I recently dropped $125 on three bottles of liqueur – anise-flavored from France, cherry-flavored from Italy and chili-flavored from Mexico. I needed all three for a recipe testing project, and they only come in 750 milliliter bottles. I used just two of the approximately 25 ounces in each. Yes, the liqueurs will keep for up to six months once opened. But unless I remember to flambé a lot of seafood with Pernod, add Luxardo liqueur to every cherry dessert I make, and spice up large pitchers of margaritas to serve to all my friends in that relatively short time frame, I’m going to have a bunch of wasted booze on my hands.

Waste not, want not is a practice I follow once anything edible (or drinkable) passes over the threshold of my home. So yes, I dare say we’ll get to the bottom of these bottles one way or another. But smaller bottles of similarly flavored liqueurs, made from local ingredients, most of which already sit in my liquor closet, kitchen cupboard and vegetable drawer, would have been the more sustainable, not to mention more sobering, route.

If only I’d had the time. DIY flavored liqueurs – called cordials in some parts of the world – can be made from any source from summertime stone fruit pits to the variety of herbs overtaking your garden. But they don’t happen overnight.

The assembly is simple: Pack a sterilized glass jar within an inch of the top. In my testing of this process, I used chopped stalks and fronds from two bulbs of fennel in a one-quart jar. I used cucumber slices and basil leaves in a pint jar. And I press the smooshed remnants of 3 quarts of raspberries into service to fill a third jar, also a pint.

Next, cover the flavor agent with a clear spirit. Even with the flavor agent packed into a pint jar, you can still pour in about a cup of booze. For a quart jar, you’ll need 2 cups of booze. You want to make sure that the agent is completely covered by the alcohol to dissuade any bacterial growth. To the fennel, I added vodka. To the basil and cucumbers, I added gin. And to the berries, I added bourbon.

Cap the jars tightly and put them in a dark cupboard to steep for three to six weeks. Taste the liquid (with a clean spoon so as not to introduce any bacteria) after three weeks to assess the depth of flavor, storing it longer if you want a more pronounced one. Strain the liquid from the solids (compost those!) through a double layer of cheesecloth into a second, similarly sized sterilized jar. At this point, you’ve got flavored vodka, gin and bourbon.

To elevate these flavored spirits to cordial status, you need to add sugar in the form of simple syrup made from simmering equal parts white sugar and water until the former dissolves. Add 1/4 cup of simple syrup to every cup of flavored spirit in the jar. Reseal the jars and return them to the dark, cool cupboard for 2-3 months.

These DIY cordials made from seasonal ingredients make great gifts. Christmas from July, if you will. If you want to decant them from utilitarian jars into pretty bottles, be sure to sterilize the latter first. Swing-top glass bottles are especially handy since they form an airtight seal, but any bottle with a tight-fitting lid will work. Use a (also sterilized) funnel to fill each one with cordial and label them.  You can refrigerate the bottles until you give them away, but since the main ingredients are sugar and high-proof alcohol – both preservatives – they can be safely stored for several months in a cool, dark cabinet as well.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Grapefruit and Fennel Celebration. The drink contains homemade fennel-infused cordials. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Grapefruit and Fennel Celebration

Serve this drink in a pretty coupe and feel totally pampered.

Makes 1 cocktail

1 ounce gin
1 ounce freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1 ounce fennel cordial
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Grapefruit and/or lime peel for garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, add gin, grapefruit juice, fennel cordial and lime juice. Cover and shake well. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with grapefruit or lime peel.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: