Cordials, known today as liqueurs, were sweet medicinal tonics created in Europe with herbs, flowers, oils, seeds, fruits, and nuts. Steeped in a distilled spirit to enhance, extract, and deliver the healing properties of the additives, these elixirs were used to treat ailments. Appropriately, the word cordial derives from the Latin cordialis which means ‘of or for the heart.’ Delicious (and healthy!), they soon became a drink for casual enjoyment, and the term, liqueur, became ever more popular in modern times.
With the winter holidays just around the corner, what better way to spend a cool day than making a spectacularly easy honey liqueur that will warm hearts and tickle souls? With Pualani Bee Farm's bumper crop of 100% raw Hawaiian honey this year, I decided to splurge on using our abundance of golden sweetness to experiment with making honey liqueurs. These divine elixirs have delighted friends, family, and visitors to our home ever since, as we share a glass of chilled Pineapple Honey Liqueur on the lanai (porch) on balmy evenings or warmed Spiced Honey Liqueur after dinner on a cool winter's night (admittedly, "cool" in Hawaii is a relative term--but you get the point!). Everyone who has tried these delicious and easy-to-make liqueurs has asked for the recipe. So here is my contribution to reviving the culture of honey-based cordials!
Although I started out with a recipe for Lithuanian honey liqueur, called Krupnikas (or Krupnik in Polish) from the book, Beehive Alchemy by Petra Ahnert, my independently-minded cook persona never follows recipes to the "t." There is too much fun to be had in tweaking and discovering different ways to individualize the ingredient components to better suit one's home "terroir"--taking advantage of what is locally available and one's own taste preferences. Whether gleaning from the abundant fruits of the tropics here in Hawaii or from the berries, peaches, apples, and pears of more temperate climates, experimentation is key here.
First, a few basics:
1) Technically speaking, honey liqueurs can be consumed immediately after simmering and cooling, but the flavors and aromas of the infusion develop and improve over time. So, allow a bit of patience before popping the top!
2) Use only sterilized bottles and caps.
3) The quality of the grain alcohol does not matter, so you can use the cheap versions, but do not skimp on the quality of the artisanal honey (ergo raw honey!) you use! Find the most flavorful and aromatic honey you can get, as this will become the foundation for an excellent honey liqueur. For a simple honey liqueur, highlighting just the flavor profile of the honey, I use our Ohia Lehua Honey as its floral quality is so unique to the Hawaiian islands. When infusing with other ingredients, I used our Spring Tropical Wildflower Honey varietal--as it works excellently in bringing forth the combination of infused flavors. Stay away from the pasteurized, bland supermarket honey! Keep in mind, that the higher the quality and taste profile of the honey used, the better the final product!
4) The level of sweetness is determined by a larger or smaller quantity of honey used while simmering the “honey syrup” (honey and water mixture). The more honey, the sweeter the concoction. So, depending on your taste for more or less sweet liqueurs, you can adjust the proportions of honey to water for more or less sweetness; hence, the different proportions found in the various honey liqueur recipes online.
5) Make larger batches. Keep a big bottle on hand for your personal use and fill smaller, interestingly shaped bottles to give away as holiday or birthday gifts. Spread and share your joy!
Yield: makes approximately 2 quarts
2 1/4 cups honey
8 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
10 cardamon pods, cracked
1/2 of a whole nutmeg, cracked
5 whole allspice, cracked
1 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seed
3-inch ginger root, cut into thin slices
Zest of 1 orange, peel only, no pith
Zest of 1/2 of a lemon, peel only, no pith
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 bottle (750 ml) 190 proof grain alcohol (e.g. Everclear)
Note: Leaving out some of the spices, if not available, works just fine. Feel free to experiment with other spices you like.
Bottles with tops, enough to hold 2 quarts
1) Bring the honey and water to a simmer. Skim off any foam that surfaces.
2) Add all other ingredients except the grain alcohol. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
3) Turn off the heat and add the alcohol to the still-hot mixture, stirring to combine. Strain the mixture.
4) Pour into clean, sterile bottles and set aside for at least 2 weeks, longer if possible.
Here are some links to alternate versions of this northern European spiced honey liqueur recipe, including some very basic to more complex versions:
My own method tips
1) I use vodka, as it is tasteless and allows the specific flavor profile of the raw honey varietal to emerge. But for different flavor profiles, other aromatic grain alcohols can be used.
