American Hooch – Thanksgiving Edition

pplYou could just as easily call this the “Nathan forgot to stop by LeNell’s this weekend edition,” but I’ll go for the classy way to look at things.  Thus, in honor of the upcoming American holiday on Thursday, I will be detailing the recipe for a hooch of my very own design: Pumpkin Pie liqueur.

I started making liqueurs almost two years ago when I got curious about limoncello and scoured dusty internet message boards and long-neglected websites reading every recipe I could find.  I eventually settled on a combination of a few involving lemon zest, grain alcohol, simple syrup, and a good bit of time.  What came of that process was an incredibly bright, incredibly lemony, and incredibly potent liqueur that would make you forget lemons ever had an easy-going image to them.

Since then, I’ve had a few more missteps, but I’ve also had a few successes – one of which was my Pumpkin Pie liqueur.

What You’ll Need:

1 small-to-mid sized pumpkin (don’t worry too much about size, just use the left over for actual pie)

2 liter mason jars

1/2-3/4 liter grain alcohol

Cloves (ground or whole)




Cane sugar

Purified/spring/distilled water

3-4 months

Preparing and Waiting:

The whole process is really quite simple.  Basically you want to get the flavors out of the spices and pumpkin and into the alcohol, so you stick them together for a while.

The first step is to wash the pumpkin well – scrub that thing, dirt ain’t tasty.  Next, after halving and scraping the guts out, chop it up into pieces no more than an inch in any direction.  Remember that the more surface area you have, the easier it is for the alcohol to absorb everything.  Reserve a few of the seeds.

Put the pieces loosely into a mason jar until it’s full.  Make sure that it’s not at all tightly packed, leaving about half the volume for the booze, then consult your local pumpkin pie recipe for the proportion of spices (I can’t reveal everything; that wouldn’t be fun) and put your spices into a tied-off teabag, which then goes into the jar.  Throw some seeds in there for good measure as well.

Next pour in the grain alcohol until the jar is filled.  Screw on the top tightly, shake, and put it in a cool, dark place for at least a month or two.  Every week or so, check on it and give it a shake.

The Transition:

After the month or two (this will vary by batch, judge by its color and the color of the pumpkin pieces), you need to make your simple syrup.  Basically take equal parts sugar (I prefer cane sugar for this recipe) and water then mix in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved and/or about five minutes.  Let this cool.

Open your pumpkin+booze jar, toss out the spices, and divide evenly into two mason jars.  Fill each jar the rest of the way with the room temperature simple syrup.  Screw on the tops and wait another month.

The Hard Part:

Next is the worst part about making Pumpkin Pie liqueur: straining.  Once your month is up, you want to remove all the traces of spices and pumpkin.  The best way to do this is through a series of filters, starting with cheese cloth and moving down to coffee filters.  This can be a long and tedious process depending on how little spice residue you want in your liqueur and how much spice escaped the bag.

Finishing Up:

You’re pretty much done now.  Each mason jar is about a wine bottle’s amount, so that seems like the natural container.

What you have is about 30-40% alcohol by volume and pretty sweet.  You can alter these aspects by adding more or less simple syrup or purified water in the transition period.

This stuff is good straight or on the rocks, but it’s also quite good with an equal part chilled cream and dusted with nutmeg.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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