How to Make Homemade Liqueur and Cocktails from your Garden Herbs

On the blog "How to Make Homemade Liqueur from Fruit from Your Garden" you learned about making liqueur the Croatian way and the traditional method. In this post, I'll recap both recipes and introduce popular Croatian liqueur combinations that can easily become staples from your garden!

The point of herb liqueurs is to let the essence of the herbs stand out. While plain rosemary liqueur might not sound appealing, pairing it with fruits like apples or peaches and a hint of anise can work wonders. The key is to use a fruit that isn't too overpowering, like apples and pears allowing the herbal hints to shine through. Focus on herb and fruit blends that complement each other well in cooking, as this will guide your hand for liqueur combinations.

Let's get started.

  1. Main Herbs to Consider

Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Thai Basil, Elderberry, Lemon Balm, Lemon Basil, and mint varieties such as Peppermint and Spearmint.

  1. Complementary flavors

Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange), fresh garden fruit (berries, apples, pears), nuts, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, anise, and cloves.

  1. Recipe

Ingredients and Supplies

Herbs: Choose your herb. You’ll need a good bunch.

Complementary flavors: Choose from the complementary flavors above.

Neutral Spirit: Use 500 ml of quality vodka or grain alcohol.

Sugar Syrup: A mixture of 400 grams of sugar and 400 ml of water.

Mason Jar: 1 gallon mason jar for steeping the fruit and alcohol.

Coffee Filter or Fine Mesh Sieve: For straining the mixture.

Glass Bottles: For storing the finished product, use 500 ml or 800 ml mason jars.

Step-by-Step Process

Step 1: Prepare Your Ingredients

The first thing you need to do is gather your ingredients. 

Make sure your herbs and fruits are washed.

If using citrus, remove the peel and the pit so it won’t turn bitter.

Step 2: Add the Herbs and Secondary Ingredients

In a clean mason jar of 1 gallon, combine your herb and fruits with a neutral spirit like vodka.

Don’t macerate the fruit; cut it in chunks for things like pears, and leave cherries or similar fruits whole. 

Give It a good mix, seal the jar and store it in a cool dark place for at least two weeks, giving it a shake every few days.

Step 4: Prepare the Sugar Syrup

While the fruit is steeping, prepare the syrup. 

Combine the 400 grams of sugar (brown sugar for a richer flavor) and 400 ml of warm water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. 

Let the syrup cool to room temperature.

Step 5: Strain and Mix

After the fruit has steeped for the desired time, strain the mixture through a coffee filter or fine mesh sieve into a large jar. 

Press the fruit gently to extract all the liquid but avoid pressing too hard to prevent sediment from clouding your liqueur.

Step 6: Combine and Adjust

Combine the strained herb-infused alcohol with the sugar syrup by cups. 

Taste the mixture and adjust the sweetness to your personal preference by adding more simple syrup if necessary. 

Remember, the alcohol content will dilute slightly with the addition of syrup.

Step 6: Age the Liqueur

Pour the mixed liqueur into clean glass bottles. 

Seal them tightly and store them in a cool place for at least a month to allow the flavors to meld. The longer it ages, the better the flavors will develop.

  1. Croatian In-Laws Recipe Verbatim

As I shared on the blog "How to Make Homemade Liqueur from Fruit from Your Garden," my Croatian in-laws have their own methods for making liqueur. Their recipe lacks precise measurements or words of caution—it relies on white sugar, cheap vodka, and a lot of eyeballing. Here you go:

  1. Choose your fruits and herbs and place them in a large jar, fill the jar all the way with the ingredients or as much as you want but more than half way.
  2. Cover the fruit  and herbs with white sugar—use as much as you prefer, filling the jar halfway or less.
  3. Fill the rest of the jar with vodka.
  4. Don’t seal the jar completely; leave it slightly open.
  5. Place the jar on a wider flat container filled with water to prevent ants from getting in.
  6. Leave the jar slightly open under the sun. Your liquor will be ready once most of the fruit has disintegrated, which typically takes two to four weeks, depending on how hot the sun gets.

In Croatia, making liqueurs is part of the culture and remains a thriving practice, especially in rural areas where land and harvests are abundant. Croatians take pride and joy in their liqueurs, sharing them generously with family, friends and neighbors. 

Why not do the same with your own harvest? 

Final Thoughts 

Experiment with different combinations of herbs and fruits to discover what works best for you. Just as you might enjoy creating unique jam flavors, find out whether you prefer a bright, citrusy drink or a more herbal and earthy flavor in your liqueurs. Make a few batches this summer, take notes, and refine your recipes with each harvest.

Once you've built up your liqueur collection, you can also craft your own cocktails to share with friends during those hot summer gatherings!

Disclaimer: Consult with your doctor and take appropriate considerations for your health and the risks involved in making your own liqueur at home.

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