This year, why not try making some delicious alcoholic drinks – it’s a great way of using up that fruity abundance all year round, from our favourite delicate pink forced Yorkshire rhubarb in the early spring to festive clementines and cranberries at Christmas.
Here at the Pipe and Glass we make a myriad of different flavoured drinks, including rhubarb, strawberry, raspberry, bramble, redcurrant and Victoria plum schnapps, and gins flavoured with sloes, damsons, gooseberries, greengages and cranberry and clementine.
But don’t be limited by those ingredients – the possibilities are pretty much endless. Decanted into a pretty bottle and dressed with a hand-written label (perhaps you could suggest a cocktail recipe), they make wonderful gifts. And, of course, you wouldn’t want to give your home-made liqueurs away without trying them yourself first…
Everyone who makes their own garden drinks will have their own way of doing things, perhaps handed down through the family for centuries. I have an outline recipe which changes depending on the sweetness of the fruit – and on how sweet you want the finished result to be.
I also speed up the infusion process by gently warming (not boiling: please don’t boil it!) the desired alcohol – usually gin or vodka – with the sugar (I reckon on about 200g of caster sugar per litre of spirit) until it dissolves, then decanting the warm liquid over the fruit in a large bottle or Kilner jar.
Different drinks will take different lengths of time to fully infuse and be ready to drink. You’ll get a sense from the deepening colour of the liquid – and, of course, you can always check by tasting as you go along – just make sure you leave enough to bottle at the end!
If you’re using sloes or damsons you need to break the skins of the fruit before adding to the spirit. Some people like to prick them with a pin, or even use the very traditional method of a thorn from the sloe bush. But you can also take the easy way out, and freeze them overnight prior to infusing which has similar results.
If you’re using a larger fruit such as rhubarb (yes, I know it’s really a veg, but bear with me on this one!), you’ll need to chop it into smaller pieces.
And have some fun: try adding herbs like rosemary, lemon thyme or lemon verbena to give an extra layer of garden-y, herby flavour. One of the great things about making your own drinks from your own produce is that there’s no right and wrong – if you like the end result, it’s good!
Now, what to do with all those courgettes…
If you have any old family recipes for home-made drinks that you think we might enjoy, particularly if they’re traditional to this area, we’d love to hear from you: