Spirits and hard Liquor
Spirits and hard Liquor are made of fermented fruits or grains or roots or a mixture of fruits and spirits (brandy). Spirits are always distilled. The fermentation process is similar to fruitwinemaking but different. Increasing the alcohol content with sugar is not allowed if you want to make fruit spirits. High acid content doesn’t matter if you want to make a spirit. Too much acid is acceptable here because you don’t drink the mesh.
In Austria we know Schnaps, Brand and Geist – and for lot’s of people they are all the same, but they are not
- Schnaps contains at least 1/3 fruit spirit and the other part is neutral alcohol, you may add artificial flavourings. We know the Marillenschnaps which has an unpleasent bouquet of the artificial aroma. But some people seem to like it that way. Schnaps is often cheap and very drinky.
- Brand is only 100% fruit spirit – without flavouring and it’s expensive: e.g. Marillenbrand, Apfelbrand
- Geist is a brandy that is produced by mixing fruits or herbs with alcohol followed by distillation: e.g. Himbeergeist, Gin
If you want to make Liqueur you add fruit or fruitjuice (or other ingredients like eggs, cream, herbs, spices etc.) to alcohol, sugar and water and sometimes artificial colours and flavourings. Liqueurs must have at least 15%Vol. and 100g/l residual sugar. Egg liqueur at least 14% Vol. More information you can find in Austria Lebensmittelcodex Kapitel B23 Spirituosen.
A quick Recipe for homemade use and a short shelf-life of up to 3 days in a refrigerator: Egg Liqueur
but you can also make Irish cream liqueur with instant coffee, vanilla, sugar, condensed milk and whisky too ;-)
Some recipes are fast and easy to make – BUT not very safe and suitable for long term storage. You shouldn’t give them away for a present because eggs and cream may contain bacteria and too long storage under wrong conditions may bear a health risk. You should only make them for yourself and just in time when you want to use them. They are very easy to make, so no excuse. Always remember that the alcohol content of the finished product should be at least 15%Vol. Fruit Liqueurs or others with herbs or spices are not that critical as eggs and cream. Making fruit, herb or ginger liqueur is easy and they can be stored without caution.
I’ve found some cream liqueur recipes on the internet and in blogs which only contain 5-9%Vol. when you calculate the recipe and people give them away for present. So it’s only a warning. Always calculate for yourself! When you drink them right away from the mixing bowl everything may be fine but storing these beverages for a long time may become very nasty. And we all know about those presents you get at christmas, then you store them on a shelf in a warm room and you finally open and taste them in summer. Don’t do this with homemade egg and cream liqueurs!
here is a short calculation for quick use:
170ml x 96%Vol. – makes 1L of 16,3%Vol. 400ml x 40%Vol. – makes 1L of 16%Vol.
if you want that by gramm (with a Density Ethanol-Water-Mixture Table at 20°C)
170ml*0,8 = 136g or 400 ml *0,93 = 372g
or by calculating from scratch
1 Liter Alkohol with 96% = (1000-960) +960*0,8 = 40+768 = is 808g ; 170ml = 137g
1 Liter Alkohol with 40% = (1000-400)+400 x 0,8 = 600+320 = is 920g; 400ml = 368g
You can take ~ 136-137 or 140g with 96%Vol. or 368-372 or just 370g with 40%Vol.
if you have not a 1 Liter bottle but a 0,7L bottle you just have to multiply this with 0,7, so simple!
Fruit ports =/ Fruit Liqueur?
Fruitdessertwines may be produced with addition of alcohol similar to portwine or fruit liqueur. The final product may have up to 22%Vol. A differentiation between fruitport and fruit liqueur is very difficult. Such products are called intermediate goods (Zwischenerzeugnisse) and are taxed.
If you want to differentiate fruitdessertwine and fruit liqueur you may look at the residual sugar content and the overall body and complexity. Fruitdessertwines have a harmonious acid content and a bouquet from fermentation, more complex not so clear und straightforward as a mixture of juice and alcohol.
Fruit liqueur often lacks acid and tastes very sweet, there is no counterpart in it. You may produce fruitdessertwines from dry to sweet but liqueurs must contain at least 100g/l RS. Fruitwines must contain a minimum of fruitjuice (often around 70%) which means that the dilution with water is very restricted and often the addition of sugar dilutes the juice solely. You need lot’s of body to compensate the high alcohol content in your fruitwine otherwise it would taste too hot and thin. Often there are higher amounts of fruitjuice because you may add concentrate especially low-acid juice.
The residual sugar in liqueurs takes the task to give the beverage body. Often you add a few % glucose (Trockenstärkesirup). The Trockenstärkesirup is produced by hydrolysis of starch and contains high-molecular carbohydrates like maltodextrin which only has the sweetness of a third of sugar but adds body and thickness. The Liqueur lingers longer in your mouth and tastes fuller.
The juice content must be at least 20L per 100L finished Liqueur (min. 20%). Fruit liqueurs with high juice content are very rare because the selling price increases significantly. To compensate that you have to increase the fruitflavour and colour because you only add a minimum of fruitjuice. Alcohol is often the priciest ingredient. So you have to economize on the other additives.
The production of liqueur is simple and fast. It’s just mixing ingredients. Fermenting fruitwine is challenging and time consuming and something can get wrong with fermentation, it’s risky and you must have knowledge about winemaking. But on the other hand liqueurs are expensive to produce because you have to buy pricy alcohol. Producing liqueur commercially is competing with homemade liqueurs by housewives. They are simple to make. Everyone can mix the ingredients and make liqueur and you even get those flavourings and additives if you really want to.
In Austria Liqueur seems to compete with fruitdessertwine because farmers only produce liqueur and not fruitwine. Often people don’t know that fruitwine exists or it’s is possible to make. They didn’t learn it and it’s not common knowledge. Liqueur is simple to make and can be produced on a low scale too if you want to expand your portfolio and often liqueurs are homemade, even by farmers. Fruits are expensive and to make fruitwine you need lots of fruit and you must be able to process it. These two products may look and taste similar but they are different – in philosophy, law and manufacturing.
Want to know more? Read my Series „With Hindberry Fruchtwein around the World“
There are very different sources for alcoholic beverages
Short overview about my blog posts
Tree and plant saps