I had a fair bit of interest in the rhubarb schnapps I brought to the swap earlier this week and thought it was worth documenting the process. I’m not sure how to credit the recipe, since all I have are my own notes on a post-it, but I think it may have been in one of Nigella Lawson’s book. (Google says yes.) I haven’t tried it with other fruits, but I imagine it would work just as well with citrus or cherries or berries, anything tart and juicy.
The amounts are flexible, since everything is just proportional. You start out with your rhubarb, say, a few stalks. Wash it, chop it up and put it in a mason jar or other container. Fill the jar with the fruit, but don’t pack it too tightly. Then fill the jar with cheap — and I mean cheap, we’re talking plastic jugs here — vodka.** Set it aside for a week or so. At the end of the week, strain the mixture and discard* the fruit. Measure the liquid and calculate:
—1.5 times that amount of water
—half that amount of sugar
(so, if you have 2 cups of vodka, you need 3 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar)
Make a simple syrup using those amounts, add to the alcohol and age it at least a month. Three months is better, six months is much better. I drink the kind of wine that comes in screw-top bottles, which are perfect for recycling in this kind of project. You don’t need to do anything special to it while it’s aging; I stashed mine under the kitchen sink with the date it would be ready taped to the bottle and moved it to the fridge after that date. I liked it with seltzer and lemon over ice, but it also makes a nice after-dinner drink, the kind of thing crime-fighting old ladies might sip after a big meal, served very cold and in a tiny glass.
*If you’re using cherries or raspberries or something, they might be great after soaking in vodka for a week. Rhubarb, not so much.
**Edited to add: I’ve had a couple of questions about using expensive vodka instead of the plastic-jug stuff. Happily, Hank Shaw just addressed this issue in his post about making mirto, the Sardinian myrtle berry liqueur, in which he writes that, “…you get better extraction of an herb’s flavors with the higher alcohol content.” So, it’s not just any cheap booze you’re looking for, it’s the booziest cheap booze you can find.