by Neal MacDonald
Let’s say you have this tree. Let’s say you have this this peach tree and this year—why this year and not the other years, you don’t know but this particular year—it actually made/grew/spawned peaches. A lot of them. So many peaches the poor branches were hanging low, low, low like Flo Rida’s Shawty.
So you pick them and now what do you do? You find yourself with peaches spread across your kitchen counters and you start eating them. Onea fresh peach tastes great. Even the first 7 fresh peaches taste great. Then you put them in your oatmeal and you put them in your cereal and then you start cooking your chicken with them and pretty soon they’re not so good. You give them away but people only want so many of your peaches… and that means you’re obligated to take their rutabaga or randy carrots or whatever the heck they’re bringing in from their own gardens. Then you start doing crazy stuff like trying them with hot dogs (which sucks, by the way) and you still can’t see your kitchen counters because they’re covered with peaches.
So, what the heck? You take it into your head to make some peach liqueur? At least that’ll get rid of a few of the bastards and how hard can it be?
The laboratories of Proof66 have paved the way for you. We made this adventurous little experiment in making homemade peach liqueur. Learn from us! Here are the steps below.
Step 1: Pick out a bunch of good looking peaches… we did 8. The first thing you’ll realize is that peaches are really a pain in the posterior to peel. Some of the little slippery suckers don’t quite make it to the end of that process so, after slicing and messing around and realizing a certain peach-mortality rate, we estimate we ended up using about 6 peaches cut into eighths. What about the pits? Well, the marketing labels keep talking about using the “stones” of fruit in grappa and maraschino liqueur, so we threw in 3 of the 8 available pits. Why not more? The pits were kind of ugly and it just felt weird.
Step 2: There’s nothing wrong with free-styling a bit and Google mentioned some recipes using cinnamon and lemons. So we zested up a couple of lemons and threw that in. The best thing about that is that once you’ve zested a lemon you still have this whole lemon fruit left over. So we made ourselves a very fine batch of Maiden’s Prayer cocktail (gin, orange juice, lemon juice, and orange liqueur… except we didn’t have orange liqueur so we used blue curacao because it’s kind of orange… except it’s also blue so it merged with the orange in the orange juice in kind of a swamp water / pea soup color mixture: lousy presentation points but it tasted nice; this is an art, not a science you know).
Step 3: Throw all this stuff into 100 proof vodka. This is important: use 100 proof spirits because you want the higher proof both to pull out the flavor but also when you blend it down you should be aiming for about 50 to 60 proof. This allows you throw it into the freezer if you want to without it actually freezing Some Google detritus mentioned using brandy so we pitched in all the leftover brandy we had laying around in the kitchen (er, laboratory)—plus a snort for us. (This was, we estimate, about ¾ cup total).
Step 4: You have to sweeten a liqueur so we mixed up some simple syrup with 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water. That’s a diluted syrup but we wanted a lighter tasting liqueur and this works better. We don’t use agave syrup or turbinado sugar… just plain, nice cane sugar. The peach/vodka/lemon/brandy is going to sit for about a week so we made the syrup at the same time and dropped a cinnamon stick into it. We’ve found that infusing the syrup works better on herbs for some reason—keeps the liqueur from tasting moldy after a while—so we’re doing the same thing with cinnamon. The plan is to blend all that stuff together after a week of sitting in a dark, unlit place.
Step 5: Filter it through a coffee filter. This is easy to type but it’s painfully slow and makes a total mess. Don’t let anyone see you do it if they care about how clean the kitchen is. Good news: it comes out a pretty little light yellow color… way prettier than the other clear stuff.
That means 7 days to deal with the rest of those god damned peaches. Also gave our Proof66 statistical department and accounting team 7 days to think about the cost. You can get a bottle of peach schnapps for about 12 bucks. Now, the peaches were free—at least, kind of. As I best we can figure, they’re also local (duh) and organic (we think… there was some dandelion killer on the grass around the tree, which might piss off the USDA but we’re going to call it organic anyway). The vodka was about $20 (100 proof stuff is a little more expensive) and we picked Absolut because we think they do a nice job with their flavors and we’re trying to channel some of their energy. The couple of lemons were a $1.50. Some kind of cost with the sugar and the cinnamon but we raided that from the old lady’s baking cabinet (er, the Proof66 warehouse) so let’s call that sort of free as well. Still, we’re looking at about twice the price of a cheap bottle of peach schnapps (chemically derived and shipped from overseas though it may be). Then again, we’re going to get about 2 bottles worth when all said and done… so maybe about the same price. Plus, peach schnapps is about 30 to 40 proof and our stuff will come in at about 60. And did we mention it’s organic!!
Bottom line: does our stuff taste better than the chemical stew in the $12 bottle?
In order to prove our pseudo-organic, home-brewed, artisan peach stuff is better than the garden-variety chemical stew, we went out and bought a bottle of DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps. Also, happened to have a bottle of some signature, craft-distilled, critically acclaimed peach stuff that we picked up from a friend visiting Colorado: Leopold Brothers Rocky Mountain Peach Liqueur. (Did you even know that the Rocky Mountains had peaches?)
So, we had ourselves a little peach party. We tried them all. Drank them all straight, drank them in a Corkscrew cocktail (rum, dry vermouth, and peach), drank them in a Fuzzy Navel cocktail (orange juice and peach), drank them in a Sex on the Beach cocktail (cranberry juice, orange juice, lemon, and peach), and drank them in a Brain Hemorrhage cocktail (cream liqueur and peach with a drop of grenadine for the blood… this, by the way, is a truly sick-tasting slimy thing that’ll make great dares for the kids in the bar). It was a great little staff party.
And our stuff compared very well. The peach schnapps is syrupy sweet and full-on, big band parade on the peach. The homegrown organic stuff was, amazingly, much lighter and more subtle on the peach—and for being twice the actual alcohol had about half the burn. Drinking straight, it was no contest.
But in the cocktails, it was a little different. The peach was almost too subtle. When you want some peach in a cocktail, the schnapps can occasionally work better because the peach (chemical or not) is so much stronger. The homegrown stuff was there but vanished a bit… it was never unmistakably peach in the cocktail. Just fruity. Still, it’s a great pleasure having the stuff around and way more fun than having a standard old bottle schnapps.
Tip 1: Six peaches—or eight or whatever the hell I used—didn’t get enough peach into the liqueur. Now, 7 days was plenty of time to soak. We know this because we tasted one of those peach slices when it came out and, trust us, it had nothing left. Nothing at all. There was peach, it was there, but it had none of the intense, take-a-bath in peach smell and taste of the DeKuyper. Yeah, the DeKuyper might’ve had a little medicinal taste on it and might’ve been a bit harsher even at the lower proof but if you’re looking for peach, six ain’t enough.
Tip 2: Back off on the cinnamon. We ended up making as much a cinnamon liqueur as a peach one.
Tip 3: Maybe back off a bit on the sugar… it was smooth and sweet and deceptive as hell for what I estimate to be a 60 proof liqueur. But it might be a little bit too sweet; just a touch. If you want turbo, cavity-inducing sweet, then go ahead and get the schnapps. Otherwise, this’ll perform beautifully on its own in a little club soda.
Tip 4: use any fruit you please. Be brave. Making homegrown liqueurs is surprisingly easy to do. Just don’t be timid. Launch some stuff in a bottle and go for it!