Cent Saving Saturday: Making Homemade Cordials

Cent Saving Saturday

Now let me say from the very beginning that this is not Muffin Approved.  I am not the type of parent (Is any parent really the type of parent?) to advocate feeding my child homemade cordials, or any alcoholic beverages, for that matter.

But, if you cook with alcohol (baking, flambees, etc.) it is much cheaper to make liqueurs and cordials than to purchase them.  Also, they make great gifts for alky-minded friends.

The Pinteresting Blogosphere abounds with homemade cordial and liqueur recipes.  There are numerous tomes on them, as well.  I’ve had some success with the now out-of-print Classic Liqueurs by Cheryl Long and Heather Kibbey.  I’ve actually seen copies at garage sales and book sales throughout the years.  And our public library has it, as well.

Today’s recipe has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time.  I made it fairly sweet; I’ve only tasted the original in mixed drinks in the past, so I have no idea how sweet it is.  It’s one of the liqueurs that I consider to be “cost prohibitive,” like the Grand Marniers of the world.  I’m talking about St. Germain, or elderflower liqueur.  Mine came out a bit paler, but it may be because of what I started as a base.

Back when I was using my SodaStream with annoying frequency and so NOT in love with the sodamixes (except for the “naturals” which are more expensive per serving), I had purchased a bottle of elderflower juice concentrate from IKEA in Frisco, TX (outside of Frisco) which is very VERY tart when diluted to the suggested 1:6 with soda water.  Think just barely sweetened lemonade.  But with a lovely floral quality; don’t get me wrong.

The concentrate has sat, half used, in the door of my fridge mocking me.  Because, in the back of my mind, I knew what I wanted to do with it.  I wanted to try my hand at liqueur making again, with elderflower cordial.

With no recipe to go by.

Josh knows that usually means trouble.  Usually when I come up with a recipe for something, I pull the “Tyler’s Ultimate” approach of Tyler Florence fame.  I look at many available recipes, take the best parts, and mash them all up into one.

I couldn’t quite do that here.

And, usually, this means roughly a 60% failure rate.

Therefore, for months, the elderflower concentrate continued to mock me, every time I opened the fridge.  I comforted myself with the knowledge that I didn’t have enough vodka to make it anyway.  But, I owed my mom her major Christmas present (homemade Limoncello…which I will make…once I have enough lemons…I promise, Mom!), so I purchased the big “liter and a fifth” bottle at Albertson’s of vodka.  Their brand.  With the exception of homemade Grand Marnier, you want to use cheap hooch in liqueurs.  Some people recommend using diluted grain alcohol in cordial making; I don’t have the patience (or the chemistry degree) to figure that out.

(Both are probably reasons for my 60% failure rate)

The goal was to provide a liqueur of enough body to be roughly equal to others of that type.  The kind that when sloshed in a glass leaves resinous residue.  That meant making a syrup with the elderflower concentrate.  I figured on simple syrup proportions:  equal amounts concentrate to white granulated sugar.

I guesstimated (have I mentioned that this is my one and only attempt so far?) on half cup increments of each, half a cup of elderflower concentrate and half a cup of sugar.  Then, I decided to just say to heck with it and add roughly a quarter cup of water (after realizing the concentrate was already fairly resinous to begin with).

I cooked that over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the grains of sugar were no longer visible.

Then, I poured the mixture through a funnel into an empty wine bottle (something to collect if you plan on cordial making…especially screw top wine bottles).  I then filled the bottle halfway with vodka, capped it, shook it, and then topped it up with the vodka, capped it, and shook it, trying to disperse the syrup.

To test the viscosity, I poured a tablespoon or so into a wineglass (that I purchased today at garage sales for 25 cents each!) and swirled it around.  To my utter delight, there was the telltale resinous residue!  Result!  I then did something you should never never do:  I taste tested it.  Most liqueurs take some time to meld and blend (coffee liqueur is notorious for this…imagine coffee-flavored mouthwash…well…minus the mint flavor), so the vodka flavor is usually very pungent.  To tell you the truth, it wasn’t that bad.  There is already (hiccup!) some evidence of the complexity to come.  If St. Germain is anything close to this, I can understand why liquor outlets feel confident charging upwards of $30 a bottle (that’s for less than a liter, by the way).

The cost breakdown of mine is (considerably) less.  I used a fourth of a bottle of elderflower concentrate (so $1.13 for that), a half cup of sugar (pennies…but lets just say ten cents to be obstinate), a quarter cup of water (I’m not figuring out the cost of filtered tap for this amount, sorry), and roughly 15 ounces of store-brand vodka that I purchased for roughly $10 for 1.75 liters (roughly $2.54 worth, give or take a penny).  Ultimately, the grand total for the homemade version was $3.77.  One of the prices quoted for St. Germain online was $33.99.  The “homemade” version would save you $30+…nearly 90%.

That’s the kind of math I like.

I’m glad it worked so well the first time out of the gate because I could now be upset about wasting $3.77 of materials, especially that last 1/4 of the elderflower concentrate that I had such great plans for…someday.  Here’s an (admittedly not very effective) shot of the tablespoon of liqueur in one of my new wine glasses!

(The important part is that you can see the resinous residue on the side of the glass!)

Cheers!

You may see the printable of the recipe here.

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