How to Make Liqueurs with an Ultrasonicator

The first thing you notice at The Long Goodbye in Sydney is a row of house-made liqueurs with handwritten labels occupying a large section of the back bar.

How to Make Liqueurs with an Ultrasonicator

The film-noir themed bar by owner Flynn McLennan is renowned for the use of seasonal liqueurs which he makes regularly using an ultrasonicator. His bar is the first in Sydney to do so and since it opened, he has adopted the old school approach to bartending by doing away with a cocktail menu and offering guests a choice of bespoke drinks based on their taste preference.

In this article, Flynn shares with us a step-by-step guide on how to make liqueurs with an ultrasonicator including his pro tips for the best results.

What is an Ultrasonicator

An ultrasonicator is a machine with a water bath that uses ultrasonication, sound waves and vibration to agitate particles. It has various applications and can be used to infuse flavour from fruit, nuts and herbs into alcohol when making liqueurs.

How Does an Ultrasonicator Work

Ultrasonication extracts flavours from fruit and other flora via a mixture of cellular disruption and disintegration. Most flavour-related compounds are sensitive to conventional methods of extraction (eg boiling and incubation) due to the chemically reactive environments they induce through heat and time. Comparatively, ultrasonication allows for a fast compound friendly release as the flavour is shaken from its biological prison.

Advantages of Using an Ultrasonicator When Making Liqueurs

The main advantage of using an ultrasonicator to make liqueurs is the speed and ease of production. It takes just 30 minutes for the infusion to complete instead of weeks and in some cases over a month. The taste is another major advantage. The liqueurs have a fresh and vibrant flavour that you do not get otherwise when using a long infusion method.

How to Make Liqueurs with an Ultrasonicator

Ingredients

  • 250 ml 95% ABV rectified spirit
  • 200 g (1 cup) white sugar + 250 ml (1/2 cup) water for sugar syrup
  • 250ml water for dilution
  • your choice of fruits/nuts/herbs:
    • 240g roasted, peeled and mashed chestnuts; OR
    • 250g achacha, peeled; OR
    • 3 stalks of lemongrass, finely chopped; OR
    • 1 guava, chopped; OR
    • flesh of 2 coconuts, chopped

Equipment

  • ultrasonicator
  • measuring jug
  • funnel
  • fine strainer
  • resealable plastic bags
  • coffee filters
  • 700 ml or 1L clean bottle with tight fitting lid
  • alcohometer (optional)

Method

  1. Prepare the fruit/nuts/herbs by peeling, de-seeding and chopping into small pieces.
  2. In a resealable plastic bag, add the chopped ingredient and rectified spirit.
  3. Seal the bag and place it in the ultrasonicator at 60oC for 30 minutes. Place the lid on but do not seal it completely.
  4. In the meantime, make the sugar syrup in a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water.
  5. Once the timer has gone off, strain the liquid using a fine strainer over a measuring jug. Squeeze the zip bag to extract as much of the liquid out as possible. For chestnuts or any other nuts, strain using a coffee filter to prevent a film of oil from developing on top.
  6.  Using a funnel, pour the infused spirit into a clean glass bottle.
  7. Add 250m of prepared simple syrup and 250 ml of water to the infused spirit and gently swirl around in the bottle to mix. You now have a liqueur that’s around 35% ABV which you can check with the alcohometer.
  8. Leave the liqueur to settle for 24 hours before use.
  9. Store the liqueur in the fridge. It keeps for a little over a year.

How to Make Liqueurs using the Long Infusion Method

If making liqueurs at home or without the ultrasonicator, the ingredients are the same and the steps are similar in parts:

  1. Prepare the fruit/nuts/herbs by peeling, de-seeding and chopping into small pieces.
  2. Add the ingredients to a large glass jar, pour the spirit on top, put the lid on and give it a gentle shake.
  3. Put the jar in a cool dark place and taste every few days to make sure it is to your liking.
  4. The period of infusion will vary, with up to 30 days when using fruit. If steeping herbs in a high proof spirit, overnight is usually sufficient. When steeping lemongrass, two weeks are often ample or it will go bitter.
  5. Once it’s ready, strain using a fine strainer or a coffee filter if it’s nut-based.
  6. Add 250 ml simple syrup if using a high proof spirit and 250 ml water for dilution.
  7. Store the liqueur in the fridge.

Pro Tips for Making Liqueurs

  • Finely chop ingredients to ensure a large surface area so that more alcohol is infused into
  • Raw sugar instead of white sugar can be used if you want a more intense caramel flavour.
  • If using vodka (around 40% ABV) instead of a rectified spirit (95% ABV), use twice as much vodka as you would for the rectified spirit. You will still need to add water for dilution but only half the amount at most. It varies according to taste and it’s best to start by using less and adding more if required.
  • Always taste the spirit before adding the sugar syrup and dilution.
  • When making nut-based liqueurs, double strain using a fine coffee filter to prevent a film of oil forming on top. It is a slower process but it filters out the finer particles.
  • You can dehydrate the remaining solids, use them as garnish or crush them finely to a powder.
  • When making coconut liqueur, you can use coconut water for dilution instead of just water. You will need 250ml of grain spirit, 150g sugar dissolved straight into the spirit after infusion and 400 ml of coconut water.
  • Give the liqueur 24 hours for the molecules to settle and for the grain spirit character to dissipate.
  • When making large quantities of liqueur, store the infused strained alcohol in glass bottles without adding syrup and dilution. It will keep indefinitely and when you run out, simply add syrup and dilution and it’s ready to use.
  • Remember you’re using fresh fruit so there will always be a variance in flavour between batches.

How to Use Liqueurs in Cocktails

  1. Swap the syrup for a fruit liqueur in a Daiquiri, for example, 40 ml rum, 40 ml Coconut Liqueur, 30 ml lime juice.
  2. Guava Liqueur is well suited to vodka-based drinks, juice-based drinks, and tiki drinks such as the Fog Cutter.
  3. Lemongrass Liqueur goes well with gin, lime juice, mint, chilli tincture topped with soda.
  4. Chestnut Liqueur works particularly well with dark spirits such as in a Chestnut Old Fashioned. It makes an excellent Chestnut Blazer with 40 ml dark rum, 20 ml Chestnut Liqueur and 10 ml Amaro to balance the sweetness.

Photo by Cocktails & Bars – © Copyright: All rights reserved.

How to Make Liqueurs with an Ultrasonicator was last modified: June 13th, 2017 by Corinne Mossati
Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of Cocktails & Bars and popular online magazine Gourmantic. She is named in the Australian Bartender Magazine Top 100 Most Influential List, is a member of The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy who judges the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions. Read the full bio here.