It’s Five O’Clock Sometime…

Chez moi (and now chez moi is in a new location and features a roommate who is also my sister, and an extra dog who is an enormous black border collie/labrador mix, seemy Twitter feed for occasional pics), we, like most of you, are consuming a tiny bit more alcohol than usual, but unlike many of you, we’re not spending that much money to do so. For one thing, we do still have a stash of my rather delicious rhubarb wine and chokecherry delight liqueur on hand, but those are precious (especially since I’m no longer capable of picking my own chokecherries and we now only have this one tiny rhubarb plant we’re nurturing in our new backyard), so we’re also relying heavily on another of my hobbies, which is brewing up homemade versions of delicious liqueurs that go for lots more dollars at the local liquor store than a retired/disabled woman and her hospitality industry refugee sister have any business paying in this dreadful new era.

Bonus: since my sister and I are still keeping keto, even during lock-down (really, we have to, because my starch-digesting and other medical issues did not conveniently go away just because the supply chain got wonky), all of these recipes are low- to no-sugar, though I’ve included more traditional versions without my adaptations for those who DGAF about sugar because pandemic or whatever.

Seriously, all we buy right now is the odd boxed wine and the cheapest vodka and bourbon we can find. And you can do it, too! Because cheap vodka and bourbon, plus a few flavoring agents you probably have in your cupboards, can equal delicious sipping liqueurs that also double as desserts!

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Thirsty yet? Read on. And yes, I’ll explain the stray can of LaCroix towards the end of the post 8)

First, round up some equipment. Gather this up first because things can happen pretty fast once you get going! You’ll need at least:

  • A decent sized saucepan that cleans up easily
  • Something to stir with
  • Liquid and dry measuring cups and spoons
  • A good mixing bowl, preferably a batter bowl or something you can pour from without making a huge mess
  • A funnel to decant into bottles
  • Bottles to store your delicious products
  • An immersion or standing blender (only for the Irish Cream)

First up is homemade “kahlua” — which, like most of these, is just flavored vodka. Once a bunch of my nerdiest friends made up a whole bathtub of the stuff in a motel room in Laramie, WY, but nowadays I make slightly more modest quantities, though you’ll see even at my current production levels it fills a 16-oz swing-top bottle and an old olive oil bottle I’ve kept around because it’s good to have some dark glass for some of my other projects.

KAHLUA (COFFEE LIQUEUR)

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups instant coffee crystals
  • 4 1/2 cups vodka
  • 8 cups sweetener of your choice (I usually do half granulated stevia and half granulated sucralose), equivalent to 8 cups of white sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine and heat water, sweeteners and coffee crystals (medium heat; this can boil over and foam up quickly, so be patient and vigilant!) until you’ve got a nice syrup. Allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into a batter bowl and add vodka and vanilla. Decant into bottles and enjoy!

AMARETTO (ALMOND LIQUEUR)

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup granulated stevia
  • 1 cup granulated sucralose (or just use two cups of white sugar  if you don’t care)
  • 1 cup Splenda brown sugar blend or light brown sugar
  • 4 cups vodka
  • 4 Tablespoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons

In a saucepan, combine and heat water and sweeteners until the mixture is boiling and the sweeteners dissolve and you’ve got a nice syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Pour syrup into a batter bowl and combine with vodka, almond extract and vanilla extract. Decant into bottles and enjoy!

IRISH CREAM LIQUEUR

This one is a little more complicated if you’re trying to cut back on/avoid sugar. If you’re not it’s super straightforward — just use commercially available sweetened condensed milk and chocolate syrup, or if you don’t have sweetened condensed milk you can make your own sugarful version just by using sugar instead of the sweeteners I chose when making your own sweetened condensed milk. But for me, this involves three steps.

  1. Make some sugar free chocolate syrup (this recipe makes enough syrup for several batches of liqueur, or, you know, other uses, like topping pumpkin ice cream)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar-equivalent measuring sweetener of your choice (I use half granulated stevia and half granulated sucralose)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash of salt

Combine water, sweetener, and cocoa powder in a saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly until mixture thickens and begins to simmer. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Allow to cool before using or bottling.

