Citrus Liqueurs

Wal writes ...
    Citrus liqueurs (e.g. limoncello, agrumino) are made by infusing the peel in overproof spirit, and then adding water and sugar. It recommended to be kept in the fridge, although it seems O.K. on spirit store shelves. You might have gathered I have plenty of lemon and oranges in the garden!

    Traditionally Limoncello and Agrumino were made by Italian Amalfi families using handed down recipes originally for private consumption. Here are two recipes.

    Limoncello (aka limoncino, limonce):
    • Zest of 6 thick-skinned lemons (Lisbon, Citron). Do not use the white pith as it makes the liqueur bitter.
    • 1 litre rectified alcohol 50%abv
    • 0.5 litre distilled water
    • 500g sugar
    Macerate the peel in the alcohol for 10 days. Boil water and add sugar. Allow to cool. Add sugar syrup and store for another week. Strain and discard the lemon peel. Store in a refrigerator.

    • Zest of 4 oranges, 2 lemons and 1 lime (or half a citron)
    • 1 small mandarin, quartered
    • 1 litre rectified alcohol 50%abv
    • 0.5 litre distilled water
    • 500g sugar
    Boil water and add sugar. Allow to cool. Add sugar syrup to other ingredients and macerate for 10 days. Filter and discard mandarin and peel. The peel of mandarins can also be used - try the zest of 12 mandarins (tangerines) instead of the oranges and lemons.


    Came across a recipe on an Italian site that possibly resembles Campari. Originally, Campari was the Milan based firm's house bitters. It was launched commercially in 1893.
    • 10g orange peel (avoid the white pith)
    • 2g cinnamon
    • 2.5g angelica root
    • 2g aniseed
    • 1g cloves
    • 1g gentian root (bitter root)
    • 1g calamus root (sweet flag)
    • 650ml 40% alcohol
    • 1/2 cup of red wine
    Crush the spices and macerate in half the alcohol (5-10days is usual). Filter and add wine and rest of alcohol. Add sugar to taste (quantity was not given).

    Curacao or Triple Sec

    The Dutch not only made gin using juniper berries but also in the 17th century their firms started using bitter orange (Seville orange) peels from the island Curacao in the West Indies. The peel of bitter oranges (with blossoms and leaves) were macerated in alcohol and redistilled to release their essential oils. This was then blended with neutral spirit or brandy and sugar added.

    The French emulated this and use the term triple-sec for their orange based liqueurs. Although it means triple-dry, most are very sweet. Cointreau uses bitter and sweet orange peels. Grand Marnier uses only bitter orange peels but this is blended with cognac and sugar and then aged. Many of these triple-secs have their inevitable secret ingredients.The literature says that for curacao/triple sec the orange peels should be infused in high strength alcohol and then redistilled - in a pot still I would imagine. It is then blended with water, neutral spirit or cognac. Grand Marnier is further aged in oak.

    I have searched the internet for curacao/triple-sec recipes.

    "The Houehold Cyclopedia" (1881) suggests redistilling 60g of fresh peel in a litre of proof alcohol and 400ml water (see orange cordial recipe p.18).

    A French site suggests redistilling 165g of peel (doesn't say whether fresh or dry) in a litre of proof alcohol and 250ml of water.
    Also here is a scaled down version of their Curacao recipe:
    • 1litre of orange distillate (1/3 of which is a bitter orange distillate)
    • 1.5 litres water
    • 1.4 kg white sugar
    • 350ml proof spirit (for blending)

    I suppose you could use a pure essential orange oil which is usually used in the proportion of 14 drops (1/2 tsp) per litre of alcohol. The orange oil could be also used to adjust your own orange distillate.

    You could introduce more complexity by making an orange wine (or mash) and then distilling with added peels. A recipe for 1 gallon U.S. (4 L) :
    • 2 lbs (2 kg) of over-ripe orange pulp (without peel and pith)
    • 2 1/4 lbs sugar (1 kg)
    • 1 tsp nutrient
    • yeast
    • water to make 1 gal (4 L)

    If you can get orange juice without preservatives you could use 1/2 juice and 1/2 water for 1kg of sugar instead of whole oranges.

    An orange liqueur recipe can also be made by solely macerating the peel in the manner of Limoncello (6 lemons / 3 cups vodka,sugar, added water to dilute to 30%abv).

