Milk Liqueur

A couple of summers ago, Bryan and I spent 4th of July in Paris with some family friends. They hosted a lovely barbecue in our honor and we ate and drank all sorts of delicious things. What stood out to me the most was an aperitif that the grandfather of the family had made. My French is pretty bad so I have no idea what it actually was, but I think it had something to do with prunes. In any case, I liked that liqueur so much and I loved that it was homemade. The kind man was clearly proud of his creation and spent the early part of the evening holding the bottle and giving out tastes to anyone who was interested. I had more than my share.

There is something very satisfying about making a liqueur at home, a task that seems both more common and better appreciated in Europe. It is a process that requires patience but the results can be incredible. The amber colored goodness featured in the photos started off as a crazy looking concoction of curdled milk and chocolate (yes, chocolate!). Even when I was getting ready to filter it, I had a hard time believing it would turn into this beautiful golden elixir. The flavor is a surprise–a very rich and creamy chocolate that is immensely comforting and warming. If you are anything like me, you will be very proud of your liqueur and excited to share it with friends. I think this is something I could get into. Next up- I need to track down the French man and get his recipe!

***NEW RECIPE INDEX ALERT** Finally, I have gotten around to dealing with my recipe index. Bryan did a great job of organizing everything for me and now posts will automatically be added to the index and it should remain up to date. Thanks for your patience with this! Check it out!

Milk Liqueur/licor de leite (from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite)

  • 2 1/2 cups grappa (or unflavored vodka)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
  • 1/2 lemon, seeded and chopped, with rind

Pour the grappa and milk into an impeccably clean half-gallon glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Scoop in the sugar, chocolate and lemon. Cover tightly and shake well to help the sugar begin to dissolve. It will look curdled, and it should. Set aside in a cool dark place and shake or stir well every day for 10 days.

Set a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl and pour in the mixture. When the mixture has finished draining, squeeze the cloth to release as much liquid as possible, and discard the solids.

Line a sieve with a paper coffee filter (we used our Chemex coffee pot). Pour in the liqueur and let the mixture drip through to a clean bowl–this can take up to 24 hours. Change the filter when it becomes clogged with the residue from the liqueur. (It took me about 24 hours and 4 filters) You can repeat this step once or twice to clarify it as much as possible. (I didn’t)

Pour the liqueur into a clean decanter with a tight-fitting top. It will keep at room temperature for up to 6 months.

86 comments to “Milk Liqueur”

  1. Fiona, I’m sure this answer came far too late for you but…
    There are 2 ways to make any liqueur less sweet:
    1. Add less sugar. It should not have any effect on the process. Many recipes call for a simple sugar syrup to be added after the initial infusion and filtering process. They may need to age for a short time after to allow the sugar to blend with tthe liqueur for a smooth taste.
    2. If you have already made the liqueur too sweet, you can cut it with the original liquor (vodka or grappa). It will make the final product a bit weaker in taste, but if the sweetness is urining it for you, try cutting it little by little and tasting each time.

  2. OMG! Ruining the taste, not urining!

  3. I made up a half batch of this last friday. I put in in a dark corner of my basement and while it is a bit thicker it hasn’t curdeled. Do you have to wait until it curdels to strain it and be done? Is it ok to let it go past the 10 days and wait for it to curdle?

  4. I have the same query. Mine hasn’t curdled at all and I let it go for about 12 days. It’s on it’s second filtering and it doesn’t seem much clearer than when I started.

    Any suggestions or alternative filtration methods?

  5. HI Shay,
    Strange. I honestly don’t know. I haven’t come across this problem. It took me two passes through coffee filters to get my liqueur clear. But if it isn’t effecting yours at all, then it hardly seems worth trying a third. Everything else in the recipe was followed? Also, have you tasted it?

  6. And Amanda, yes- filter it now. Don’t worry about curdling.

  7. I’m having the same problem: filtered twice through coffee filter, still milking looking. Mine went 15 days, no curdling.

  8. Hi folks,
    Don’t worry if the mixture isn’t looking curdled, it will be okay either way. But I can’t explain why your liqueur isn’t filtering clear. Plenty of us have made this recipe successfully, and so my only guess is that some specific ingredient is throwing it off. (the chocolate? the alcohol?) Sorry that it isn’t working for some of you…

  9. I strained it through the coffee filter. It’s beautiful and delicious! Thanks so much for posting an answer to my question!

  10. Yay, Amanda! Glad to hear it worked out.

  11. Just taking my first sips of this liqueur – oh. my. goodness. This is terrific. We used a 72% dark chocolate and the flavor of the chocolate really shines through for me. We didn’t have much curdling, but as you suggested, we just went for it and were not disappointed! It only took about twelve hours for the filtering for us as well. So exquisite. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I made this and it turned out AWESOME!!! Thanks so much!

  13. I made this with rasberries and chocolate etc. and everyone RAVED!

  14. Hi,
    I’m from a tropical country, where room temperature means 30C or more. Should I refrigerate the mixture or is the temperature pose no effect?


  15. I made it, I love it, but I want to know if I can use the sludge left in my coffee filter. I tasted it and I think it would be good added to yogurt. I just don’t know if it is safe to consume, and how long will it keep.

  16. Mary! I have no idea! But I am so glad you like the liqueur. If you eat the sludge, and survive, let us all know. ; )

  17. Cannot WAIT to try this!

    On the note of the mixture not curdling for some, my guess is that you are using milk that has been ultra-pasteurized. I make cheese and ultra-pasteurizing will ruin any milk for cheesemaking. It does not curd well. Many grocery store milks are ultra-pasteurized. There are several lists on the internet that lists major brands that are not. I’m lucky enough to live near a local dairy.

