Hooch Archives

September 4, 2007

It All Started with Liquid Sunshine

Mild breeze. Outdoor cafe. Good pizza. Pleasant conversation with the restaurant's owner. Just another evening in Sorrento.

Except, when we ordered our after dinner espresso, the owner brought us the gift of two small ice cold glasses of a homemade liqueur he called limoncello.

It was our third trip to Italy, but our first to venture south of Rome. That is my excuse for never having heard of or tasted the stuff.

Here I sit -- more than 10 years later. And I'm a full fledged bootlegger.


I came home that summer and immediately began researching ways I might produce this liquid sunshine for myself. I found the web site of a liqueur maker who was to become my guru! Gunther Anderson --

I read and experimented with his recipes. Then sent him my version of Limoncello. He was gracious enough to add it to his collection!

So far, I've made over 40 types of liqueur. My favorites:

Limoncello - of course
Pistachio (fabulous!)
Lime (just like limoncello only made with limes)
Rose (made with Sadaf rose syrup)
Jasmine & Green Tea (made with organic jasmine scented green tea)
Tokyo Rose (made with crystalized ginger and just the slightest dash of rose syrup to give it that pickled ginger color)
Witches' Brew (my version of Strega)
And, believe it or not, SASSAFRAS. (I use glycerin to thicken so that I can cut back on the sugar syrup. Otherwise it would be way too sweet)

February 16, 2008

A New Batch of Lime Liqueur

I had quite a few 'votes' for the Lime Liqueur at SlowBowl, so I decided I needed to get a new batch started.

Since it is beyond easy, I thought I'd post the one and only picture you you need to see in order to make your own.

Here it is.


This picture was take after only one day. See the difference in the color of the limes?

Scrub and dry 12 dark skinned limes.
Put 6 in a sealable jar.
Pour in one bottle Everclear.
Let sit for one week while Everclear sucks the color out of the limes.
Remove the bleached out limes and put the other 6 in the Everclear.
Let it suck the color out of those for about a week.
Make simple syrup in equal quantity to the Everclear (750 ml)
After the simple syrup cools pour it into the infusion.
Bottle and put in a cool dark place (the back of your freezer works great) until you can't resist any longer.
Best served icy cold in a frozen liqueur glass.

February 28, 2008

Hooch in Progress

Sarah came into the store last week with a birthday present for Mary. It was a sample pack of different teas. She had ordered it online from a place in Colorado called English TEALEAVES.

I was planning to run over to Global Foods and get some jasmine scented green tea for a new batch of liqueur. So I asked her if she thought this place had a good jasmine/green. She handed me the English TEALEAVES business card and told me that they were lovely people and I should just call and ask for their suggestion. I called and visited with a very nice chap. His suggestion was that I try the Jasmine Yin Hao. So I did.

In the course of the conversation, he told me that it was a coincidence that I had called. He was going to be going to The World Tea Expo in a few months. One of the breakout sessions there is going to be a discussion of tea based cocktails.

The next day, Sarah (again, Sarah) comes into my office and shows me the current issue of SAVEUR. There on page 18 is a story called "Rum by the Numbers" about, and a recipe for, The 44 Cordial. Sarah says, have you ever tried this?

No, I stick to grain alcohol for my liqueurs - mostly. When I do stray, it is to infuse some exotic flavor into brandy. I'm not even a fan of rum. Once, in my college days, I got very sick on Rum & Coke. But, the article was cute and the recipe interesting.

So I called Dan and ask him to go to the store and get me a large navel orange and a premium bottle of white rum. He just groaned and humored me.

That night I put 44 slits in the orange; stuffed 44 coffee beans in those slits; put the orange in a jar; added the bottle of rum along with 44 teaspoons of sugar; sealed it; shook it; and now it sits on my counter for 44 days, getting a shake every day.


The jar in the middle is my new batch of lime liqueur. It needs to be bottled and stored in the basement. The jar on the right is the jasmine/green. I can't believe how fast it colored up and how jasmine-y it smells already. I will probably strain it tomorrow because I don't want it to get bitter.

At this rate, I should have a pretty good stash of hooch by October of 2009.