    To make 1 litre (1 qt) Orange Liqueur:
    • 3 large oranges
    • 3 cups of vodka
    • 1 1/3 cups of fine white sugar
    • Pare the rind (no white pith)
    • Put peel in a large 4 cup screw-top jar and add 2 cups of vodka, close and steep for a week until the spirit has absorbed the flavor
    • Remove peel and add remaining vodka and sugar.

    Orange Bitters is a common ingredient in classic cocktails, but can be hard to find. Here is a recipe to make your own:
    • 225g (1/2lb) dried bitter orange peel (Seville orange)
    • 1pinch cardamon
    • 1pinch caraway
    • 1pinch coriander seeds
    • 500ml (2cups) alcohol
    • 4tbsp caramel coloring (burnt sugar)
    Chop the orange peel finely, add the seeds and pour on alcohol. Let it stand for 2 weeks, agitating daily. Pour off alcohol through a cloth and seal again. Take seeds, put in a saucepan, crush, cover with water and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into another jar, cover and let stand for 2 days. Strain and add to alcohol. Add caramel coloring, filter and let it rest until it settles perfectly clear.

    Mashes do contribute to flavor. One quickly tires of drinking watered down 95.7% neutral spirit, and adding flavors lacks the complexities that mashes give. Even an unoaked single malt spirit tastes great. Dutch gins used malted grain mash that was double distilled. The botanicals were incorporated in the second distillation. A reflux column which produces 80%abv could do this in one hit. I personally prefer flavor complexity over alcohol purity as this requires more artistry (I have nothing against technomania though).

    I made a lemon vodka from a mash of 25 lemons (peel & juice), 5kg sugar, 25l water. The lemon flavor came across my reflux still which produces 75%abv. I did an orange vodka using 15 oranges (peel & juice). The flavor came across also.

    Looking for a present to give for Xmas? What about this visually impressive citrus drink.

    Liqueur 44
    • 1 orange
    • 44 coffee beans
    • 44 sugar cubes
    • 1 litre alcohol
    Make 44 cuts in the orange and insert the 44 coffee beans. Place in a jar with 44 sugar cubes and cover with the alcohol. Drink after 44 days.

    Parfait Amour

    Food and drink reflect the values held by a society, and as values change so do these lifestyle products. These days we give our drinks direct names like 'sex on the beach', 'slow screw' etc. In the 18th century there were liqueurs that were intended for "stimulating the erotic impulses with artful concoctions of spices and flowers mixed with the alcohol. Parfait Amour liqueur is really the only surviving link to that noble tradition." ('Spirits & Liqueurs Cookbook')

    Parfait Amour (Perfect Love), is apparently Dutch in origin and is presently made by Dutch and French companies. There was once a red version, but now only the blue version remains. It is flavored with violets, lemons, and a mixture of cloves and other spices. The botanicals are macrated in alcohol and then re-distilled. The blue color is achieved with a vegetable dye. Here is a redacted recipefrom French sites, reduced to 1 litre :

    Parfait amour:
    Stage 1)
    20 g citron peel
    10 g lemon peel
    1.25 g cloves
    1 litre alcohol (85%bv)
    250 ml water
    Macerate (steep) then redistill

    Stage 2)
    200 g violet petals
    1 litre redistilled alcohol (stage 1, diluted to 40%bv)
    500 g sugar (2 cups)
    1 cup water
    Make sugar syrup from sugar and water. Alow to cool. Macerate petals in alcohol until desired color is achieved. Strain and add syrup. Bottle.

    Rose petals for a 'Rosolio' and violets for 'Parfait Amour' were mentioned earlier. The 'Parfait Amour' is colored blue. I looked up my herb book and found that 'Cornflower' flowers (Centaurea cyanus) and the stems and leaves of 'Meadowsweet' (Filipendula ulmaria) will give a natural blue color. I gather then that violets themselves will not, and steeping for 5 minutes is sufficient for flavoring purposes. Meadowsweet roots will also give black, while the tops a green-yellow. Other aromatic flowers mentioned in recipes are jasmine, orange blossom, elderflower, rosemary flowers, and lavender flowers. About 1 and 1/2 cups of flowers for 1 and 1/2 cups alcohol seems to be the norm.     This page last modified Tue, 20 Jan 2015 20:51:05 -0800