Pineapple Rosemary Liqueur
Pineapple and rosemary. A combination of flavors that, on paper, don't seem to go together. But oh... they do. I came across this delightful melody a few years ago, and after a series of delicious encounters in different forms, I vowed to turn it into a cocktail.
After mentally stewing over my options, I chose to make my new favorite flavor combination into a liqueur. Making liqueurs is surprisingly easy, but it does require quite a lot of patience. I typically have very little patience in my everyday life, but I'll make an exception for booze. I will wait any length of time for the perfect drink.
In this instance, that length of time is about 2 months.
Homemade liqueurs are made by infusing a base spirit with a flavoring component, and then blending the infused spirit with simple syrup. The infusion process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks (or even months!) depending on what you've chosen as your flavoring components. For most fruit infusions, it is recommended that you allow the spirit at least 4 weeks to extract all of the flavor compounds. Then, after blending with simple syrup, it is recommended that you allow the liqueur to rest for another 4 weeks before it's considered to be "ready."
You may be scoffing at the idea of waiting so long for your cocktail, and believe me, I understand, but the waiting is a necessary step. The flavors continue to develop over the course of the 4 weeks. And when mixing 2 or more flavors at once, you want to give them the chance to really meld together and get happy with each other.
The following recipe is a step by step overview of how I made my pineapple rosemary liqueur. However, the process is the same for making any fruit liqueur. If you don't like rosemary, or perhaps you don't like pineapple (what kind of monster doesn't like pineapple?), you can use the steps involved and just switch up the ingredients to make your own! Just remember to give it all adequate time to rest and come together. Tom Petty said it best: "the waiting is the hardest part."
- 1 very ripe pineapple
- 4-7 sprigs of rosemary
- Plain vodka (or grain alcohol)
- Simple syrup*
You will also need a clean glass jar for the infusion process. The size of the jar is entirely up to you and how much liqueur you want to make.
* To make Simple Syrup: Mix equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir until sugar is completely disolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.
If you want to make a citrus liqueur, use only the zest of the fruits, and try not to include any of the bitter pith in your infusion. The more zest you use, the more intense the flavor will be.
- Sanitize your clean infusion jar by rinsing it with boiling water. (Wear oven mits!)
- Wash and dry the rosemary sprigs
- Peel and slice the pineapple into uniform pieces. Discard the bitter core.
- Fill your infusion jar with your prepped fruit.
- Pour your vodka (or grain alcohol) over the fruit, right to the very top, and screw the lid on tight.
- Place your infusion in a cool, dark pantry, and then prepare yourself to wait, for 4 whole weeks. Give it a good shake every few days, but try to leave it alone otherwise.
- Keep waiting!!!
- At the end of the first 4 weeks, remove your infusion from its lair, and strain the liquid into a bowl.
- Return the strained liquid to your infusion jar, and add your prepared (and cooled) simple syrup.
- Once you've achieved your desired sweetness, place the cap back on your jar, give it a good shake, and return it to its lair for another 4 weeks of resting.
- At the end of the second 4 weeks, your liqueur is at long last ready to drink!
The pineapple to rosemary ratio is entirely up to you. Since I had a very specific flavor in mind, I opted to go a little heavier on the rosemary, using about 6 long sprigs. If you wish for the rosemary note to be more subtle, you may want to use less in your infusion.
The amount of vodka you will need for this step depends on the size of your chosen infusion jar, and how tightly you crammed in the fruit. Just make sure you have enough vodka to fully cover the fruit, and fill the jar all the way to the top.
Pineapple is not only juicy on its own, but it is also very porous, and capable of soaking up a lot of vodka. Not wanting any of it to go to waste, I chose to mash up the pineapple and then strain it through a cheesecloth. This is an entirely optional step, and usually unnecessary when infusing most other fruits.
At this point, you have an infused vodka, but it's not officially a liqueur until it's been blended with simple syrup.