2. Make some sweetened condensed milk (unless you have a can on hand and don’t care about sugar content)

  • 1 12-fluid ounce can of evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar-equivalent measuring sweetener of your choice (for this I use sucralose because my sister hates stevia and she can taste it more in this than in the little bit of chocolate syrup used in the liqueur recipe)

Combine in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool before using.

3. Now, make the actual liqueur!

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 sweetened condensed milk recipe from 2. (or one can of commerically prepared sweetened condensed milk if you DGAF about sugar)
  • 3 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals (if, like I did this time, you use up all your instant coffee crystals making the kahlua, just substitute a shot of kahlua!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups bourbon (the original recipe I found insisted on Irish whiskey, but who’s spending Jameson’s money right now, amirite? Cheap bourbon works fine. I used Black Velvet because it’s usually on sale and it’s just fine, little buckaroos)

Add cream, milk, chocolate syrup, coffee crystals (or kahlua) and vanilla extract in a batter bowl and blend for 30 seconds with an immersion blender (or pour into a regular blender and blend on low speed for 30 seconds). With the blender going, add  bourbon slowly. Keep agitating the mixture while you add the bourbon. Allegedly the stuff sometimes curdles at this stage (this has never happened to me, but the original recipe I adapted for this mentions it); if that happens, strain it through a sieve before bottling. Give the mixture a good shake before pouring.

And last, but not least, and I only made this because my sister and I wrote a note to our snowbird neighbors offering what help we can during the pandemic and they gave us a bag of lemons from their tree in Arizona, LIMONCELLO LITTLE BUCKAROOS.

Note: this isn’t drinkable right away. This requires a little patience. But it’s worth it!

LIMONCELLO

  • 10 lemons
  • 1 liter vodka
  • 3 cups sugar-equivalent-measuring sweetener of your choice (I used stevia this time because I ran out of sucralose. My sister hasn’t noticed yet!)
  • 4 cups of water

Zest all ten of the lemons, or, if you’ve got nearly useless T-Rex arms like me, get another member of your household to zest the lemons. All ten of them. It’s worth it, I promise! Place the zest in a large glass bottle or jar and add vodka. Cover loosely and let infuse for at least one week at room temperature.

(Note, you don’t do anything else with the lemons for this recipe! We just juiced them and have had a good quantity of fresh lemon juice bottled in our fridge for other recipes. It didn’t take long to disappear because we make a lot of Greek- and Moroccan-style food!)

After at least a week, combine the sweetener and water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil to form a simple sugar-free syrup. Allow to cool to room temperature. Add to batter bowl.

Strain vodka through a sieve to catch the lemon zest and add strained mixture to syrup. Decant into bottles and refrigerate. NOTE: traditional limoncello is kept in the freezer, however, PLEASE LEARN FROM MY EMBARRASSING EXPERIENCE. If you made this sugar free, as I did, it’s not going to act like regular limoncello in the freezer. The liquid will expand and crack the bottle and you will end up with a slushy mess in your freezer. You can still get it plenty cold in the fridge. This is KETO-FRIENDLY PANDEMIC LIMONCELLO. Compromises get made.

Bonus cocktail idea: this latest batch of limoncello I made came out a bit sweeter than I wanted, but I found that cutting it with some lemon or lime selzer (hence the stray LaCroix can in the photo) brought it back to the lemony limoncello flavor I wanted. Hat tip to Dan Friesen of the magnificent Knowledge Fight podcast for giving me the idea (he’s doing a massive Year of the Selzer thing and it seems his favorite he’s tried so far is limoncello flavor) Your mileage may vary.

We here in Blue Wyoming and all over the Homepunks world hope you’re staying sane in quarantine and humbly hope these little recipes can help you bear it a little better. And if you make one and have tweaks/suggestions, please let us know!

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