Buttermilk Liqueur

April 24, 2011

Recently I ran across a recipe for milk liqueur. Being intrigued by this as an alternative to cream-based liqueurs such as Baileys, I had to give it a try. However, all I had in the fridge was an excess of buttermilk, so buttermilk liqueur it was. The first batch was disappointing to say the least — poor instructions and too much sugar led to a liqueur that had potential, but was ultimately difficult to use. The second batch, I took charge, and it turned out much better. Here’s the recipe:

Buttermilk Liqueur

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups vodka (I used 8.5 oz Everclear 151 and 7.5 oz water to make a rough 80 proof vodka)
  • 1.5 cups white sugar (or to taste)
Combine the buttermilk and vodka, and age 10 days — no need to refrigerate. Strain out the solids through a coffee filter, then add the sugar. Shake to incorporate the sugar, and allow to sit for a day to finish dissolving any remaining grains. Yields about a fifth of 21% ABV liqueur.

The liqueur is incredibly smooth, with a sweet, milky taste at the tip of the tongue, and an acidic, almost sour finish. The alcohol is excellent at pulling out the essence of the buttermilk, while leaving behind all the fat. The sugar just fills out and smooths the maceration.

So what to make with a buttermilk liqueur? A couple test runs pointed me in the direction of rum; the natural acidic tones made me think of lemon, which would balance out the sweetness and perk it up nicely to pair with a sweet base spirit. The benefit of dairy liqueur is that it can smooth out rougher flavors, so I decided to pull out a favorite — Batavia-Arrack, and go from there.

  • 1.5 oz Batavia-Arrack
  • 1 oz buttermilk liqueur
  • 0.25 oz lemon juice
  • dash of Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters (or other aromatic bitters)
Shake ingredients, then rinse glass with a peaty scotch (I used Lagavulin 16).

This cocktail is citrusy and sweet at the front — the slightly smoky arrack combined with the buttermilk pulls out spice and rose notes, then eases into the peat of the scotch with a smooth transition. This drink is surprisingly subtle, but not boring, and an aftertaste of lemon and smoke is never bad.
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