You don’t have to be crafty or necessarily great in the kitchen to actually make some of your holiday gifts. Holiday booze gift making actually falls into the category of hard to screw up. I mean it, you don’t have to be disciples of Martha to make them or to wrap them up pretty.
If you’re ambitious, we recommend making bitters (Brad Thomas Parsons’ book, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, is fantastic) or shrubs or even limoncello (see recipe in Drink Like a Woman). For other ideas and the best homemade packaging riffs, check out Dinah Corley’s Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion to Make Yourself & Wrap with Style.
But there are even easier booze gifts to make. Here are three ideas to get you started: Irish Cream, homemade vanilla extract and crème de menthe balls.
Homemade Irish Cream
Who doesn’t enjoy an aperitif? Or a dollop of crème liqueur in an after dinner coffee or a drizzle over ice cream?
Forget the bottled, shelf-stable stuff. Homemade Irish cream tastes better, and it’s so easy to make. For presentation, pour the cream into pretty bottles before gifting.
1/4 cup espresso
2 TB cocoa powder, preferably dark
1 TB sugar
2 cans sweetened, condensed milk (14 oz each)
1 quart half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1-½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups Irish whiskey
In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and sugar in espresso. In a large bowl, whisk together sweetened, condensed milk, half and half and heavy cream. Stir in cocoa-espresso mix. Stir in vanilla extract and Irish whiskey. Chill for at least two hours before serving, but it’s best to at least chill overnight. Shake before serving. Makes about 10 cups.
Note: For best results, use real cream without any additives like guar gum or carrageen. If you’d prefer a thicker Irish cream, substitute half and half with heavy cream.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Who doesn’t use vanilla extract for baking? Who doesn’t run out by the end of the holidays?
While vanilla extract isn’t boozy, it is made with booze, and it is also a practical and great smelling gift to give. While it is super easy to make, you do need to plan ahead – because it takes at least a month and up to three months for optimum flavor.
Depending on the type of vanilla beans you use and depending on the type of booze you use, your vanilla extract will take on subtle differences. Madagascar beans make more standard vanilla extract while Tahitian beans make a more floral extract, and Mexican beans can make a spicy extract. Or, you can combine a couple of kinds of beans.
Vodka, at least 80 proof, is typically used, as it is neutral, but rum, brandy, and bourbon can all be used.
2 to 3 vanilla beans, grade B or extract beans are best
1 cup booze (vodka, bourbon, rum or brandy)
Cut vanilla beans in half, place in glass jar. Completely submerge beans in booze. Place in a dark cupboard for at least 1 month. Taste, then either decant, or wait 1 to 2 more months until extract is to your liking.
When you decant, you can either leave the bean in the extract for visual appeal, or you can remove it and place it in your sugar to make vanilla sugar.
Granny’s Crème de Menthe Balls
My Granny Hurt was quite a cook, and she also knew how to throw a party. This makes for an easy, quick dessert, and if you wrap them up in a nice box, it’s also a great hostess gift.
Outside of grasshopper drinks, this is perhaps the best use of crème de menthe.
1 cup vanilla wafer crumbles (finely crumbled)
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/3 cup crème de menthe
1 to 2 cups grated chocolate, cocoa powder or powdered sugar
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except for grated chocolate. When well mixed, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll into balls, then roll or dip into grated chocolate, cocoa powder or powdered sugar.
Order your copy of Drink Like a Woman for more cocktail recipes and entertaining tips.