The first of SFoodie's weekly guides to food-crafting gifts you can make.
Giving booze for the holidays always reminds me of my grandfather. It's not that he was a big drinker, quite the contrary, but like most people of his generation, he liked to keep a stocked bar for entertaining. Social gatherings would kick off with a cordial; we kids would get a small taste of something sweet, like amaretto, Frangelico, or the inevitable creme de menthe with its radioactive green tint.
Nowadays cocktailing has gotten a lot more sophisticated. There's scads of trendy liqueurs on the market, with trend-driven prices to match. But with a little effort, you can make your own liqueurs to give as gifts this season. Tip: The Container Store has adorable flip-top flasks to cute up your home-hewn gift.
Generally speaking, liqueurs are infused liquors that are then combined with sugar for sweetening and thickening. The amount of time your liqueur needs to spend infusing will determine the readiness as a holiday gift.
Limoncello is one of the most popular tipples, and it's pretty easy to make. At this point, you'll have just enough time to to the infusion and then blend with syrup, but your giftees will then need to let it sit for a while before it's really ready for prime time. Think of it as the gift that keeps giving. Midwestern Exposure's got a Napolitan family recipe for the classic limoncello, but you can mix it up a bit by trying other citrus, such as in an orangecello crema or, my favorite, using grapefruit for pompelmocello.
Another Italian classic is amaretto, and Chow's got a bead on a homemade version that allows you to control the amount of sugar. And if you really want to go full-metal Italian, get your hands on some myrtle and make mirto, a Sardinian liqueur.
Pomegranates are hot these days, and pomegranate liqueur graces cocktails around town, so why not hop on that bandwagon? I've been tinkering with Gunther Anderson's Pomegranate "5".
Of course, since they all start out as infusions, you might want to consider just whipping up some infused liquor, such as lemongrass-chile tequila or rosemary vodka. Whatever combinations you concoct will make the gift all the more personal.
Find more ideas for infusions and liqueurs at Punk Domestics.