Episode #072 – Homemade Liqueurs and Cocktails to Make with Them

Liqueurs can be an easy and inexpensive way to take your home bartending to an entirely new level. With just a few ingredients—the fresher, the better—sugar, and water, you can create ready-to-drink concoctions for your guests, or something more complex and interesting than just straight liquor for a bit more of an elaborate approach. In this week’s episode, Alex & Jordan explore this effort and give you a few ideas of your own to try.

First and foremost, a lot of inspiration was drawn from Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits: Innovative Flavor Combinations, Plus Homemade Versions of Kahlúa, Cointreau, and Other Popular Liqueurs by Andrew Schloss. So go ahead and do yourself a huge favor, and buy that book as soon as possible.

Homemade Liqueur and Cocktail Recipes

Veggie Margarita—Alex’s Red Pepper Liqueur

Red Pepper Liqueur (Based largely on ‘Red Lightning’ by Andrew Schloss)

  • **50/50 Mezcal / Reposado Tequila Blend, 750 ml
  • 3 Red Peppers, chunked
  • 4 Tomatoes, chunked
  • 1-2 Cucumbers, chunked
  • 1 tbsp of Celery Seeds
  • A few Basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1. Combine all ingredients in a gallon jar with a top that seals, and let sit for 7 days in a cool, dry place. Then double-strain.

Red Pepper Simple Syrup

Combine a 1:1 ratio of sugar : water in a medium-heat saucepan. After sugar dissolves, add 1-2 red peppers, chunked, and reduce heat. Let sit for 10 minutes and then strain out the pieces of pepper.

For every 750 ml of liqueur you have, you’ll need approximately one cup of simple syrup (you’ll have some leftover)

The Cocktail

2 : 1 : ½ : ½ ratio for Liqueur : Lemon Juice : Triple Sec : Red Pepper Simple Syrup

  • Shake ingredients together. Can also be pre-batched without lemon juice up to 3 days in advance, adding the citrus juice same day as serving.

Crème de Cacao

From Imbibe Magazine

  • 9 oz. cacao nibs
  • oz. demerara sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 25 oz. El Dorado Rum 8 year

Tools: Baking sheet, One-gallon zip-close plastic bag, 2 large bowls, spoon, chinois or fine strainer and cheesecloth, jar or bottle.

Toast the cacao nibs in a 350-degree F oven until aromatic, about 5 minutes, taking care not to burn. Combine the hot cacao nibs with the rum in a zip-close plastic bag and place in a large bowl. Submerge the bag in boiling water and let it soak until the water comes to room temperature.

Using a chinois or a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, strain the infused rum into a large bowl. Discard the solids. Add the sugar and salt, then stir until fully dissolved. Pour into a jar or other airtight container, seal, and store at room temperature.

19th Century (20th Century with Gin)

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon, Woodford Reserve
  • 3/4 ounce crème de cacao, white
  • 3/4 ounce Lillet Rouge
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a shaking tin with ice and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Coconut Liqueur

A mature coconut should yield about 12 oz of coconut meat after shelling and peeling off the brown shell. This is equivalent to about 4 oz dried coconut.

Recommended rum: Flor de Caña Blanco Reserva

The Sovereign cocktail

  • 1 ½ oz. Rittenhouse
  • ¾ oz. Ramazzotti Sweet Vermouth
  • ¾ oz Coconut liqueur (homemade or Kalani)
  • ½ oz. Green Chartreuse

Add all ingredients to a shaking tin with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

“You Down With OBC?” Manhattan

Alex’s Orange-Bourbon-Coffee Liqueur

  • Bourbon Blend—7 Days Before
    • Before you really get to making the bourbon shine, it’s nice to build a base whiskey blend (of mostly bourbon) that will bring through the best parts of the final product. For this liqueur, since the end-product will be using some citrus and some coffee, we want to blend a few whiskeys together for an even-keeled combo. For this, Alex likes a 70 : 30 blend of Four Roses Yellow Label and Henry McKenna 10-Year. Let them sit together for 3 days to mellow. And, if you’d like, on the last day, throw in a vanilla bean or two, especially if they areMadagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans.
  • Bourbon Blend—3 Days Before
    • Here’s where the magic really happens—take out the vanilla beans (really, you won’t want them to sit more than a day in the bourbon) and then add 1 cup of coffee for every 750 ml of the bourbon blend you have (if you’re using one bottle, that’s one cup). Then, let that coffee sit in their for one-hour. Not two hours. Not one day. ONE.HOUR. Then filter and strain.
      • For this, Alex loves Major Dickinson’s Roast from Peet’s. Nice and chocolatey, which is exactly what you’ll want.
    • After you’ve made your coffee infusion, through in the peels of at least two oranges per bottle of whiskey. Then let that sit for the next 2 days.
  • Liqueur/Cocktail—The Day Of
    • You’ve made a chocolatey, coffee-y, orange-y, well-blended liquor, now for the finishing touch. For every 3 oz of the blend, add 1 ½ oz of really good vermouth, like Carpano Antica Formula, 1 oz of Cherry Heering, and several dashes of orange cream bitters, like the Bittermen’s.
      • If you’re preparing individually, be sure to stir well with a lot of ice. Otherwise, you’ll want to add at least 1 oz of water to the above recipe for a batched cocktail.


Homemade Cinnamon Liqueur: Because We Can’t Say “F***ball”

  • Recipe—“Something Borrowed”
    • So Alex has tried many, many recipes for homemade “F***ball,” but none have equaled the first one he’s tried, fromCom. So we’ll just (shamelessly) repost their perfect recipe for the liqueur:

From Liquor.Com


  • 1 (750 ml) bottle inexpensive whiskey
  • 8 Cinnamon sticks
  • 3 oz Simple syrup
  • 6 Whole dried red chile peppers (optional)


Empty the bottle of whiskey into a large container with a lid. Add the cinnamon sticks and simple syrup and seal. Shake the container and let stand for five days, shaking daily.

After five days, add the dried chile peppers to the container, if desired, and shake. Let stand for three to four more days, tasting after the first day to test the flavor intensity. When the flavor reaches the desired intensity, strain and rebottle.

  • For the whiskey, use something that’s already got some hefty spice, like Wild Turkey 101.
  • For the simple syrup, a nice-and-easy 1: 1 ratio of sugar : water will work.
  • Cocktail:
    • Couldn’t possibly be easier because of this sweet, sweet liqueur:
      • 1 drop of vanilla extract, 5 oz of apple cider, and 1 ½ oz of the homemade cinnamon liqueur. Top with some fresh ground nutmeg.

Required Homemade Liqueur Reading:

5 Common Mistakes People Make With DIY Infusions from Serious Eats: Because you’re gonna mess up (we sure do).