Sorry...this is going to be a wordy posting.
I checked on-line to find a recipe for making liqueur, specifically raspberry liqueur. I had recently finished a bottle of Raspicello and wanted to try to duplicate that delicious libation. The Raspicello lists 26% ABV on its label. I also have not quite finished a bottle of Peachcello with the same alcoholic content. In my freezer I have the last dregs of Lemoncello with a 30% ABV content. Those alcohol contents gave me a target for not just the alcohol level I needed to approach but also the mouth feel and fruit character.
What I found on-line was a collection of how-to-do-it documents and quasi-recipes that all fell short for what I needed to do justice to this drink. One of the first things that popped out at me was that a liqueur called for the addition of a “Simple Syrup”. I soon found that it was not so simple. Some recipes called for a one-to-one ratio of sugar to water, while others called for a two-to-one ratio. I Googled how much sugar could be dissolved in a cup (8 ounces) of water. That answer was two cups of sugar. Okay, that will be my Simple Syrup recipe going forward.
I found that there may be four ways to get the sugar mated up with the alcohol and fruit juice. To the container with alcohol and fresh or frozen fruit:
· Just add raw sugar to the fruit and let the sugar draw the juice out from the fruit..
To the container with alcohol and fruit juice (already drawn from the alcohol sitting on the fruit for several weeks):
· Add 1:1 Simple Syrup.
· Add 2:1 Simple Syrup.
· Add Invert Syrup (Simple Syrup that has been converted from sucrose to glucose and fructose by boiling for 10 minutes with a little lemon juice.).
I decided to make Invert Syrup with a 2:1 ratio to achieve a higher sugar density for my liqueur. I faced a little different problem that I made for myself by using a lot more fruit than any of the recipes called for. What that effectively will do is dilute the alcohol by volume content of the finished product. I need the higher level of sweetness without the added water volume that would further dilute the finished liqueur.
For my Invert Syrup I used 8 cups of white sugar and 4 cups of water. I brought that to a boil and then added 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. I then boiled the water and sugar, which changed from a cloudy white liquid (the sugar hadn’t completely dissolved) to a clear liquid over the ten minutes that it was boiled. Then I let it cool.
Here’s my recipe for my interpretation of Raspicello:
16 oz of alcohol @ 61% ABV
24 oz of raspberry juice (the carafe holds 64 oz. of berries)
8.5 oz of invert syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
4 oz dried wild blueberries
1 vanilla bean, with seeds scraped out and added in
2 TBS vegetable glycerine
The 16 oz of alcohol is comprised of the following:
1.66 cups of Smirnoff 40%ABV vodka
2.34 cups of Everclear 75.5%ABV grain alcohol
That gives me an alcohol mix of 4 cups of 60.8%ABV. The reason for this unusual mix is that I initially bought the Everclear, but then thought that it might be too potent for a quiet little liqueur. I thought I should cut its potency a bit. Now, after I have been through the process, I can see that I should have just followed through with the Everclear. I could always dilute the final product with a little extra water if need be.
So I added the fruit to the carafe, crushed it, added the alcohol, capped it and let it sit for a week. Then I added the sliced and scraped vanilla bean to help round out and soften the raspberry character. Some recipes called for this so I thought I’d try it. It seemed to make sense. After several days, I stirred it down and crushed the berries even further.
After two and a half weeks, I decided to move it forward. I put a quadruple layer of cheesecloth in the strainer and poured the mixture through the strainer for the coarse filtration. I mashed the pulp with the back of a spoon, but that still didn’t extract all the juice. I emptied the pulp from the cheesecloth into a bowl for attention later. After I had extracted as much juice as I could from the cheesecloth, I put the pulp back into the cheesecloth, gathered the four corners, and squeezed it into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.The cheesecloth required rinsing several times. Finally I placed the rinse-able coffee filter in the strainer, poured the twice-filtered liquid through, rinsed the coffee filter, and repeated the process. The rinse-able coffee filter is a really good, efficient device for this job…much better than disposable paper coffee filters would be.
To this filtered alcoholic fruit juice I added one cup invert syrup and a tablespoon of glycerine. I swirled the carafe to mix the sweetener and then I tasted it. First of all, the aroma of the berries was very dominant…a promise of taste delight to come. The taste was slightly sweet-tart, fruity, but a little thin. My wife liked it and hesitated when first smelling it…savoring the aroma. She remarked that it was like fruit juice (thin character) and definite alcohol character. Looking at the glass…you could see the “legs” from the alcohol. But it wasn’t over-the-top in alcohol. My calculations indicated that.
To another half cup of syrup I added a second tablespoon of glycerine, mixed it in, then added it to the carafe. I again swirled the carafe to mix the added sweetener. When I now tasted it I found that it was softer, not quite so harsh, and a little fuller in body. I have a second carafe virtually identical to this one so it is important to nail down the flavor and texture profile of this one so that the other can just follow suit. The only difference is that the other carafe has added dried cherries which I hope will provide a more complex character.
I bottled the mixture at that point, satisfied that this would be fine for a first pass at liqueur-making. I imagined pouring a glass in the cold winter months ahead. Nice. I had a little problem corking the bottles because the plastic, ribbed stopper was easing its way out of the bottle. Duh! I had put a little too much liqueur in each bottle and the compression from the stopper was forcing them out of the necks of the bottles. I poured a little out (into my testing/tasting glass, of course) and restoppered the bottles. Then I labeled them and put them in the bottle box for a little nap. See you in the holidays!
My calculated final potency for this Raspicello is 18.7%ABV. I arrived there with the following:
2 cups alcohol @ 61%ABV
3 cups raspberry juice
1.5 cups invert syrup
2 cups alcohol @ 61%ABV/6.5 cups total liquid volume => 18.7%ABV
It’s not very close to the commercial Raspicello (26%ABV) or the Limoncello (30%ABV) but it seems quite acceptable for this run. I could probably boost the amount of glycerine I use in the next batch to develop smoother mouth feel.
I will take the traps I discovered and the tricks I learned from this effort and apply them to the other matching carafe of raspberry liqueur. I also have a batch done with brandy that will benefit from this knowledge. And later I have the blueberry liqueur. That should be fun. I have some tall 375ml bottles coming for it.