Preparing homemade infused liqueurs is a fun DIY project that can yield tasty, unique results. It's an impressive treat to offer up at parties or as a housewarming gift. There's also a lot of room for creativity. This recipe is for a basic orange liqueur that can be used as a starting point that leads to a world of possibilities. While I recommend preparing the basic recipe at least once to get a feel for it, on subsequent tries you can add in whole spices such as cinnamon sticks, or try swapping the orange zest for tangerines. Grand Marnier, one of the most popular orange liqueurs, is prepared using a Cognac base. I recommend using Cognac (or regular brandy) for a similar liqueur. Grain alcohol such as Everclear will create a much more intense liqueur.
This process takes several weeks, so be sure to plan in advance if you're making this to give as a gift or for a specific celebration.
Things You'll Need
- 4 to 5 large naval oranges
- 2 cups cognac, brandy or Everclear
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups water
- Vegetable peeler
- Cutting board
- Paring knife
- Quart-sized container or jar with a tight fitting lid
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Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients and Tools
Since this process takes several weeks, you only need the oranges, alcohol, vegetable peeler, cutting board, paring knife and jar to get started. The sugar and water come later.
Step 2: Peel the Oranges
After rinsing and drying the oranges, peel them and set aside the fruit for another use. You only want to use the orange zest for this recipe, not the white pith, which is very bitter.
Step 3: Remove the White Pith
To remove any excess white pith, place the peel zest-side down on a cutting board. Press a paring knife flat against the zest and gently slice/scrape away the white bits. This process takes some patience.
Step 4: Combine the Zest and Alcohol
Once all of the white pith has been removed, place the zest in the container along with the alcohol and secure with a lid. Set aside for 3 to 4 weeks (the longer, the better).
Step 5: Prepare the Simple Syrup
After 3 to 4 weeks have passed, it's time to finish the liqueur. Place 1 ½ cups of granulated sugar and 1 ½ cups of water in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Step 6: Strain the Zest
Strain and discard the orange zest, leaving only the infused alcohol.
Step 7: Add the Simple Syrup
Stir in the simple syrup. And now it's ready for you to enjoy!
This recipe yields approximately 4 cups of orange liqueur.
Easy Recipe Ideas
Now that you have your orange liqueur, how are you going to use it? Mix up some of these delicious cocktails.
Note: They will work better with the cognac or brandy versions, and can all be garnished with an orange wedge or shaved orange peel. Each yields 1 drink.
- Combine 1 ounce orange liqueur with 4 ounces Champagne or good quality sparkling wine.
- Combine 2 ounces orange liqueur, 2 ounces fresh squeezed orange juice and 4 ounces club soda.
- Combine 6 ounces hot chocolate with 2 ounces orange liqueur. Optional: top with whipped cream.