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It’s never too early to begin thinking about the holidays, and Thanksgiving is—deep breath—just over a month away.
The perfect present is, of course, one that’s homemade. So before you get swept up in all the events (and stress) of the season, we have a few boozy gift ideas you should make now and set aside for your friends and family.
The classic citrusy Italian liqueur limoncello is always a crowd-pleaser and rarely fails to impress. We usually keep a bottle in our freezer year round!
But bartenders around the country are fixing some other delicious liqueurs that you can give out. Diners at two-Michelin-star Chicago restaurant Graham Elliot are treated to a chilled shot of basilcello as a palate cleanser between savory and sweet courses. The herbal concoction (pictured above) only takes 24 hours to steep and is great before or after dessert.
If licorice-flavored spirits like absinthe, ouzo or sambuca are more your style, whip up a batch of fennelcello. It was created by bartender David Welch at Lincoln Restaurant in Portland, Ore. and is a wonderful digestif served freezing cold.
Or try producing another Italian favorite, nocino. This spiced walnut liqueur is typically made with unripe green nuts, which are a bit hard to find. Fortunately, our recipe, from chef/mixologist Mariena Mercer of The Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, calls for regular toasted walnuts instead, along with spices you can buy at any supermarket. It does, however, need to infuse for a full month, so if you’re planning to make it for the holidays, you better start now. Cheers!
Contributed by Graham Elliot
- 1 lb Fresh basil
- 1 tsp Citric acid
- 1 (750-mL) bottle 190-proof neutral grain spirit (such as Everclear)
- 1.5 L (about 50 oz) Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
- 750 mL (about 25 oz) Water
Combine the basil, citric acid and neutral grain spirit in a large jar or other container. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Strain out the basil and stir in the simple syrup and water. Serve as cold as possible.
Contributed by David Welch
- 3 (750-mL) bottles Vodka
- 1.25 lb Fennel (stalks, fronds and leaves)
- 38 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
Combine the vodka and fennel in a large jar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 days. Strain out all fennel particles and add the simple syrup. Serve chilled.
Contributed by Mariena Mercer
- 1 L Russian Standard Vodka
- 1 cup Maple syrup
- 1 cup Sugar
- 3 cups Toasted walnuts, crushed
- Zest of 2 oranges
- 6 Cinnamon sticks
- 8 Whole cloves
- 2 Green cardamom pods, crushed
- 2 Vanilla beans
- 4 Star anise pods
Combine all the ingredients in a large jar or other container with a lid. Cover and let stand for 1 month. Strain out the solids.