cocktails!
This time of year is very busy for food preservationists. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed with tomato projects. But this is very important. Put the tomatoes down and get yourself some plums. You know, those lovely Italian Prune-plums. The same variety we used to make Plum Liqueur.
I have tried a lot of new canning recipes this year… but I have a favorite that I am about to share with you. And I promise you will love it!
Armed with a plethora of Italian prune-plums, I made a batch of plum sauce and then decided I wanted to make some stewed plums with a sugary-boozy sauce. We typically make boozy-sugary preserved cherries, but I didn’t make any this year so I thought this would be a good stand in for holiday gift giving. We opened up a jar last night, and it was pure heaven! I just finished mopping up the last of the sauce with a piece of angelfood cake. That is a combination that you must try.
4 to 4 1/2 lbs plums (we used the Italian prune plums, but you could probably use any variety)
1 lb. dark brown sugar
4 c. water
1 1/2 – 2 c. brandy (or other booze of your choice) – optional
4 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
4-8 pieces of star anise – optional
8 whole cloves
1 1/2″ piece of ginger, cut into 8 slices
Prepare a hot water bath canner, jars, lids, etc. Sterilize the jars.
Halve the plums and remove the pits.
With a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the oranges in long strips, being careful not to remove the white pith. Juice the oranges and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, brown sugar, and orange juice. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
In hot sterilized jars, place the following in each jar:
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 whole clove
1 slice of ginger
1 star anise (optional)
1-2 long strips of orange zest
Pack the plums into the jars, cut-side down. Pack the fruit really well, leaving 1 inch of headspace.*
Pour 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of brandy into each jar (if using)
Pour sugar syrup into each jar, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Use a chopstick to remove any air bubbles and add more syrup if needed.
Wipe the rims of the jars, and top with jar lid and jar ring. Bring to finger-tip tightness.
Place pints in a water-bath canner and bring to a boil. After it comes to a full, rolling boil, process for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and remove the lid. Leave jars in canner for another 5 minutes. Remove from canner.
*The headspace is very important, be sure to leave a full inch.
When I was making the syrup, I was afraid it would be overly sweet. But I assure you, the finished product will be perfect. It tastes delightfully of plums, while having hints of orange and a gentle spice of cinnamon, clove and ginger. (I have not tried the ones with star anise yet…)
We made a few jars with the star anise, and a few without. We even made some jars without the brandy for those who are alcohol-free.
If you would like to try a different spirit in this, I think bourbon or rum would be very nice.
Editor’s Note: This guest post comes to us from a favorite local blogger, Evelyn Shoop. Evelyn is a freelance writer, and can be found at Momsicle. She is also quickly becoming a booze-infusing genius.
Thank you Evelyn for writing this great post and getting the word out about one of Portland’s great craft distilleries.
The best night out is sometimes marked by what you don’t make it to. Recently, we went with friends to Portland’s craft brandy distiller, Stone Barn Brandyworks. We were supposed to go to another distillery afterwards, but we fell in love and just stayed at Stone Barn. (You know those guests who just won’t leave? That was us.)
photo by Elisabeth Kang
Stone Barn was started as a passionate hobby by Portland couple Erika and Sebastian, who will admit that their youngest child was a bit of a distillery-orphan at the end of high school as they spent more and more time distilling and trying out new recipes.
When we arrived, Sebastian was distilling a pear cider, and we got to stick our heads in the giant distiller to take in the luxurious aroma as cider poured in. This was going to be turned in to a type of French, fortified liqueur (like a port, but with pears).
The advantage of visiting a small, local distillery is that the enthusiasm is almost as potent as the fruity, alcohol-laced air. And sitting amongst distillery equipment makes you think you might be in a Medieval alchemist’s lab, which isn’t the case at a more contrived tasting room.
Stone Barn has over a dozen types of brandy, whisky, and infused liqueurs to try–thanks to Sebastian’s passion for mixing different grains, fruit, and barrel-aging processes. Our favorites were the apricot, coffee, and green walnut liqueurs. The apricot, in particular, tastes like handfuls of apricots were smashed into a bottle and then drizzled with honey.
But their whiskies, and–of course–brandies, are well-worth tasting.
The real star of our night, however, was the whisky sour that Sebastian made with Stone Barn’s whiskey and apricot liqueur.
Stone Barn Brandyworks liqueurs and brandies are sold in many local liquor stores (and occasionally at farmers markets), so if you are looking for a great gift, ask about it. But definitely stop by for a tasting. Stone Barn is open for tastings on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays; and other times, such as Friday evenings, by request.