Preserving Fruits with Liquor

At the Manhattan Cocktail Classic I took a class on preserving fruits in alcohol. It was the most interesting class I attended. If there was one thing I took away it’s that any bar should be thinking about doing this, especially one in a fruit-growing state like Michigan. It’s also something anyone can do at home.

Preserving is different than infusing. Infusing — adding fruits or aromatics to alcohol and letting them mingle at room temperature — creates a certain kind of flavor effect. When the alcohol is gone, however, the fruit is basically inedible. (Maraschino cherries are preserved, not infused. If you’ve ever tasted some “home made” ones that are bitter, alcoholic and nasty, chances are they were infused, not preserved.)

Preserving fruits with liquor is like canning but using alcohol instead of water. There’s usually sugar and spices and some cooking involved. When you’re done everything is usable. Use the alcohol in drinks. The preserved fruits go in drinks, in desserts and so on.

There are plenty of recipes for preserved fruits out there on the internets. But I also took down ten notes that seemed important and might not be covered in any recipe:

  1. Start with pint canning jars, not quarts. That way you can test lots of different recipes.
  2. Once you open a jar you need to use it up in two weeks.
  3. You will fail more than succeed in the first year.
  4. It’s expensive so be conservative.
  5. Use stone fruits that are slightly under ripe, that way they fall apart less.
  6. Strawberries and plums are good, but they will get so soft they’ll only be good for muddling.
  7. Vegetables and cocktails almost never go together.
  8. Follow the latest USDA canning guidelines for temperatures and sanitation. Botulism is the main danger.
  9. If you are in a restaurant have the kitchen chef in a restaurant supervise the process, not the bartenders. (No offense, bartenders.)
  10. Jars blow up sometimes.