May 10, 2008

Rose Liqueur & Others

While I was waiting for my cookie dough to chill, I decided to bottle my rose liqueur and get a batch of kiwi started. The jars in the background are (left to right)
Kiwi: made with crystalized kiwi slices and just started today. I've never tried to make kiwi before, so I don't know yet how long to soak or if it will be worth drinking or not.
Toyko Rose: About my 4th or 5th batch. I use crystalized ginger, then a tiny dash of rose syrup added before bottling to give it that pale pinkish pickled ginger color.
Pistachio: These nuts were really dark green and the infusion is much darker than any of my other batches. It's been soaking for about 7 days and when I open the lid the pistachio smell is heavenly. I'll probably filter and bottle it soon. Which also means I'll get to make some pistachio bark with the left over nuts. I dry them in the oven and put them between a layer of butterscotch and semisweet chocolate that has been spiced up with a bit of cayenne.


I had just a shot glass full of rose left over and didn't want it to go to waste, so I stuck in in the freezer.

After the cookies had cooled, I decided to try one with the liqueur.


Yummy. I know some people don't like florals for their liqueurs, but I love them. The combination of roses and lemons made me feel like I was sitting in some exotic little cafe in a country like Greece, or India, or Turkey.

May 21, 2008

From Abysmal Failure to Spectacular Success in Only Three Years

Three years ago, at the beginning of my liqueur making odyssey, I was experimenting with all kinds of flavors. Some of them were home runs with the first swing. Most of them were OK but forgettable. A few were major stinkers.

Somehow one of those stinkers got stored in the basement instead of getting dumped down the drain.

While going through all my liqueurs to decide which 12 would make the cut for the trip to SlowBowl this winter, I ran across the Sun Dried Tomato Liqueur. I tasted it, and couldn't believe the transformation.

With its warm rich aroma of sundried tomatoes and full-bodied silky smoothness in the mouth, it is spectacular.

It was less than one bottle, and it took three years for it to transform itself. So, I selfishly decided not to take any of it to Paso Robles with me. So, shoot me. :::GRIN::: But, before you do, remember. I'm the one who knows how to make it.

Thank goodness I found my scribbled notes from the original experiment. Today I started a triple batch. It will be ready in three years.


June 14, 2008

Deborah’s Accidentally Fabulous Sun-Dried Tomato Liqueur

Step One
2 cups: Organic Sun-dried Tomatoes
3-4 cups: Water
Boil Tomatoes in water just long enough to soften them to a pliable state, but not cook them.
Strain Tomatoes and reserve water.
Cool tomatoes to room temperature before moving on to step two.

Step Two
2 cups grain alcohol
2 cups 80 proof vodka (a quality brand but not necessarily top shelf)
Peel of one lemon in large pieces, not zest (Make sure lemon is clean and blemish free. Make sure there is no pith)
Put cooled tomatoes in a large sealable jar (I use a gallon size glass jar with a rubber sealing ring and a metal hasp) Add lemon peel and alcohols. Shake to stir and put away in a dark place.

Step Three
2 cups: Reserved tomato water from step one.
4 cups: White sugar
Bring to boil and continue boiling until completely clear. This will make about 2 1/2 cups of simple syrup. Put syrup in a airtight container and store in refrigerator until step four.

Every day for about 14 days agitate jar to keep tomatoes from settling.

Step Four
When infusion reaches desired color, strain out tomatoes and lemon peel. Throw away lemon and save tomatoes. Rinse jar. Return liquid to jar and add tomato flavored simple syrup. Stir well with wooden spoon. Reseal jar and store in cool dark place to mellow. You may want to sample it every year to see how smooth is has become. I forgot about mine, and didn’t try it for three years. It might have been ready much sooner.

Alcohol content:
If my math is correct, this works out to 43% alcohol or a little more than 80 proof. You can reduce the alcohol content by increasing the amount of simple syrup you make, but remember that you will also be increasing the sweetness. As an alternative, you can use food grade glycerin to thicken plain water and add that to your batch.

Serving Suggestion:
Serve at room temperature in an aperitif glass with a small sprig of fresh basil floating on top.

Suggestions for use of left over tomatoes:
Liquefy the tomatoes in a food processor, strain through a sieve, and try using as a base for Bloody Mary Aspic.
Use them to make Vodka Sauce.

December 3, 2008

Hooch Elimination Tasting Event

With less than two months to go before SlowBowl '09, I decided it was time to bring a panel of rank amateurs together to taste my liqueurs and decide which ones would make the final cut for the trip to Paso.

Seven friends arrived bearing their favorite greasy or starchy baked potato topping. (Every freshman college student learns quickly to fill his stomach with starch and grease before serious imbibing - right?)

