Remember back in September 9th’s post about homemade blueberry liqueur, I said I was gonna post a whole series on making liqueurs, with the aim of getting it all done in time for holiday gift giving?
I got a little sidetracked. Whoops. In my defense, there’s been SO much going on here in the way of repairs. Getting my husband to photograph anything … well, it’s got to be a lower priority, what with winter coming!
So, let’s go with something super easy – iced tea liqueur!
You’ve probably seen a bunch of iced tea liqueurs on the market in the past two years: Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, Burnett’s Sweet Tea Vodka, Sweet Carolina Sweet Tea Vodka, Barton Long Island Iced Tea Liqueur, etc. 2009 marked the real explosion of “Sweet tea” flavored liqueurs on liquor store shelves.
|For what mass produced offerings, they’re not bad. Expensive for what they are, but they get the job done.
Homemade sweet iced tea liqueurs not only taste a million times better, they allow you to have a lot of control over the flavors, and are only a fraction of the cost of the retail versions. Also, they are so ridiculously easy to make, I’m almost embarrassed to post a recipe!
While the infusion time needed for this liqueur is much, much shorter than any of the others, it really benefits from aging. If you’re looking to do a batch for holiday gifts, you’ll want to start it soonish.
Homemade Sweet Iced Tea Liqueur Recipe
3 cups decent quality vodka*
5-6 tea bags of your choice **
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 lemon, optional. ***
Remove any paper tags from the tea bags, place into one large clean Mason jar, or divide among 2 medium sized jars, capping the jar(s) tightly.
Give the jar(s) a gentle shake every few hours, check the flavor at about the 8 hour mark. Flavor should be a little stronger than you’d like the finished product to be, as it will be diluted before you’re finished.
If additional flavor is needed, allow to steep up to 2 days. Feel free to add more tea bags – just don’t leave the mixture to steep TOO long, or you’ll end up with bitter tannin flavors.
Once desired flavor strength is achieved:
Strain vodka through a fine mesh strainer & discard the tea bags. For a more clarified drink, strain the infusion once more, this time through a coffee filter – or two. Be patient, the effort is worth it!
Next, make simple syrup.
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool before using.
Stir about 1 1/2 cups of the syrup into the strained infusion. Once fully combined, taste. Adjust ingredients for desired sweetness – I like doing a 1:1 ratio of syrup to infused vodka. Once you are happy with the sweetness, carefully pour your liqueur into a clean bottle.
After bottling, you should let it age for at least a week in a cool, dark place before drinking it – IF you have that kind of patience! Aging results in a smoother, more mellow flavor.
* With regards to the vodka, we go fairly cheap with it. For more robust flavors, any difference in quality of vodka – using more expensive brands – is totally lost. Save the upgrades in base vodka for more subtle liqueurs!
** Do NOT go as cheap on the tea bags! Use your favorite flavors, maybe splurge on nicer tea. (A few Tbsp of good quality loose tea can be substituted for tea bags).
*** If you want a lemon iced tea, carefully peel the lemon, making sure not to leave any of the white pith on the peels. Add peels to the infusion *after* the tea bags are removed, allow to infuse for about a week. Taste for doneness. If you’d like more lemon flavor, allow to infuse until it’s just right before moving on to the simple syrup step.
Enjoy making liqueurs? You should check out my first cookbook, The Spirited Baker! The first chapter takes a “Choose your own Adventure” approach to teaching how to create virtually any type of liqueur imaginable!
Learn to infuse various spirits with any flavor of your choice. From there, use any of a number of flavored syrups – recipes included! – to sweeten your infused spirit, creating a liqueur.
Liqueurs can then be combined with a few simple ingredients to create a cream liqueur – or even a chocolate cream liqueur! The possibilities are not only endless, they are delicious and thrifty!