Friday, November 20, 2009

Pumpkin Liqueur - it all starts here...

Making Pumpkin Liqueur
This cloudy concoction is where it all starts.   This is a new batch of pumpkin liqueur in the early stages.  It starts out looking disgusting, but the final product is anything but.

After basing my original recipe on the Bols Pumpkin Smash Liqueur, it disappeared from the market.  So I went down the experimental path to reinvent it.   In the end I was glad I went to all the work as I thought the Bols was too sweet and not the right spice balance.   I scoured the Internet in search of recipes, and bought a book on making liqueurs called Classic Liqueurs.  There was no pumpkin liqueur in the book, but seeing all the recipes gave me a great head start.   It took 3 generations of trials, and each generation was split into 4 batch variations, initially focusing on the pumpkin flavoring. What I discovered along the way is that pumpkin by itself tastes like squash -- go figure. What we really think of as "pumpkin" is the spices that go along with the pumpkin. So it is better to call this Pumpkin Spice Liqueur.

By the 3rd generation I was making good progress. I kept plying everyone around me with tastings, and I finally settled in on a recipe. It came out similar to Bols, but I like to think it tastes better. More flavoring (from actual pumpkin and spices) and not so sweet. Slightly higher alcohol content as well.

So here is the result from all my experiments, the recipe for pumpkin (spice) liqueur. I still tweak it a little each time, but this is where it stands now.

Scott's Pumpkin Liqueur Recipe:

Monarch 100 Proof Vodka - 1.75 litre
Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix - 30oz can (This worked the best -- really!)
5 Cinnamon Sticks (Note this is different than my previous recipe - cutting down a little on the cinnamon)
4 1/2 vanilla beans (split) or about 3 TBLS (close to an ounce) of Vanilla
10 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground fresh nutmeg

4 1/2 Cups Sugar
6 cups water

3 tsp food grade glycerin (Beer supply outlets have this)
Coloring - I use Heritage Farm Food Colors
35 total drops color (28 yellow, 7 red)

You'll need a BIG jar. I use a big pickling jar seen in the pcture above. Clean and sterilize the jar and lid really well. Then toss in all the ingredients in the first part of the list. Stir/shake it around to mix well. Close up the jar and put it in a cool area to steep for two weeks. Stir/shake it every couple of days.

After two weeks, we strain the concoction through a filter bag. I got mine from a beer supply place, not too fine at this point. I also clean the cinnamon sticks but toss them back in for the final phase. At this time, we also make and add the syrup. Put the sugar and water in a large pan and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Let cool. Pour the syrup into the big jar and stir it up. Close it back up and put it back in the dark/cool location for three more weeks. Once again, stir/shake occasionally.

After the 3 weeks, it is time to filter, finish, and bottle the liqueur. Filtering is tough. The Bols liqueur had a nice orange crystal clear look that I can't quite achieve. My current method is to use a gold coffee filter with extra paper coffee filters in it. This takes quite a while and you'll use many paper coffee filters before you are done. But it comes out nice when complete.  I'm thinking now of breaking down and buying a powered wine filter, but I'll have to be making this much more often to justify it.

The final finishing step is to add the glycerin, and the orange coloring. Then find some nice bottles to put your finished product in.
Homemade Pumpkin Liqueur
The final proof should be somewhere around the neighborhood of 24% alcohol by volume or about 48 Proof.

While it takes a little time, the result is well worth it.


  1. Hey! I loved your recipe and posted a link to it on my "Friday Finds" at

  2. I recently got ahold of a bottle of Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice Liqueur and was disappointed at how sweet it was. It tasted more like candy corn than pumpkin in my opinion. So a search for a way make my own turned up your site! THANKS!! I'm giving it a try! Here's my blog entry about it.

  3. Thanks Undertaker. Stay tuned, I've got some experiments underway to shorten the time it takes to make the Pumpkin Liqueur. I'm too impatient for the 5 week steeping time. And I agree about the sweetness issue. When you make your batch you can divide it when it is time to add the simple syrup and try a couple variations on sweetness level. Good luck!

  4. Thanks and great idea on the division of it into multiple batches. Typically, syrups give me heartburn (I make hot sauce but can't digest sugar...go figure) and was thinking about trying one with Equal or that Stevia sweetener stuff. I make pumpkin spice syrup that way and it tastes great! I'm looking forward to the results of your research regarding the steeping time. It's going to be a looong 5 weeks and it already smells good (after only 2 days) Who's got a straw?! LOL

  5. Undertaker, that's a great question. When I first created this recipe I culled various different liqueur recipes together and glycerin was a common theme. But I never heard exactly why other than thickening agent and "mouth feel". Since then I've learned it actually has some really interesting properties. It is a thickener, it is a natural sweetener, and it also increases the density of the liqueur, which helps if you use the pumpkin liqueur in layered drinks (like the recent Indian Corn Smoothy drink I posted.) It has more esoteric properties too, but I don't think they come into play in the way this liqueur is made. I found a great reference here:

  6. Hey Scott,

    Ok...I've made it through the first two weeks shaking at regular intervals. Last night I strained it using a filter bag as recommended. I removed the cinnamon sticks and squeezed the last bit of liquid out of the "mash".

    I made the syrup, let it cool a bit, added it to the pumpkin liquid and returned the cleaned cinnamon sticks to the mixture.

