Monday, February 15, 2010


I recently discovered a way to combine two of my favorite things: creative projects and booze. Not drinking while working on projects; that sometimes has unexpected consequences. No, since this fall Mike and I have been creating booze in the form of cordials. For those that might be fuzzy on the definition of a cordial (I really only thought of them as things that old ladies drink in olden times Prince Edward Island), it's just an infused liquor with syrup added for sweetness. Traditional recipes involve a lot of fruit and flowers (my great grandmother made dandelion and raspberry cordials), but you can in theory put anything in alcohol, let it sit to add favor, sweeten and viola! The whole cordial assembly line began with my desire for limoncello, which I loved when I was in Italy. I found and more or less followed the recipe here:

The end result was delicious, but took a long time to get to. The thing about cordials is that they are addicting. You set them to infusing and then you have to wait for weeks or months to appreciate them. My natural impulse was to make more and experiment in the mean time. Thus our first creations, Chitters and Persephone were born.

Seeds from 3.5 pomegranates, mashed
10 thin-ish slices of ginger
1.75 liters vodka

sit with stirring for 10 days

filter, once coarse, twice fine

add cooled simple syrup (4 cups water, 2 cups sugar)

mellow 1 week

fine filter into bottles

1 vanilla bean, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
80 hazelnuts, chopped
20 cloves, smashed
10 allspice berries, smashed
1.5 nutmegs (is this a word?), chopped
1.75 liters vodka, brita filtered
0.25 liters brandy

sit with shaking for 3 weeks

filter twice, one coarse, one fine

add cooled simple syrup (4 cups water, 2 cups sugar)

mellow 1 week

fine filter into bottles

Notes: Ideally you would use a 70% grain alcohol like Everclear, which has no flavor, but brita filtering (we did it 5 times) cheap vodka does improve the flavor some.

Infusing for longer isn't always better. Fruits get mushy and hard to filter out, the pomegranate definitely didn't need more than 10 days.

Letting the simple syrup cool before you add it means that it will stay clear in solution, apparently when it is added warm cloudiness can form.

The most time consuming part of the project is actually filtering everything through coffee filters to get out all of the particles. We weren't patient enough with the Persephone, and a bit has fallen out since it was bottled. That one was our least favorite; the ginger flavor was surprisingly subtle and I think we'll add more next time. The Chitters, the ingredients of which were inspired by Italian nut liquors and the name coming from everyone's favorite squirrel, turned out excellent. Though I would probably put in less cloves, allspice and nutmeg in the future.

If you are interested in cordial making, you'll need some supplies:

2 liter, well sealed glass jars
a mortar and pestle
a nut grinder (we love the nut grinder!)
a microplane zester
lots of funnels
a stand alone coffee filter
paper coffee filters
lots of bottles (I like the flip-top kind, so I buy things in those bottles and save them, but this place has some great ones:

and of course, pretty little glasses from which to enjoy the end product!