Making liqueurs is very easy and you will find a few links of previous liqueurs I have made at the end of this post. It can get even easier and cheaper if you preserve fruit and I will explain why.
Years ago I used to discard the leftover syrups of the fruit preserves I made. I would save some to wet the sponge cakes I made and most of it was wasted. However, experimenting I started using them in my recipes by substituting sugar with the leftover syrups. Many of the Greek desserts are drenched in syrup so instead of making one from scratch, I substituted that syrup with the fruit preserves syrup, adding the flavour of the fruit to the recipe as well.
I then experimented with the Cherry Espresso Liqueur back in 2009 and since then I do it all the time. I don’t just use any syrup but try and use the same or a combination which will match. Some other recipes I remember using leftover syrup is in Mahalebi, Halvas (see chocolate halvas), Panna Cotta, Baklavas (recipe in my cookbook), Cheesecake etc.
I would like to recap in this post a few things about making liqueurs:
a) You can either use rectified spirit
(95 – 97 % alcohol by volume) or if that is difficult to find you can use vodka. Don’t use any cheap vodka because that will surely affect its taste. You can also make liqueurs using gin, tequilla, rum, brandy, whiskey and here in Greece we also use ouzo, tsikoudia, tsipouro, raki, zivania, which are similar to Italian grappa. Each one gives its distinct flavour. If you use brandy that will also affect the colour as well.
b) You can use whole fruit or pieces of fruit, pits from cherries or apricots, or the rind or zest of citrus fruit. Let them macerate in the alcohol for 20 – 30 days or more, until their flavour is released. The longer you leave them the better flavour you get. In some recipes the alcohol should be stored somewhere dark such as a closet and other recipes in the sun. The second technique is widely used in Greece but I am not sure if it is used in other countries as well.
c) Anything that gives flavour can be made into a liqueur so we can also make liqueurs using flowers, herbs, certain vegetables and of course spices.
d) Liqeurs are usually very sweet. In order to do this you need to make a syrup which you will mix with the alcohol. In some recipes the sugar is added together with the alcohol and in others we make the syrup and mix it later on.
e) If we want to combine our liqueurs with spices, we can use cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper etc. (not ground but whole and not too much).
f) We then remove the fruit, the peels, the pits or spices or herbs etc and drain the liqueur using a coffee filter.
g) Liqueurs do not need to age but the taste will improve if you leave it to rest for about a month.
When I was in Athens last month I made 2 kilos of cherry fruit preserve for my children, who love it.
There was also some leftover “tsipouro” (similar to grappa) in the fridge and since the only one who drinks some alcohol, every now and then, is my son who is now living in Cyprus, the idea of making liqueur with the pits was a good way to use it.
The tsipouro was about 250 ml. All I did was to put the the liquor in a jar and add as many pits, covered by the alcohol and let it steep in the fridge for a few weeks. At the beginning the liquid looked very pale in colour but as time passed it got darker.
Since the liquor was already in the fridge and the quantity I made was not much, I decided to leave it in the fridge.
By the time the macerating time was over we had already eaten and used some of the fruit preserve in desserts, so I was lucky to have leftover cherry syrup to make the liqueur.
Easy Cherry Pit Liqueur with Cherry Syrup
- Cherry or sour cherry pits
- 250 ml tsipouro or other alcohol
- 2 – 3 rose geranium leaves
- 5 – 6 whole cherries (optional)
- 250 ml homemade cherry syrup
- Put the cherry pits and the rose geranium leaves in a jar and add enough alcohol to cover the pits. (You can also add a few whole cherries which break so as to release some juice).
- Let it macerate in a dark place for about one month.
- Drain the liquor as well as the syrup and mix.
The amount of syrup you add is a matter of taste and it depends on how sweet you want the liqueur to be. What I do, I add, mix and taste until the desired sweetness. Don’ t over do it as you might end up drunk
However, as you may have leftover cherry pits after making a Cherry Cake, etc., you can still make the liqueur making a simple syrup.
The ratio of the syrup should be 2 sugar 1 water.
Put the sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 – 5 minutes.
Set aside until it cools.
Pour the syrup gradually in the liqueur, taste and adjust.
There! Apart from the steeping time, the liqueur is ready in five minutes with full flavour of cherries and the only thing you buy is the alcohol.
Bottle it in lovely bottles and you have wonderful, homemade gifts for friends and family!
You can find many more Greek recipes in my cookbook “More Than A Greek Salad”, and “Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!” both available on all Amazon stores.
Other relevant recipes:
Espresso Coffee Liqueur
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,