After coming across many classic cocktail recipes calling for apricot brandy or apricot liqueur—and feeling underwhelmed by the most widely available retail options—I set out to make my own. My first instinct, especially at this time of year when apricots are coming into season, was to cover some fruit with some booze and be done with it. However, while researching recipe inspiration, I found enough that called for dried apricots to make me curious. So, I tested a number of variables and scheduled a pretty serious apricot liqueur tasting session to determine the best method.
Homemade Apricot Liqueur
Before I tasted any of my homemade apricot liqueur trials, my money was on an infusion of fresh apricots with the pits included. But I wanted to be sure I had the best possible liqueur method, aiming to figure out if fresh or dry apricots were best, if the apricot pits added anything to the flavor, and whether adding the sweetener before or after the infusion period was better.
I used Tito's vodka in four different test infusions:
1) all fresh fruit, no pits, simple syrup added after infusing
2) all fresh fruit, with one apricot pit, simple syrup added after infusing
3) half fresh fruit, half dried fruit, no pits, simple syrup added after infusing
4) half fresh fruit, half dried fruit, no pits, simple syrup added at the beginning of the infusing process. Phew!
I was surprised by the results. As much as I wanted my liqueur to be a celebration of seasonal fruit, dried apricots turned out to be a necessary inclusion. Even in season, fresh apricots can be a bit inconsistent and sometimes bland, and my infusions using exclusively fresh fruit ended up with a nicely tart, but pretty one-note flavor. The dried apricots provided balance and brought in the sort of round sweetness that we typically associate with apricots once they're cooked.
I liked the bitter nuttiness that adding an apricot pit gave the infusion, but it really changed the character of the final liqueur, overshadowing the fruit in a way that kept my final product from screaming 'APRICOTS!'. If you're looking for a fruit-forward infusion, I'd advise leaving the pits out.
I discovered in my tests that adding the simple syrup early resulted in a slightly less flavorful final product. I would guess this is because the syrup lowers the proof of the alcohol (and the higher the proof, the better flavors infuse). So, our final winning recipe: a 50/50 mix of fresh and dried apricots, no pits, and simple syrup to sweeten after the infusion is done.
How best to enjoy the results? Well, cocktails, of course! Here are two recipes that will help your homemade apricot liqueur shine.
The classic Aviation includes Crème de Violette, which gives the cocktail its quintessential pale, sky-blue color. But here, I swapped it out for homemade apricot liqueur, which comes together with London dry gin, fresh lemon, and Maraschino for a result that highlights all the best parts of summer stone fruits. It has a bit of pucker, but still has the honeyed flavor of apricots, rounded out by the bitter almond flavor of the Maraschino.
Apricot and Averna Bourbon Sour
Maybe it's just my tastebuds, but I often find sours much too—well—sour. With bourbon and apricot liqueur as the base spirits, this drink is just a touch more sweet than a traditional bourbon sour. Averna adds complex flavors of citrus and mint, a hint of bitter bite and richness that complements the whiskey, while lemon juice keeps everything in balance.