We’ve become increasingly entertained by cordials. They go down easy and taste pretty good, after all. But even more than that, they’re fun to make and they make great gifts. We’ve made a pear vodka several times. It goes great in ginger ale, but is smooth and sweet enough to enjoy straight, even if you’re not normally a fan of the hard stuff.
Definition time. A cordial is a liqueur, a strong sweet alcoholic liquor. These, in turn, are all infusions. An infusion is the process by which a pre-existing alcohol absorbs an external flavor. If you buy a vanilla latte at the coffee shop, they are squirting vanilla flavored syrup into a cup with espresso and milk. That’s an infusion of sorts (minus the alcohol). And the same is basically true for these fun flavored vodkas you see at the store.
What we make at home involves a slightly different process.
The pear infusions we made were immensely complicated, requiring us to harvest slightly overripe globes of amber fruit with a silver sickle by the light of a full moon. I personally recommend harvesting during the Sturgeon Moon. These perfect parcels were then simmered over a fire of mistletoe branches and stirred with a spoon carved from a rowan branch.
Or maybe we just bought the pears off of Market Basket’s discount rack? Yeah, that was it. We let them ripen on the counter, then chopped them up (minus the core). They went into a pot with some sugar, some cinnamon sticks, two vanilla beans, and a cheesecloth bag containing whole cloves and allspice. When you simmer pear, it breaks down pretty quickly into a viscous pear syrup. We poured this into a large glass jar, spices and all.
The next part was tricky, we had to infuse this pear syrup into the vodka. We did so by pouring a 1.5 liter bottle of vodka into the glass jar with the pear and letting it sit for a week or so. We stirred it once/day by moving the jar in circles. I suppose there’s a technical name for that, but I don’t know it. The only other thing to note was that we kept it out of the sun.
The vodka, fruit, and sugar all mixed together. After a week or two, we poured the potion through a colander lined with cheese cloth to remove the cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and larger fruit particles. The amber concoction then goes into pretty jars for gifts. Most of it anyway.
If you noticed that I haven’t included specific measurements in this recipe, it’s because they don’t really matter. Fruit goes in pot. Add sugar and flavoring until you like the taste. Cook until the fruit breaks down. Add alcohol. Age. Done.
What alcohol should I use? Whatever you want. What fruit? What’s your favorite? Obviously, some flavors might go better together than others, but that’s really at the maker’s discretion. The recipe will work regardless. Vodka’s easy, since it doesn’t really have its own flavor. Whatever fruit and spices you use will be what it tastes like. Rum too is pretty easy going, although people have historically gone tropical with their rum infusions. Spiced or coconut rum are pretty well known, but the stores are now lined now with pineapple, mango, and apple varieties. Brandy is a smooth, warm alcohol, which makes me want to mix it with dark fruit, like cherries, cranberries, or blueberries.
Or in this case, blackberries.
Mix it up, let it sit, then enjoy it.