2) I allow the simmered honey syrup to cool just a bit to ensure no alcohol burns off.
3) Once bottled, I keep the infusion in a cool, dark, and easy to get to cupboard or space so that you can taste the liqueur a few times in the first week(s) to monitor the level of infusion--making sure it doesn't get too strong.
4) I strain out the larger infusing "bits" after about 1-2 weeks (determined by my taste buds) and rebottle the liquid, leaving the finer "must (sediment) to continue infusing for another 2+ weeks.
5) Once I have determined the "perfect" flavor, I stop the infusion by siphoning off the clear liqueur from the "must" at the bottom of the bottle. I rebottle the finished liqueur into attractive bottles and invite friends over to imbibe.
6) Use the strained ingredients or remaining "must" as in making desserts, icings, or glazes. Nothing gets wasted!
INFUSING HONEY LIQUEUR
Making infused honey liqueur is not an exact science, so you can let your flavor preferences run wild. The simple honey liqueur recipe below will give you a foundation to which you can add any combination of infusing ingredients for your individualized aromatic blend. Experiment with the amount of added ingredients to get stronger or more subtle flavor profiles.
Basic honey liqueur recipe
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1-inch piece of orange zest, pith removed (optional)
1 stick cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 cups vodka
You can be as basic or imaginative in your choice of infusing ingredients as you like--just try not to overwhelm your taste buds with too many competing components. After my first foray into making Krupnikas, I made Spiced Pineapple Honey Liqueur using the basic spiced honey liqueur recipe using Pualani Bee Farm's Zanzibar Spiced Infused Honey combined with fresh, crushed Hawaiian pineapple. Another delightful elixir was a Cacao Honey Liqueur infused with roughly ground-up, Hawaiian-grown cacao nibs and cacao shells. As our fruit seasons change, I hope to try honey liqueurs infused with passionfruit, lychee, or mango. For mainlanders and others far and wide, try any of the more basic recipes for honey liqueur infused with your locally available fruits, nuts, berries, spices, and herbs, and let the alchemist in you be born!
Commonly used fruits and berries include orange zest, lemon zest, bergamot, lychees, kumquats, peaches, tart apples, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, dried apricots, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, juniper berries, or dried sour cherries. Feel free to try any fruit you enjoy that is locally available. Whole fruit should be sliced or mashed to allow the juices to escape and let the liquor encounter as much surface area as possible.
Common herbs and spices that infuse well with honey liqueur include vanilla beans, cardamom, ginger, coriander seeds, peppercorns, hot chiles, lemongrass, cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, anise, mints, dill, thyme, basil, tarragon, rosemary, sage, lavender, elderflower, bay leaves, and rose petals. Use cloves and nutmeg sparingly to avoid numbing your mouth!
And don't forget beans and nuts: coffee beans, cacao, walnuts, almonds, pistachio, coconut, hazelnut, chestnut--whatever edible bounty grows on your trees.
Use your taste buds' imagination to combine complementary ingredients, such as strawberries, rhubarb, and nutmeg; cherry, cacao, and cinnamon; rosemary, sage, and blackberries; mint and cacao nibs; pineapple and coconut; lavender and blueberries; walnuts and coffee beans; espresso beans and vanilla; apple and cinnamon; chile and lemongrass; lemon and tarragon; orange and cranberry, or raspberry and vanilla.
Once your bottles are ready for consumption, enjoy the pure flavor sensation all by itself, or switch out commercial liqueurs with your own homemade honey liqueur to make fun-filled cocktails. Find various recipe ideas in the links below:
Have fun with your own invention(s) and gather with friends and family to ENJOY! And do not forget to share the successes of your own concoctions with our blog!
KĀMAU, NA ZDROWIE, CHEERS, I SVEIKATA, PROST, SKÅL, SALUD, ŽIVJELI, SANTÉ, CIN CIN, 건배, 乾杯, BERSULANG, KIPPIS, ЗА ЗДОРОВЬЕ, โชคดี, ŞEREFE, MỘT, HAI, BA, DÔ, ΥΓΕΊΑ, לחיים, БУДЬМО, 干杯, ي صحتكم!!!!