DIY Limoncello

112911-181461-diyvsbuy-diylimoncelloLemons! What to do with them? Make limoncello, silly. It’s as easy as zesting lemons and waiting. I used Meyer lemons, which I much prefer. But you can use any kind of lemon you please.

If you can’t get a hold of of an Everclear 151-type alcohol, use the highest proof vodka available to you (80 proof is standard vodka, but there’s often 100 proof vodka available, too.). Continue reading

DIY Blackberry Liqueur

It’s blackberry season! Depending on where you live, fresh blackberries may just be lurking at every corner. Here’s a fun way to turn that delicious bounty into something drinkable.

If blackberry picking isn’t an option for you, go with the frozen kind, which are preserved when ripe. The blackberries in the produce section tend to be sour and unripe, since a ripe blackberry turns to a mushy purple mess quickly.

I actually prefer the DIY variety to commercial blackberry liqueur (aka creme de mure).

DIY Blackberry Liqueur
2 cups blackberries (defrost first, if using frozen)
3/4 cup brandy
1 1/4 cups vodka
1/2-inch piece of lime zest without pith (optional)
1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)

In a sealable glass jar, muddle the blackberries and lime zest lightly to release juice and then add brandy and vodka. Seal and shake. Steep for 3 days, then strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down to extract juice. Filter through a coffee filter or two layers of cheesecloth.

Add simple syrup to the strained infusion and shake in sealed jar. Let rest for one day before use.

The recipe I created and posted here was first published on Serious Eats in my DIY vs. Buy column

DIY Honey Liqueur

20120921-221387-diyhoneyliqueurThere are all sorts of exciting honeys hiding out at farmers markets and local shops. Go get some! And then? Use some of it to make honey liqueur. It’s so easy! Sugar is usually the go-to sweetener for cocktails, but honey liqueur will give a deep, rich flavor that sugar just doesn’t.

I used the basic Clover honey (the kind in the bear), which is the mildest and most common variety sold in most grocery stores. That’s why I jazzed it up with orange and cinnamon. But lavender honey, blackberry honey and other types have more flavor, so try your honey alone before deciding it you want to add other flavors to your liqueur. Continue reading

DIY Rhubarb Bitters

diyvsbuy-rhubarbbittersIt’s rhubarb season! So get thee to a market and buy some of these gorgeous magenta stalks. Rhubarb is a great cocktail ingredient in general (as you can see if you try this recipe or any of these recipes).  But so far my favorite way to cocktail it up with rhubarb is rhubarb bitters, which pair well with every spirit and complement sweet, sour, and bitter flavors alike.

My favorite way to use these bitters is to make a Gin & Tonic, squeeze in a little grapefruit and then top with the bitters. But really you can use them in place of grapefruit bitters or to tie together a lighter cocktail. Cinchona bark and angelica root are often available at herb shops or Latin markets. You can also buy them online.

Remember: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should not be used for any recipes. Only the stalks are edible.

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DIY Cherry Bitters

cherry-bittersCherry bitters isn’t exactly on every store shelf, but it’s surprisingly useful. I just ran out of the batch I made last year, and I’m about to make another! You can use homemade cherry bitters instead of Angostura in your Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Champagne Cocktail to give your cocktail a hint of fruit while still doing what bitters does best.

I used Bing cherries, because that’s what is usually around. But go with whatever kind of cherry (or mix thereof) that you’re into. I live in the Bay Area, so finding gentian root was as easy as hopping over to some herbal shop in Berkeley. But you can also order them from Lhasa Karnak. California is also an easy place to find 151-proof spirits, so if that’s not around your neck of the woods, then go for the highest proof vodka you can get.

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Tomato Martini

Store-bought tomatoes can’t compete with the ones grown in a home garden. My two tomato plants are producing like mad. But I’m not complaining! Sweet, juicy tomatoes can go in everything, even cocktails. For something lighter than a Bloody Mary, I like the Tomato Martini. Tomato is right at home with the garden flavors and scents of gin! Add a little vermouth and Lillet, and you’re ready for garden Happy Hour!

Tomato Martini

2 ounces tomato-infused gin*
1/2 ounce extra dry vermouth
1 splash Lillet Blanc

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir, then strain into chilled cocktail glass. Optional: Garnish with cherry tomatoes speared on a toothpick

*Tomato-infused Gin

1 part London dry gin
1 part ripe tomato

Chop tomato into chunks, place in sealable glass jar, and then pour gin on top. Seal and shake. Let steep at room temperature away from direct sunlight for one day. Taste to see if desired flavor is achieved. If not, let steep for an additional day. (One large tomato is about 1 cup chopped. So using 1 cup of gin and 1 cup tomato makes enough infused gin for four drinks.)

Photo by Jackson Stakeman

Chocolate-Coconut Rum

Dark chocolate and coconut are a flavor combination that just might blow your mind. This infusion is really easy to make and would make a great DIY Christmas gift!

Using bitter cacao nibs is a sophisticated way to bring in the tantalizing chocolate aroma without adding more sweetness. Coconut rum, which is fairly sweet and damn delicious, tempers the intensity of the cacao.

Try this rum as the base for a Manhattan-style drink made with sweet vermouth and orange bitters.


Chocolate-Coconut Rum

2 parts coconut rum, like Malibu
1 part cacao nibs

Pour the nibs into a sealable glass jar. Cover with the rum and shake. Let steep for one day. Strain into another container and store as you would any other liquor.

This recipe is from DIY Cocktails, where you’ll find more interesting infusions and recipes!

Photo by Jackson Stakeman