I’m really settling into my forties. I forget things like nobody’s business. It used to be a steel trap up there and – poof! – seemingly overnight, if I don’t write it down, it ain’t gonna happen.
I know I should have poured this homemade coffee liqueur into pretty wee glasses and set them on a tray with a pretty cloth on the side and taken a picture. But I forgot to do it – never even added it to my to-do list – and now I’m traveling and away from home while posting this. So please, imagine that instead of the giant jug of dark brown tar above there is a lovely little shot of some small stemmed liqueur glasses with silver rims (I even have them, that’s the real killer – I could have taken the shot, it wasn’t all fantasy!) on a white ceramic tray. Hell, since I don’t have to actually do it, let’s throw some flowers in there too, shall we? Perhaps a teeny plate of broken chocolate pieces would be good. Isn’t that nice?
For years now I’ve made a “cranberry cordial” every holiday season to give as gifts and serve at parties (a bit of the cranberry cordial in a glass makes cheap champagne completely fabulous!). This year I decided to mix it up. Coffee liqueur. I had read about it. I had thought about it. I had a few extra high-quality vanilla beans lying around the house. I got to work.
I scraped the seeds from the vanilla pods, dissolved the espresso into the vodka, added a crazy amount of sugar, sealed the whole thing in a jar, and taped it shut with a note extolling passers-by not to open it until mid October, when the temperature outside has cooled and the HVAC turned off. Then I hid the whole thing in the cupboard over the fridge and promptly forgot all about it.
I was up there last week and found this forgotten labor of love. I unsealed the container and took a whiff. Heavenly. Fragrant, sweet coffee with enough alcohol to let you know it would be fun.
I poured a bit in a glass and took a sip. It tasted like really very good kahlua. Of course it did. It is better than kahlua, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a fundamentally different product. I know a few kahlua applications that I think this finer product would enhance – pouring a shot over homemade ice cream is the first thing that comes to mind. I suppose I could also make the world’s finest white Russian… although who wants to drink white Russians anymore? I had a phase there in college when I drank them almost exclusively, which now seems terribly odd. I had one a few years ago to see if they were still good and they were but only barely and I certainly couldn’t imagine drinking more than one at a go.
Tell me, what would you do with this fine coffee liqueur?
Coffee vanilla bean liqueur
Scary dark, scary sweet, and scary delicious. The curing time – at least a few weeks – is key to the final quality of this liqueur. I tasted it right upon mixing and it utterly lacked the aromatic draw of the final product. Make a batch this weekend to have it well and ready in time for Christmas gifts or entertaining.
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup instant espresso (still dried powder, not made into espresso)
2 vanilla beans
3 cups vodka
Bring sugar and 2 cups water to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Add coffee and reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook, stirring to fully dissolve the espresso, for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a large glass jar or seal-able pitcher and let sit until more or less cool. Meanwhile, split vanilla beans open and se the back of a knife or a small spoon and scoop out the teeny tiny seeds (it seems more like a paste). Add seeds and pods to the coffee syrup. Pour in vodka. Seal and put it away for four to six weeks. Remove and discard vanilla pods.
Serve chilled on its own, in coffee, or over ice cream as a dessert.