After eating enormous stuffed-potatoes, we quickly got down to the business of tasting. Here are the 25 varieties I needed them to assess, with a goal of selecting their favorite, or more accurately their least disliked, 10-12 to make the trip.


With a negative-assessment judging sheet, they were asked to taste the sample and then record only their reactions. Their choices were: Too Sweet, Too Bitter, Too Thick, Too Thin, Don't Like. And finally, What Is It? The flavors with the least number of negative votes would be the ones I would take to Paso.


Instead of keeping them all grouped in the three main categories of floral, herb, and fruit, I decided to make the order they were served totally random. Here is lavender being prepared to serve.


I was surprised at how seriously they took the assignment. Overachievers, Jess and Candy, are gloating about being able to identify a particular flavor, and Jane is obviously looking over David's shoulder for some help. Bad girl.


A note about the process. You can imagine what actually drinking 25 different liqueurs could do to your ability to walk upright, never mind drive. So, they were given VERY strict instruction not to swallow. Only to swish and spit. They were given spit cups and water, as well as bread to cleanse their palates between tastes. Most of them were very careful, you can see David's cheeks puffed out as he swished. Once in awhile I could hear someone say something like, "I swallowed that one. It was too good to spit." The biggest offender was Jess, but she wasn't driving anyway, so her headache today is her problem .


Our one non-drinker in the group, Sarah, had the assignment of assessing each one purely on aroma. She is also a bit of a comedienne, as you can see here she kept distracting everyone with her running commentary. Sharon, who was trying to take the assignment very seriously, finally gave in to Sarah's influence.


We discovered a natural in our group. Irene (in the Michigan shirt. We can forgive her for that, I guess.) is a major foodie and my soul mate at the store when it comes to all things cooking. During the tasting, she continually amazed us at her ability to identify not only the major flavors, but also the very subtle ones. I had one liqueur I didn't remember making, and had failed to label.
Irene said, "It has a holiday baking taste to it. Not your usual spices though. Warm, slight lemon. I think something that has a faint overtone of vanilla. Cardamom, maybe".
And sure enough, I got out my old notes and there it was. In 2005 I'd experimented with whole green cardamom seeds. The only one that stumped her was the Tonka Bean. And even on that one she came very close.
"This one is medicinal. Some sort of exotic folk remedy flavor." (In some regions of South America, a very strong form of the active chemical in Tonka is a blood thinner. It is, by the way, banned in the US as a food additive. oops.)


So, to my friends who will be attending SlowBowl, here are the sixteen top qualifiers:
Lime, Russian Tea, Tokyo Rose, Scarborough Fair, Apple Cider, Rose, Sassafras, Witches Brew, Basil Chamomile, Pistachio, Sun Dried Tomato, Goji Berry, Cranberry Orange, Red Clover, Cardamom & Spiced Honey Walnut.

I still have to bring this down to twelve. I think in a few weeks, I'll post a poll on the SlowBowl GTG forum so those attending can make the final selections.

February 27, 2009


The same book I spoke of yesterday has a very interesting entry in the wine chapter.

It is drawn from Mackenzie's 5,000 Reciepts, 1829.

Here it is:

CHEAP AND WHOLESOME CLARET: Take a quart of fine draft Devonshire cider, and an equal quantity of good port. Mix them, and shake them. Bottle them and let them stand for a month. The best judge will not be able to distinguish them from good Bordeaux.

Here's another from Dr. Chase's Recipes, 1869 :

TOMATO WINE: Express the juice from clean ripe tomatoes, and to each gallon of it, (without any water), put brown sugar 4 lbs.
Put in the sugar immediately, or before fermentation begins- this ought to be done in making any fruit wine. Something of the character of a cheese press, hoop and cloth, is the best plan to squeeze out the juice of tomatoes or other fruits. Let the wine stand in a keg or barrel for two or three months; then draw off into bottles, carefully avoiding the sediment.
It makes a most delightful wine, having all the beauties of flavor belonging to the tomato, and I have no doubt all its medicinal properties also, either as a tonic in desease, or as a beverage for those who are in the habit of using intoxicating beverages, and if such persons would have the good sense to make some wine of this kind, and use it instead of rot-gut whisky, there would not be one-hundredth part of the "snakes in the boot" that now curse our land. It must be tasted to be appreciated. I have it now, which is three years old, worth more than much pretended wine which is sold for three or four shillings a pint.

