Hello friends, and welcome back to Will It Sous Vide?, the column where I make thing with my immersion circulator. Today we're taking a break from the chewable, and using the power of sous vide to make bespoke liqueur in record time.
Photos by Claire Lower.
Making custom flavoured liqueurs has never been exactly hard; you just chuck flavour-packed ingredients in some vodka or other holy spirit and let it hang out until the ethanol gets all infused, then mix it with a syrup to sweeten and dilute. It's an easy process that, at the very most, requires a little shaking on your part, but it can take weeks to reach your desired end point. Using a sous vide setup cuts this down to hours.
This is great for a couple of reasons: Not only do you get to consume your creation sooner but, if it isn't to your liking, you haven't been waiting days and days only to be disappointed by a recipe that may need some tweaks. You can also sous vide little batches of liqueur at a time and - once you've nailed the ratios and flavours - scale it up. That's what I did with my ginger limoncello, a liqueur that I've been playing around with off and on ever since I got my Anova a couple of Christmases ago.
Hello, my spicy friend.
There's nothing wrong with regular, lemon-only limoncello, but it can sometimes read as a bit cloying and one-note. It's also a touch summery, and I wanted a hint of spice to balance things out. Ginger is a natural pairing for lemons, and I just happen to love it a whole lot. To make your own lemon-ginger liqueur, you will need:
- 375mL of vodka
- 6 lemons, preferably organic or unwaxed if you can find them
- 85g of fresh ginger, grated
- 1 cup of sugar (I like turbinado. Your liqueur won't be as yellow, but I prefer the deeper sweetness.)
Wash the lemons and peel them to the best of your ability, taking care to not take too much of the bitter pith with the peel. Throw those peels and the ginger in a mason jar, pour all 375mL of vodka on top, and close the jar.
Place the jar in a 57C sous vide bath, and walk away for two hours. (I forgot to take a pic of the jar in the bath, but I think we all know what that looks like by now: A jar of stuff in a bucket of water.)
It will be a tight fit.
At some point during that two hours, you're going to want to make a syrup. Rather than deal with a measuring cup, I just fill the original vodka bottle with water, since we're trying to dilute the alcohol content by about half. Pour the water into a sauce pan, bring it to a boil, and dissolve a cup of turbinado sugar in there to get a syrup with a ratio of roughly 1:1.5.
Once the vodka is done infusing, strain all the plant parts out and let it and the syrup cool a bit before combining them in one large bottle. Place that bottle in the fridge until your liqueur is well-chilled, then pour yourself a jigger.
So now we must ask ourselves: Will fancy bespoke lemon liqueur sous vide?
The answer? Yes, of course it does, and it does quite well. This particular liqueur is pretty great too, if I do say so myself. It's sweet and spicy, and would be great either as an after-dinner dessert shot, or mixed into a cocktail. You could also just dilute it with soda water for an alcoholic lemon ginger soft drink, which is exactly what I'm going to do.
But there's no reason you have to stop with these flavours. Lemons are great, but what about other citrus fruits? Grapefruit liqueur would make a nice, bittersweet addition to your bar cart, but you could also get crazy and combine any and all citrus fruits as you see fit. There's also no reason you need to stick to ginger. Lemongrass, Makrut lime leaves and fresh herbs can all be used to create a liqueur as unique as your palate. Keep in mind, however, that not everything will extract at the same rate, so add more delicate ingredients - such as soft leafy things - toward the end of the two-hour extraction time. Work in small batches to test out your flavours, then scale up once you've perfected your recipe. If it doesn't go super well on the first go, don't be sad. It only took you a couple of hours, and there are many hours in the day.