Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How to Make Your Own Orange Vodka and Orange Liqueur

Citrus is an absolutely amazing food, with an incredible wealth of uses. We’ve already covered how great citrus is in savory dishes, desserts, and cookies, and how even citrus peel is incredibly valuable for all kinds of DIY projects. But here’s one we haven’t yet tackled: making orange vodkas and liqueur!

This project is so easy a 10-year-old could do it (though we don’t recommend that, for obvious reasons) and mostly just involves doing absolutely nothing. Yet the end result is a subtle, gourmet ingredient that any mixologist or home bartender would be proud to have in his or her liquor cabinet. Let’s see how it works.

Your ingredients are delightfully simple: two flavorful oranges (or tangerines), two cups of vodka (mid-range is just fine), a large jar, and two navel oranges. (Later, you’ll need sugar, but that’s not for a while yet.)

First, wash your oranges (you may want to scrub them a little if they look dirty at all, since they’re going in peel and all) and slice them about ½ inch thick. If your fruit has seeds, pick them out.

Now place your orange slices in the jar, cover with vodka, and screw on the top. Give it a few shakes.

Your next job is to let this little orange-and-vodka concoction sit at room temperature for at least a week and preferably two to three. (It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.) You can shake the jar occasionally if you like. Here are my oranges and vodka after about 2 weeks. As you can see, the oranges have released some of their essence into the alcohol.

Once you think you’re ready to move on to the next step, strain the big orange slices out over a bowl, using a fine colander. Discard the oranges. (Honestly, there’s probably something you can do with these boozy bits, but I wasn’t sure what!)

Now get a paper coffee filter or a paper towel and place it over your colander. Slowly pour the vodka through, stopping to wait for it to drain and changing the filter paper if it starts to tear. Your goal at this point is to filter out the small orange pieces so you have a clear, orange-flavored vodka with no “stuff in it.”

This is your orange vodka. If you want, you can stop here, and use this in any number of cocktail recipes, from an Orange Breeze Martini to this “Florida Mule”, as well as any recipe calling for vodka where orange would harmonize.

However, I wanted to make orange liqueur, a.k.a. Grand Marnier/triple sec/curacao, used in popular drinks like Cosmopolitans, margaritas, and Long Island Iced tea, along with a host of others. To make this liquor cabinet staple from your orange vodka, there’s just one more step! (Two, if you count cooling time.) Combine ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely.

When this mixture is cool, add it to your orange vodka. (That’s a 2 to 1 ratio of vodka to syrup, in case you started with different amounts.) Now you have orange liqueur! I find mine to be fragrant, sweet, and light, with (of course) a completely natural taste. It’s pretty special.

Note that this is not the only way to make an orange liqueur. This recipe uses just the orange peel (no fruit) and is based on brandy. This one incorporates dried bitter orange peel, cloves, and brandy, along with fresh orange zest. And let’s not forget the intriguing recipes out there for orangecello and vin d’orange. All these projects are pretty quick and easy! Frankly, if you have a lot of fruit on hand, you could have a session where you start all these brewing and get it done in no time.

Once your liquors are ready, they will keep for at least 6 months, probably more. These concoctions make wonderfully different gifts for those on your list who enjoy cocktails—you can even put them up into small “nips” bottles. Package with a cute ribbon and label.

Of course, maybe this whole blog has made you thirsty for a citrus cocktail, but you don’t want to wait. If so, check out our previous article: 7 Citrus Cocktails and 4 Nonalcoholic Citrus Mocktails You Need to Try. Cheers!

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