    Also, for the person that could not get it to clear, my guess is that this is a severe form of the not-curdling issue. The milk proteins did not coagulate at all and are, therefore, too small to filter out with coffee filters. A thought to correct this. Add more lemon juice and either let sit for a few days or heat to about 90F to let the acid work on the milk proteins better but not high enough to evaporate the bulk of the alcohol. This should help to get some curdling and be able to filter it.

  18. Hi Tami- Thanks for that very helpful comment. The pasteurization makes sense, I use dairy from a local farmer.

  19. I am finally finishing the straining process now, it’s a beautiful golden color and tastes so good!

    I substituted the lemon juice for a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

  20. I made this and substituted 2 chai tea bags for the chocolate and used Snowville Whole Milk. It turned out lovely- someone said it tasted like pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. Yum. Next time I will be trying some fair trade organic chocolate. Cannot wait! Each step was exactly as described here for me.

  21. I live in Singapore, and it’s practically impossible to get hold of Raw milk here! So instead I used the usual(?) pasturized and homogenized milk from a local dairy with raspberry vodka, half a lemon and half a navel orange – and it’s turning out perfectly! Even though my milk showed ZERO signs of curdling, here I am on day 10 using DIY paper towels as a filter and my liquer is turning out to be exactly the same as shown in the pictures. I’m guessing that it helps to add A LOT of acid, and I’m only working with 300ml milk and vodka here.

  22. Taste test: Extremely sweet, so I’ll cut down on the sugar next time. I suppose this can be considered a success! Note: although I used half an orange and half a lemon on about 600ml of the mixture, it didn’t affect the taste of the liquor, if anyone’s worried (when making variations eg, chai, chocolate etc)

  23. I don’t know that I’ve ever in my life tried a liqueur! Sounds like I’m missing out. Is enjoying it straight the way to go, or does anyone have mixing suggestions? Can’t wait to get started on a batch this weekend.

    p.s. Tim, I love the new “Favorites” feature on your sidebar. That’s what brought me to this recipe!

  24. I just tried this recipe, and I’m pretty sure it was one of the most delicious things I’ve put in my mouth in a long time. Thank you so much for sharing! YOWZA!

  25. p.s. the sludge is delicious, though highly alcoholic (surprise, surprise!). I’m trying to figure out a way to perhaps incorporate it into cookies or waffle batter. ‘Cause – I tell you – it’s toxic if you don’t cook it, but so delicious i just want to eat it out of the container.

  26. so i was thinking of attempting this but also would like to try one using half brown sugar and chai tea maybe a vanilla bean. the thing is, i need to add acidity,right? do i add some orange? lemon sounds wrong..would the orange be enough…hmmm

  27. ha, sabrinas- i think you want another drink altogether. oranges are not very acidic, so i’m not sure it would work. but it is unlikely it will kill you, so maybe give it a try?

  28. I have two half-batches going (with vodka – I need to try and find grappa). I have bittersweet single-origin chocolate in one, and some chai tea in the other. Just started them today, and I’m excited to see how they go!

  29. I’m on my third batch. Like everyone else excited to try it. 1st batch was a Chai mix, was wonderful . Next batch was a Cinnamon Spice, add a cinnamon stick, NOT ground, excellent. My last batch is now chocolate. Regarding the milk issue I use TraderJoes Organic milk, works better. Also try getting lemons off of someone’s tree, they are more acidic then the ones at the store. The combinations are endless.

  30. Mine is filtering more clear than golden. It tastes great but any thoughts on the color?

  31. I have been on a liqueur making kick as of late, and my Milk Liqueur just finished filtering last night! I am now sipping on my very first glass and I have to say it is FANTASTIC!!!! Without a doubt my favorite recipe that I have tried! I love love love this and can’t wait to show it off to some family and friends! Definitely something I will be making again in the future! Thanks for the great recipe!

  32. It worked! I had my doubts looking at the sludge that was the original concoction. The first straining through he cheese cloth took the longest. Then being less than a patient person, I took about 5 jars, used funnels with a coffee filter each and strained the mixture. This took about an hour. Viola! It looks like your picture!! I did use raw goats milk, as I have a ton of it in my fridge. So I figure healthy with a kick. I put it in the freezer…is this where I should keep it? That is where I have my crema di limoncello I made. THANK YOU FOR THE RECIPE! I used Ciroc vodka since it is grape based. Wonderful flavor!! 2 oz of chocolate was a lot more than I had anticipated! I used the food scale. It is super chocolate in flavor.

  33. It froze solid! The crema di limoncello is made with 190 proof everclear, it does not freeze. The Ciroc is 80 proof…so fridge it is!

  34. I found this on Pinterest and decided I HAD to try it, simply because it couldn’t work. Not only does it end up exactly like the picture (a golden honey) but it is delicious. A sweet dessert liquor that we will enjoy and be giving away at Christmas. I’m making more this weekend, but tripling the amount… So, so worth it!!

  35. Patrik D'haeseleer says:

    February 26th, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    I know this comment comes many years late, but just in case it might be useful for others trying to follow the same recipe…

    If you’re having trouble getting the milk to curdle, that could be due to emulsifiers such as soy lecithin in the chocolate. I believe milk chocolate tends to have more soy lecithin than bitter-sweet chocolate, so pick a chocolate with high cacao solids, for the best flavor-to-emulsifier tradeoff.

  36. Patrik D'haeseleer says:

    February 26th, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Also, the “shake or stir well every day for 10 days” is not an instruction I’ve seen in other recipes. Overly vigorous shaking could definitely break up the curds and make it much harder to separate them out.