March 26, 2009

Hey Gary, This Picture's For You

Fancy wine glasses? Fagedaboudit!


July 21, 2009

Pistacio Liqueur - The Process

Charlie posted a request on one of my other blog entries for the pistacio liqueur recipe.

The key to good results is the freshness of the pistacio nuts. Don't scrimp on quality here. The fresher and greener the nut meats the better your result. The flavor comes from the oils in the nuts, so if they are old and stale, you won't have as much flavor and you risk a rancid taste.


2-3 cups pistacio nut meats (unroasted, unsalted, and with any loose inner skin brushed off)
1 1/2 cups grain alcohol
1 1/2 cups 80 proof vodka (a quality brand but not necessarily top shelf)
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups white granulated sugar

Step One

Put the nuts in a large sealable glass jar (I use a gallon size glass jar with a rubber sealing ring and a metal hasp) Add alcohols. Shake to stir and put away in a dark place.

Step Two (infusing)

Every day for about 14 days agitate jar to expose all surfaces of the nuts to the alcohol. The 14 days is really a subjective number. You are looking for an intense dark green color liquid that you can't see through. So, if that happens before 14 days, great. If it takes a little longer, that's great too. If you don't think you're getting the intensity you need, scoop out the nuts and add fresh ones.


Step Three

When infusion reaches desired color, It is time to make your simple syrup. Put the sugar and water in a sauce pan and boil until the sugar melts and the mixture is crystal clear. Then cool the syrup COMPLETELY.

Step Four

Scoop out the nuts and save. Pour the liquid through a coffee filter into a clean jar. Add the cooled simple syrup. Stir and return to the cool dark place to allow to mellow for a few weeks.

Alcohol content:
If my math is correct, this works out to 43% alcohol or a little more than 80 proof. You can reduce the alcohol content by increasing the amount of simple syrup you make, but remember that you will also be increasing the sweetness. As an alternative, you can use food grade glycerin to thicken plain water and add that to your batch.

Don't waste the nuts. Spread them out on paper towels and dry them in the sun. Or dry them in a very low oven with the door cracked. Then use them in any recipe you would normally. The alcohol adds a fun twist. I like to make chocolate/pistacio bark with mine.

November 20, 2009

Cilantro Lime Liqueur

The other day I hosted a surprise birthday party for a friend. We had tacos and there was a huge bunch of fresh cilantro left over. Not wanting to waste 99 cents worth of cilantro, I decided to use $10 worth of Everclear to make liqueur with it. Sounds like a congressional approach to fiscal responsibility, doesn't it?

I threw that bunch of cilantro into a mason jar along with three cups of Everclear and one large whole lime. Four days later, I removed the cilantro and lime and this is what the alcohol had done to them.


And this is what THEY did to the alcohol...


After adding three cups of simple sugar syrup, the color went from an intense deep, dark green to this...


It's bottled and it is sitting in my pantry for a few months of mellowing. It should be ready to drink just in time for Cinco de Mayo.

April 30, 2010

The Wild Vine

This book pushes a number of my buttons. History, Wine, Intrigue, and most of all - the button that gets me started on a rant about how underappreciated Missouri is.


In The Wild Vine, Todd Kliman has focused his skills as a researcher and writer on the Norton grape. And, since he couldn’t write about Norton without dedicating a considerable amount of the book to Missouri, I’m a happy reader.

First, for those who like to know the credentials of a writer -- who is Todd Kliman? He’s the food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian and a James Beard Foundation Award winner for his writing. He’s a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Harpers, Men’s Health, National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post Magazine, and He’s a literature professor at American University and Howard University.

Questions Todd answers in this book:

What’s so great about Norton?
How do a bunch of Germans in the immigrant settlement of Hermann, Missouri save it from obscurity?
Who was Henry Vizetelly, and how did he bring Norton to the world’s attention?
How did Norton save the wine industry in France?
How did Norton survive prohibition?
Who is Jenni McCloud, and why do I want to be her new best friend?

The book will be out in May. It’s my Foodies Book Group’s June selection. Here is what the actual cover will look like. (I personally like th ARC cover better)


Now, I have to go pour myself a glass of Norton and re-read The Wild Vine.

May 14, 2010

More About Norton

The previous post tells of an ARC I recently read:
The Wild Vine by Todd Kliman.

He just came out with this great YouTube trailer about the book.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Old Shoes - New Trip in the Hooch category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Foods That I Have Loved is the previous category.

NOOK Cookin' is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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