    I HAD to taste it at this stage...all I can say is WOW! Even at this stage it tastes SO much better to me than the Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice Liqueur!! It IS PUMPKIN spice, with an emphasis on spice, no doubt about it! It tastes like a SPIRITED PUMPKIN PIE! The Hiram Walker tasted more like candy corn to me and was way too sweet. (I haven't tried the Bol's brand)

    The hardest part of the remaining 3 weeks will be WAITING 3 WEEKS! What happens to it over these last 3 weeks other than it extracting a bit more cinnamon? (and me extracting sips every now and then)

    I'll filter it afterward with the gold coffee filter and filter papers as recommended but really, I don't mind it a little cloudy...and I think that the Hiram Walker was a bit too orange and artificial I'll mix up the yellow and red food coloring separately and add drops of orange until it's where I want it to be. I think the color it is now is actually pretty good but that might change after the coffee filtering.

    I purchased the glycerin and tasted it. My head almost caved in from sweetness but I like the "mouth feel" of it so adding only 2 teaspoons I think is perfect.


  7. Undertaker: Glad to hear it is going so well. My experiments are taking longer than planned, but a preview of my findings is that I don't think 5 weeks is really necessary.

    A little history, when I first made this recipe, I gleaned the basics of liqueur making from a book and searches on the Internet. Five weeks was pretty standard for all types of liqueurs. But I've also tasted over time as it steeped, and found that you get good results fairly quick. And my new tests on an overnight version have pretty much proven to me that it doesn't need 5 weeks or even 5 days to get a good result.

    Specifically what I've found so far is that the earthy pumpkin squash flavor comes very quickly, and the spices come slower. So in my new found humble opinion, as soon as you are getting a spice flavoring that you are happy with, you can call it done!

    This has proven to me that the straining is important though, as I don't want the pumpkin solids to keep adding flavor over time. It is the "pumpkin spices" that is important here.

    A few more tests, and more tasting sessions with my tasting crew and I should have some new recipes to post.

  8. The two weeks steeping time seemed about right to me because it took about that long for the whole allspice seeds to look as if they might actually sink from saturation.

    I'm going to go ahead and filter this and start the taste testing!! ;)

    And while that's happening, I'll start another batch!

    I'll keep my eyes peeled for updates on this site.

    Thanks again and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!


  9. Well...It's finished! I mean that the process is finished...and the entire batch I made is GONE! It was DELICIOUS! I WAS going to add less food coloring than you suggested but I didn't, and the color was perfect! I WAS going to add a little less sugar than you suggested but I didn't, and the sweetness was perfect!

    If there's anything I'd change it MIGHT be to mix the 6 cups of water and 4 1/2 cups of sugar and then not quite use all of that syrup in the mixture. I want to make it a tiny bit stronger.

    I filtered it with just the filter bag and the resulting slight cloudiness was fine with me. I'll continue to skip the coffee filter step.

    After I added the sugar and water to the mixture I put it in a large glass wine jug. A few days later, a small amount of sediment settled to the bottom so I siphoned off the top (and drank the dregs) and the result was pretty clear.

    All in all....highly successful! I brought some to a Christmas party and gave out small bottles as gifts! Everybody seemed to love it! A neighbor also said that it was a great addition to her hot cranberry tea! Makes sense to me!

    THANK YOU so much for posting this! I have enough pumpkin to make 5 more batches. Batch number 2 is underway!

  10. You are most welcome! I've also been experimenting with letting batches sit after an initial filtration, letting the fine particulates settle, then siphoning off the top. It is the only way I've found to get a crystal clear liqueur so far -- at least with minor expense. It just comes at the cost of several more weeks of waiting.

    As to the strength, be sure you start with the 100 proof vodka, that makes a big difference in the final strength. Depending on the state you live in, you may also be able to buy a higher proof neutral grain spirit such as Everclear. There is Everclear 151 proof version available which is ~75% alcohol. Using the same quantities in the recipe would kick the final proof up substantially.

  11. I've made a few batches of pumpkin spice liqueur by now and have even come up with a fancier label. Here's a link to my blog posts re: pumpkin spice liqueur if you're interested. Thank you!!

  12. Undertaker:

    Really nice labels!

  13. Cheers and Happy Halloween season!! Thanks for posting that excellent recipe! Pumpkin Spice Liqueur Toast!

  14. Thanks, Scott for the recipe! I just finished mine and it's fantastic.

    I filtered the whole batch through the coffee filters three separate times and while I still have cloudiness, I seriously don't mind, because the recipe is so darn good! I let some neighbors sample it and one suggested that it would probably be good served hot. (I can see that evaporating the alcohol, though...) My husband compromised by putting some in coffee and pronounced it good!

    1. Glad you like it ShellHawk! The filtering is tough, and you're right, the cloudiness doesn't affect the taste. But I have to say I prefer a clear final product. If you have time to wait, the small particles will settle and it will look great too. I got a small powered wine filter for my birthday, so I'm going to power filter the next batch to see how that goes. I'll report back after that experiment.

  15. After the initial filtration I've been storing it in big bottles for a couple weeks to allow the fine particles to settle. Then I pour it into its final bottles leaving the sediment behind. I pour the sediment into the next batch.

    1. Sediment settled

    2. Final bottling

    3. Labeled


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