Thursday, 7 November 2013

Christmas Spirit - a recipe for success

Picture the piled high with crockery, table covered in bits of Christmas dinner, spilled wine, soggy paper hats and cracker toys. Yes, it's Christmas Day, the meal is finished and you think you might just spontaneously combust if you eat another thing. This is traditionally when you would serve a digestif; an alcoholic drink that will aid the digestion  and settle the stomach in order that you can then attempt the Christmas Pud, the mince pies, the cheese and biscuits and the Elizabeth Shaw chocolates which mysteriously materialise during the festive period. Whilst it would make far more sense not to stuff oneself like a goose bound for fois gras, we all know we're going to do it and if a digestif will help (and even if it doesn't), it's worth a try.

This recipe is for a Christmas Liqueur that you can make at home, really simply and store indefinitely. It improves with age, but can be drunk immediately and is still very pleasant. It uses lots of traditionally festive flavours and creates a drink with a lot of the same flavour notes as a Drambuie, but with vodka, rather than whisky at it's heart. Not only can you serve it up after the Christmas meal, but it will make fabulous gifts for friends and family if you decant it into pretty bottles. 

Christmas Liqueur

600ml vodka
200g light muscovado sugar
Zest of 2 large oranges, peeled off inn strips
1 large cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 cardamom pods
4 cloves
4 juniper berries
1 vanilla pod
300ml water

When peeling the zest from the oranges, ensure that you do not leave the white pith on. If some remains, scrape it off carefully with your knife.
Add the zest, spices and water to a pan and bring to the boil.
Turn the heat right down and place the lid on tight.
Allow to simmer at the lowest heat for about 45mins - check periodically to make sure the water doesn't boil away.
When the liquid has reduced by 2/3, remove from heat and strain the remaining fluid into a jug, gently pressing the remaining spices etc with the back of a spoon to ensure you extract the maximum amount of flavour.
Discard the solids and pour the liquid back into the pan, bring back to the boil very briefly and add the sugar. 
Stir until dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool.
When sufficiently cooled, pour on the vodka and stir briskly until fully combined, then bottle and cork it until you're ready to use it.
Ideally, you should wait a week or two to really let the flavours blend, but a sneaky taste won't hurt...

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