Make Your Own Holiday Cordials: Recipes for Homemade Orange Liqueur, Coffee Liqueur, and Irish Cream

Reader Contribution by Wendy Akin
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You can save a great deal of your holiday budget for gifting and entertaining by mixing up your own special cordials and liqueur. You will also have control of the ingredients. Use the less expensive vodka and whiskey — you add so much flavor that these will all taste smooth. Choose among the ideas below, starting with the orange cordial since that needs 6 weeks to develop.

Save up some nice wine bottles for your cordials. Soak off the labels, wash them, drain thoroughly, and put the corks back in as best you can.

40-Day Homemade Orange Liqueur Recipe

makes 750 ml (one regular wine bottle)


• A large navel orange
• 40 coffee beans, preferably French roast, not flavored
• 1/3 cup cane sugar
• 1 bottle ordinary vodka, 750 mL


1. Wash the orange well and dry. With a sharp little knife, make little cuts in the peel, inserting one coffee bean in each cut. Do one at a time so you don’t lose the cuts.

2. Put the orange into a wide-mouth quart jar, add the sugar, and then fill the jar to the top with vodka.

3. Set the jar in a dark cupboard and leave it for 6 weeks. Give it a little shake every now and then.

4. When it’s ready, pour off the vodka into a clean bottle, such as a wine bottle, and cork. Add a pretty label.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Recipe

Makes almost two 750-mL bottles


• 4 cups cane sugar
• 2 cups water
• 2/3 cup instant coffee
• 1 bottle, 750 mL dark rum
• 1 vanilla bean


1. Wash thoroughly a half-gallon jar or bottle.

2. Combine the water, sugar, and coffee in a pot. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and skim any foam. Let it cool to room temperature, then pour into the large jar. Add the rum and the vanilla bean, cap, and store in a dark cupboard for at least 3 weeks.

3. When it’s ready, remove the vanilla bean (save the bean for another use — it has lots more to give), and pour the finished liqueur into clean wine bottles. Cork, label, and either give or enjoy.

4. Enjoy your coffee liqueur straight up as in the picture, in a cup of after-dinner coffee, in an adult milkshake, as part of a Brandy Alexander, or just drizzled over ice cream.

Homemade Irish Cream Recipe

Rather than taking weeks to develop, this one is ready to drink immediately, but should be used within a month. So, make this when you need it. This recipe makes enough for one wine bottle with 10 ounces left — one to give, the rest for you.  If you double the recipe, you have enough for three bottles.

If you’re a chocoholic, you can certainly add more chocolate syrup, if a coffeeholic, add more coffee. The whiskey can be any inexpensive blended whiskey but not scotch. Jameson is lovely, but much too expensive — drink that neat in tiny glasses.


• 1 can (14 oz) condensed milk (Eagle Brand)
• 2 Tbsp Hershey’s Extra Dark syrup
• 2 Tbsp instant coffee or espresso powder
• 1 tsp vanilla
• ½ tsp almond extract
• 1 ¾ cups whiskey
• 1 cup of one of your choice: whipping cream, half and half, whole milk, or almond milk


1. Choose your milk type by how you will use your cordial: straight up, diluted, in coffee, however. It’s all good.

2. The blender works best to thoroughly mix in the thick condensed milk. Into the blender jar, put the condensed milk, the chocolate and coffee, extracts and some of the whiskey. Start the blender on low and increase power carefully so as not to splash.

3. Add the rest of the whiskey and the milk of your choice if your blender can hold it all. You might have to switch to a large jar or empty milk jug and shake.

4. When it’s all mixed, pour into appropriate bottles and cork. Be sure to label and keep refrigerated.

Imbibe responsibly.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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