I tried two more liqueurs: one made with bay laurel leaves and one made with some sort of mint that I picked at my farm share. The leaves were really small and didn’t look exactly like mint, but they sure smelled like it, and I figured they wouldn’t grow anything poisonous in their pick-your-own herb garden, so in the vodka they went!
The laurel liqueur came out lighter in color than it has when I’ve made it before (in 95% alcohol), and it tastes smokier or spicier or something, which I’m not crazy about. It’s supposed to be refreshing. I might try adding more syrup to it. The mint is pretty good, but I think I’d like it better mixed with more flavor. Vanilla is an option. I have half a mind to make a lime liqueur and mix it with the mint – can you tell I like mojitos?
So this time, I used 200 mL of water and 200 mL of granulated sugar per bottle of vodka. That’s equal parts by volume – a traditional simple syrup. Since I split the bottle between the two types of leaves, I split that syrup between the two. I put the syrup in the bottle first so I could split it evenly, so when I poured in the alcohol it sat on top and looked really cool until I shook the bottles. I think this recipe is pretty good, but I haven’t given them a very good try yet, so don’t hold me to that. I have a feeling I’ll need to adjust the sugar content again to find a happy medium.
I have a limoncellario, or limoncello recipe, from a real live Italian mom. And I can’t use it in this state, which has banned grain alcohol. So I had to do my best to adapt the recipe to 80 proof (40% abv) vodka. I never thought I would say this, but vodka is wimpy. But, it’s still good limoncello. I think I used a little too much sugar, which is funny because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to dissolve enough sugar in the small amount of water I was adding (when you use 95% abv you can add a lot more water). I think that by increasing the ratio of sugar to water to 2:1 by volume, I created an invert sugar despite not adding acid or boiling for the syrup for very long. Invert sugar is sweeter than regular sugar, so that threw off my proportions. And it seems to be true that the vodka can’t extract quite as much of the lemony goodness as grain alcohol can. But again, any limoncello is good limoncello. Here’s the recipe I used this time (which I put in baker’s percentage based on the vodka, even though this is not at all a baked good):
100.0 B% 690.0 g 750 mL vodka (1 bottle)
29.0 B% 200.0 g 200 mL water (your measuring cup probably has mL on it; if not, convert here)
47.0 B% 324.0 g 400 mL sugar
zest of 8-10 lemons
Put the lemon zests in the vodka for a week to a month. Put the sugar in the water and bring to a boil, then cool. Strain the vodka and mix it with the simple syrup (that’s what you call the sugar-water thing you just made). Pour into bottles. Refrigerate.
Naturally, if you zest 8 lemons, you will be left with 8 naked lemons. I assume naked lemons don’t last that long. So I juiced all of mine and put the juice in my Not Actually Ice cube trays. Now whenever I have a recipe that calls for lemon juice, I don’t have to wait until my next grocery trip to make it.
Incidentally, it is unbelievably difficult to find a decent funnel in this town. Or the next town over, for that matter. After exhausting the usual big chains, I went to a little cooking supply store, where I had a goldilocks problem. The canning funnels are too big and the spice funnels are too small. I could buy both and put them together, but that would cost about $25, which is about ten times what I think a funnel should cost. Then I found a wine funnel, with a curved tip and a strainer inside, and that was $30. I guess they figure people who do things with wine will pay anything. So I made do with a measuring cup and the pour-y part of my saucepan. But really. Dear Town, please import some funnels.
Finally, having freed up my infusion vessel, I put a new bottle of vodka in with my squeezed-out key limes. We’ll see what that tastes like in a couple of weeks.
Later notes: Never put the pith (white part) of citrus in an infusion. My key lime liqueur came out way too bitter. I’m very sad. However, I used 200 mL of sugar with the same general recipe in another batch of liqueur, and I think it’s a better balance. I’ll use it in my next limoncello.