I used 1 part simple syrup for every 2 parts of infused vodka. Some recipes I've seen for homemade liqueurs say to use equal parts, although I found that ratio to be a little too sweet for me. Use your own preferences when blending, adding less simple syrup at first, and tasting as you go.
While you could drink it right away... don't. It will be so much better if you wait. At this point the flavors aren't done evolving yet. They will gain more complexity and intrigue in the next few weeks, and it's worth waiting for.
If you wish to transfer it to a more attractive bottle, be sure to clean and sanitize it first, just like the jar in step 1. Depending on what you have infused, you may want to strain the final product through a coffee filter before bottling.
Homemade liqueurs make wonderful gifts. Throw on a pretty label and a festive bow and bam! You have got yourself a fun and thoughtful gift! Last year I made a whole bunch for my friends and family, and I've gotten requests for more this year!
Once the torturous wait is over, and you finally have your liqueur, there are all kinds of things you can do with it. These are some of my favorites:
- Sip it on its own or over ice.
- Shake it with gin or vodka into a martini.
- Shake it with tequila and a little fresh fruit juice into a margarita.
- Splash some into sparkling wine (or seltzer) to add a little extra flavor.
- Throw a little into your sangria and be the hit of the party.
- Add some to a boxed cake mix to liven it up and ensure no one will know it came from a box. (Just replace some of the water that the instructions call for with your liqueur of choice. Don't worry, the alcohol will bake out.)
One thing to keep in mind: Homemade fruit liqueurs do not have an infinite shelf life. Unless you choose to add some sort of preservative to your liqueurs, the flavors will continue to evolve and change over time. The shelf life will depend on a variety of factors, such as the fruits used, the proof of the alcohol, and how often the liquid is exposed to air.
- Liqueurs made with citrus zest tend to last longer than whole fruit infusions, because only the oils from the zest are extracted into the vodka. Infusing other fruits (like berries and, yes, pineapple) also extracts juices, pectin, and anything else you can think of, including yeast (a dangerous foe, indeed).
- High proof vodka (or grain alcohol) will help to preserve the flavors longer. Alcohol is a disinfectant, after all. A higher alcohol content will prevent any naturally occurring yeasts from doing their thing and breaking down the sugars. Most strains of yeast cannot survive in an environment above 15% alcohol. If you plan to keep your liqueur for a long time, you'll have better results if you start with a vodka that's at least 100 proof (50% abv).
You may need to do some math to ensure your liqueur is the proper strength, so here's an example: Two cups of 100 proof infused vodka contains 1 cup of pure alcohol. If you blend your vodka and simple syrup using a 1 to 1 ratio, meaning 2 cups of vodka with 2 cups of simple syrup, you will have a solution that is 25% alcohol by volume (1 cup of pure alcohol in 4 total cups of liquid). Likewise, if you blend two cups of 100 proof vodka with only 1 cup of simple syrup, your final product will have a strength of 33% abv.
If you're using an average strength vodka of 35% abv, I would not recommend the 1:1 ratio, as your final solution will be, at best, only 17% abv, and therefore at risk of allowing yeast and other microbes the chance to grow and ruin your hard work. A better choice would be to blend a ratio of 2:1 (vodka : simple syrup), which will give you a solution that is roughly 23% abv, and will be much more shelf stable.
Math! In real life!! Bet you weren't expecting that to happen!
- Oxygen, though it gives us humans life, will kill your liqueur. You may have noticed that your wine tastes much different after the bottle has been open for a few days. That's due to the oxidation that occurs once the seal is broken and air comes in contact with the wine. The same thing will happen to homemade liqueurs. Every time the bottle is opened and a little more air gets inside, pesky oxygen will get in there and start messing things up. You can slow this annoyance by keeping the finished product in your refrigerator or freezer. If you plan on keeping your liqueur in the freezer, please make sure the final blend is over 20% abv, to prevent it from freezing solid and potentially exploding (another good reason to use high proof vodka).
This particular homemade liqueur, this magical union of pineapple and rosemary, was made specifically with this wondrous libation in mind: