Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Lifting the spirits – Thai Curry Liqueur

Christmas is well and truly over. The snow has melted, the sky is grey, the drizzle permeates every mood and my 40th birthday looms out of the fog like a great craggy rock I simply can’t navigate around. 

What I need is something bright, clean and startling to look forward to and lift my mood. Inspired by the Thai flavours discernible in my beer of choice this Christmas Adnams 2% Ginger Beer and bolstered by the success of my festive Spiced Pumpkin Liqueur I’m trying out a whole new set of flavours with some sweet and sharp Thai Curry Liqueur.  OK, so that’s a bit of a misnomer, a bit of poetic license, but it does sound fun! I’ve gone for the classic base of the lightest and most uplifting of Thai dishes and sour soups: lemongrass, Thai basil and lime.  The colours and smells alone are enough to evoke long days of wandering around temples, the sound of tiny cymbals and of food eaten outside in a tropical climate…

The ingredients could hardly be simpler:

4 limes
1 bunch of Thai basil

6 stalks of lemongrass

1litre of decent quality vodka

A cup and a half of caster sugar
A cup and a half of water

I sliced the lemongrass stalks along their length several times, without cutting through the base – this will prove far less messy when straining and looks much prettier in the bottle, but a good rough chopping would work just as well taste-wise.  I popped them upright into a nice big Kilner jar and packed the Thai basil around the base of the stalks. I then added the zest of three of the limes – any more and I’m worried they would over-power the subtler taste and fragrance of the lemon grass but I’ll have to wait a month to find out if it is enough. The vodka went in next, coming up to  two thirds of the way up the jar. 

It may look like the bottom of a pond but I am optimistic!

In a pan, I very slowly heated the sugar and water with the juice of all four limes until the sugar was totally melted then let it simmer to reduce the liquid by about a fifth so that it was very slightly viscous and incredibly sticky (as were my kitchen, my hair and the cats as a result – I made quite a mess...).  

Once the syrup was completely cooled, it was added slowly to the jar of vodka and herbs and swirled very gently until mixed. This is a new method for me – the last liqueur I made had the much thinner syrup added after the infusion process, which resulted in a thinner consistency to the finished product. Though that worked very well indeed as a warming Christmas tipple and New Year cocktail ingredient, I want something altogether sweeter and headier to help me look forward to Spring. So, we shall see what difference the new method makes.  I have a vague notion that the sugar will turn to alcohol but I think this is based on hazy memory of a beer advert rather than based in actual chemistry…

Come back in a month to see the results!

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