Liqueurs are a big part of mixing drinks. Available in tremendous variety, they add rich flavors and sweetness to a cocktail. Many don’t exceed 30 proof, so they can be casually sipped by themselves or to flavor a drink without adding too much alcohol.* And they’re not that hard to make at home–steep an ingredient in spirits, strain, add sugar, and enjoy. So I recently decided to try my hand at my very first liqueur, aiming for one of my favorite flavor combinations: rosewater and cardamom, popular in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. Results: Success. And of course I had to find a recipe to showcase the liqueur. – Andrew
Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper
The Last Train to Marrakesh
2 oz Dry Gin
3/4 oz Rosewater-Cardamom Liqueur
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
Combine all the ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and float a mint leaf on top. Enjoy!
Making liqueur is pretty easy. I won’t pretend I’ve mastered it, but even a beginner’s try can produce pretty decent results. Here’s how I made mine: I combined a 375 ml bottle of 1911 vodka – gifted to me by my sweet sister – with a spice-rack jar of cardamom pods, maybe 1-2 oz, crushed with a muddler. (Vodka is a great base for a liqueur because it absorbs lots of flavors without adding too many of its own, so you end up with a cleaner final taste.) I let that sit in a cool dark cabinet for about a week, giving it a shake every day. Then I strained the resulting infusion into a bottle and added two cups of a rich 2:1 simple syrup, sweetening the liqueur and reducing its proof.
Finally, I added rosewater, maybe about a quarter cup. This last step was more of an art than a science, and I tried to stop at that sweet spot after the rosewater had made the liqueur fragrant but before it overwhelmed the cardamom flavors. I think I got it right but only practice will make perfect. The resulting liqueur tastes richly of cardamom, with some sharper spicy notes in the background, and a lingering finish of the floral rosewater.
So when it came time to mix this up in its first cocktail, I decided to dedicate the resulting drink to the flavors of Morocco. The complex botanicals of the dry gin – especially a dry gin that’s not too heavy on juniper, like Hendrick’s or Aviation – are a good match for the liqueur’s spicy and floral notes. The lemon and the grenadine, made from pomegranate (and easily made at home!), round out the drink with a balance of sweet and tart flavors common to Moroccan cuisine.
The Last Train to Marrakesh, then, is a good showcase for the liqueur, which defines the flavors of the drink without being obnoxious. The drink opens with lots of rich spicy botanicals, especially cardamom, backed by lots of sweet-tart flavors, with a long floral finish. I love it. I hope you will too.
If you do make one at home, you can use #osbphappyhour to share photos of these (or your own creations) on Instagram.
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper
* Though be aware that some, like the French herbal liqueur Chartreuse, can have proofs comparable to most spirits and really pack a wallop.