From cheap to trendy: making liqueurs at home

On May 28, 2011, in liqueur, recipe, by Stephanie

Tia Maria bottleWhen I was a child, lo these many years ago, liqueurs were rarish, and really, the sort of thing you went to a bar to find, based on my talks with people who weren’t playing with Star Wars action figures in 1978. I admit this might be wildly inaccurate, but in my house, it certainly was true.

I was thinking this the other day. I remember, vaguely, with the memory of a child who wasn’t paying a lot of attention, my mother being given a recipe to ‘make your own Tia Maria’. It involved Rum, coffee, brown sugar, vanilla, and probably some other things, which is really not the point. I do remember that my mother made a huge honking bottle of this stuff, because that’s what the recipe was for (Mom is a stickler for following recipes), and Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio didn’t exist yet.

What I also remember about it is she also obtained a distinctive  Tia Maria bottle, and decanted from the BIG used rye bottle she had, into the little Tia Maria bottle. It was considered ‘cheap’ to make your own liqueurs; she didn’t mind doing it, she’d tell people if they asked, she shared the recipe along freely…but for social niceties, she just brushed over the origin being our kitchen rather than Jamaica.

All these memories came back after encountering Tia Maria in a list of liqueurs the other day, in the middle of a textbook for a class I’m taking. The class is Bar Smarts, and it’s written and tested by people like Dale DeGroff and David Wondrich. Either of whom would probably think it was a great thing that my mom made her own liqueur. I have many friends who brew their own beer, or make their own wine. I have a friend who makes apple brandy from her own fall pickings. One friend, who does lots of canning, is always taking some of the extra fruit for infusions. I make my own bitters as do several bartending friends and, and I make vanilla extracts with both vodka and rum.

I’m willing to bet that this is very close to what Mom made, though I bet she used white sugar; I’m betting the recipe she had called for that since we’re talking about 70s homemakers here, and instant coffee. Also knowing my mom (sorry, mom), I bet she used artificial vanilla, since that’s all I remember us having in the house, growing up.

  • 1.5 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. demerera sugar
  • 1 c. espresso or really strong french press coffee
  • 3 c. rum (gold or light)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 2 tbsp vanilla extract

Bring them to a low simmer, then strain through a cheesecloth and bottle. BTW, this is to get a very close to Tia Maria item here; if making something for myself, I would likely use dark brown sugar, or half as much molasses, instead, and go half gold/half dark rum on the alcohol. But that’s why my mother doesn’t ask me for recipes very often. She thinks I’m flippant about cooking.

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