A truly ripe peach is sweet and tangy, so delicate that holding it too firmly will bruise and maybe even break it. Peaches like this are rare, because a lot of grocery stores stock up on rock-hard peaches that were plucked before their time to make them easier to transport. So when you find peaches at their peak, it's time to go nuts with them.
One delightful way to use a peach is peach liqueur, also known as creme de peche. This liqueur complements spirits, citrus, and sugar so well that I'm not sure why it isn't more common in cocktails. And in addition to splashing it in some iced tea and shaking it up with gin and lemon, you can also glaze chicken with it or pour it on some ice cream. Making creme de peche is a way to keep summer sweetness around long after summer is through.
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Somewhere along the way the word "schnapps" became associated with ill-advised underage drinking and sorority-party shots. But peach schnapps, when used with a very light hand, can be the perfect accent ingredient in your cocktail. If you want to go a bit more refined, Mathilde, Leopold Brothers, and Stirrings make delicate and pleasantly sweet peach liqueurs that many liquor stores carry.
Homemade peach liqueur captures everything that is fantastic about this fresh summer fruit, and it's easy to make. Plus, making your own means no preservatives or artificial coloring. I like the way a little bit of lemon picks up the tangy undertones of peaches, but feel free to experiment with flavors and add some herbs, such as thyme.
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Like most fruit liqueurs, DIY peach liqueur is great with sparkling wine (and maybe a squeeze of lemon and dash of bitters) or splashed in seltzer. It's also the pinnacle of summer drinking when used in place of simple syrup when making sweet tea.
If you want to ambitious, look to the category of cocktail known as the 'sour'. Sours generally consists of a spirit, something sweet, and some citrus juice. You can use your homemade peach liqueur as your "something sweet," mixing up peachy variations on Daiquiris, Sidecars, and more. (If you're feeling frisky, maybe shake with some egg white for a nice foam on top.) Want a cocktail recipe you don't have to experiment with? The Everyman Afterall is a complex drink that includes both rum and apple brandy.
Looking beyond cocktails, you can use your DIY peach liqueur in savory recipes that call for liqueurs—it would be peachy as a glaze for poultry or fish, including some chopped or grilled fruit as an accent. Got a sweet tooth? Use peach liqueur as a topping for ice cream or cake.
About the Author: Marcia Simmons is the co-author of DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks. She also shares cocktail recipes and tips on the DIY Cocktails blog and on Twitter @DIYCocktails.