Classic Liquors

The Making of Liqueurs

The constituents and manufacture of today's liqueurs all follow time-honored formulae.

A Base Raw alcohol, Gin, Cognac, Brandy Flavoring Agents Herbs, Spices, Barks, Flowers, Fruit Sweeteners Sugar, Honey Miscellaneous Cream, Eggs Extraction of the flavors Simply put, the methods used to produce the flavors of Liqueurs fall into four Techniques.

Maceration

The object is to obtain the aromatic (pleasant odors) substances from the raw materials. This method can take as long as a year and is used when the raw materials would lose some of their flavor or characteristics if they were heated.

In basic terms, the raw material is immersed in the raw alcohol until that Spirit absorbs the flavor. The final product is called a 'Tincture' and forms the basis for the Liqueur.

Infusion

Similar to Maceration in that the flavoring agent is 'Steeped' or soaked in a Base Alcohol. The difference is that the Alcohol is heated. This heat is maintained for several days and the result is a more flavorful and less expensive product.

Percolation

This method can be done either hot or cold. The raw material (or flavoring agent) is placed in a container of sorts and the raw alcohol is either bubbled through it for a few days to weeks or it is brought to a boil, so that the vapors rise, percolate through the flavoring agent and fall back into the main pot, much like the old coffee percolators. The resulting product is called the 'Extract'.

Distillation

Generally uses a 'Pot' Still. Distillation uses heat to extract flavor and then the distillation concentrates the essential oils thus extracted. A typical representative of the technique is double-distilled Triple Sec.

Apart from these basics each liqueur has certain preparation steps for the raw materials used. The methods of production vary from one to the other and are typically a closely guarded secret.

This is followed by:

  • Compounding to a recipe
  • Maturation
  • Fining
  • Dyeing / sweetening

Sources of Liqueur

  • Flavor
  • Flowers

Extraction of flavor and color similar to that for the most expensive perfumes. Hand picked and stemmed. Two processes are used 'Enfleurage' & 'Volatile Extraction'.

Volatile Extraction

Used for flowers that stop emitting fragrance when picked. Petals are placed on perforated trays in a stainless steel vessel. An ether solution is pumped in and extracts flavor and bouquet. The ether is then distilled off (removed) at low temperatures in a refrigerated still leaving behind the essential oils.

Herbs & Spices

Maceration or percolation is used to extract essential oils. Steam distillation is also used. The herbs or spices are crushed. The ground material soaks in alcohol (maceration). Heat evaporates the alcohol and the essential oils remain. Or, the ground material is distilled releasing the oils.

Beans & Nuts

Coffee

From the Turkish word 'Kahveh'. When picked, resembles a cherry. These are washed to leave only the bean. The beans are roasted and at around 400?F; they double in size. When roasted sufficiently the process is halted with cold water and rapid air cooling. The darker the roast the stronger the coffee. Percolation yields a strong Coffee Extract.

Cocoa

Similar to coffee. Fermentation of the pulp coated beans is necessary for handling. It is roasted immediately prior to use. The inner kernels are pressed to give a paste which contains 55% of the cocoa butter from which chocolate is made. The fat or butter can be extracted to leave Cocoa Powder. This powder is used to make Creme De Cacao.

Vanilla

The fruiting body of a tropical orchid "Vanilla Planifolia" 80% of the original weight of the pods is lost in the curing process hence vanilla's expensive price. Extraction is done by maceration.

Nuts

Almonds, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Brazil Nuts, Coconuts as well as Peach, Apricot and Cherry Kernels. Mostly, none are strong enough to be used alone without other flavorings.

Fruit

Stoned fruits: Apricots, Peaches, Cherries, Plums. Citrus fruits and their peel. Soft fruits: Berries. Others such as Bananas, and Pineapples.

Other additives

  • Barks eg. Angostura, Cinnamon, Sandalwood
  • Roots eg. Angelica, Ginger, Tumeric
  • Honey, Sugar/Glucose, Eggs