To make use of the bounty of lemons the tree provided this year – and just because I wanted to – I started making some liqueurs this year. But since it’s me, I couldn’t stick to a simple limoncello or even doing one recipe at a time. So we got a lemon and black tea liqueur and a pomegranate spice liqueur (I had some pomegranate arils that need to be used). But then I realized I hadn’t done enough gifts for people I was about to see before the holidays (the bourbon caramels from a previous post) – liqueurs to the rescue there! But some of those people don’t drink, so I had to do some syrups… And on my chaotic creating process goes.
Since I made two different liqueurs and two different syrups that all share the same photos and creative process, we’ll turn their post into a four-part series. And because I can’t leave anyone without a use for their new liqueur or syrup, I’ll include at least one cocktail or non-alcoholic beverage option with each entry. No sense in waiting to use them.
PART 1: Lemon-Black Tea Liqueur
I recently had to trim the lemon tree in our yard which had been neglected for several years. It was growing straight up and was well past the roof-line so we couldn’t get to a lot of the fruit. In cutting it ended up picking a bunch of ripe and not-so-ripe lemons all at once. Since there is only so much lemon curd I can make (and expect to be eaten in a reasonable spate of time), a limoncello like liqueur was definitely the way to go to use some up.
To give it a bit of spice, I added a few peppercorns to soak. Not enough for it to be peppery, but just enough to add some savory flavor to something that could otherwise get too sweet. I incorporated black tea into the sugar syrup rather than the vodka soak. Soaking herbs in alcohol can be risky as the bitter flavors are more likely to come to the forefront. This is perfect if you are making bitters, but not as good for liqueurs.
Like bread, making liqueurs is somewhere I really prefer to use the metric system rather than imperial measurements. I find it makes things simple, but I have included both measurements as much as possible. Metric also helps when calculating the approximate alcohol by volume (ABV) percent of your final product. You can calculate it with the following information.
What’s the ABV of your starting liquor? (I used a 40% vodka – that’s the ABV, not the proof!)
How much of that liquor are you adding to the final product? (Measure after steeping the necessary period of time. I still had 500ml.)
Calculate the total volume of alcohol (ethanol) you added. (40% of 500ml = .4 X 500 = 200ml)
Calculate total volume of liquid in your final product. (500ml lemon steeped vodka + 250ml tea syrup = 760ml)
Divide volume of alcohol by the volume of final product. (200/760 = .26 or 26% ABV)
*Do note this is approximate. If you are calculating for the purposes of commercial or chemical production, a lot more variables are taken into account. Here there is likely some evaporation of water during the soak and unless you have a couple graduated cylinders around (not saying that’s impossible in your kitchen), your measurements are not going to be precise down to the milliliter.
- 5 tbsp/30g lemon zest (5 lemons)*
- 2 c + 2 tbsp/500ml vodka
- ½ tsp/2g peppercorns
- 1/3 c/70g sugar
- 1 c/240ml water
- ½ tbs/3g mild black tea leaves (i.e. English breakfast or Assam)
- Combine vodka, lemon zest, and peppercorns in an airtight plastic or glass container.
- Soak for 3 days.
- Heat sugar and water until just simmering and sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from heat and add tea.
- Steep 4-5 minutes. Strain and allow to cool.
- Strain lemon zest and peppercorns out of alcohol.
- Measure alcohol and tea syrup separately.
- Combine at approximately a ratio of 1 part tea syrup to 2 parts lemon steeped vodka (250ml tea syrup to 500ml steeped vodka). Adjust to taste.
- Store in airtight glass jars in a cool place. There is enough alcohol and sugar in this that it can be stored at room temperature.
- *This is one place I do not recommend a microplane zester. The microplane only gets the very top layer of oils and zest with no pith – something that is great in concentrating the flavor in other places. Here, a bit of the bitter pith will actually balance out the flavor. I use a “lemon zester with channel knife”. They make 4 or 5 larger spirals with a bit of pith on each pull of the tool.
- 1 ¼ oz/38ml Monkey Shoulder
- 1 ¼ oz/38ml Lemon tea liqueur
- 2 dashes Vanilla bitters (you can use 1/8 tsp of vanilla extract here, but it needs to be very good quality)
- Glass: rocks
- Garnish: none
- Assemble in the glass over ice and stir gently.