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.
March 4th, 2010 at 12:15 pm
this is equal parts horrifying and thrilling to me. when i was younger, i conducted a “science experiment” which involved pouring milk into a jar, hiding it in a cupboard in our dark and dank basement, and letting it fester for a week or so. the resulting sludge was so putrid and foul, it has not let me forget it, 15 years later. i am fascinated that this is a similar process, only with booze, which is what i presume keeps it from growing fuzz and hair and everything….
March 4th, 2010 at 12:19 pm
Yes, Sarah, no hair here. I think it is time to put the past behind you and make some milk liqueur!
March 4th, 2010 at 12:47 pm
I am so intrigued by this. Very, very intrigued.
Dawn (KitchenTravels) says:
March 4th, 2010 at 12:55 pm
Tim, this liqueur looks amazing. Hard to believe that milky sludge resulted in such a beautiful, clear finished product! I can only imagine how delicious it would be in an after-dinner coffee or over vanilla bean ice cream. Seriously, this is impressive. xo
March 4th, 2010 at 1:06 pm
So you only need 11 days to do this delicious thing? It sounds and looks amazing.
March 4th, 2010 at 1:07 pm
Yes! In 11 days you can be sipping your very own liqueur. Do it!
March 4th, 2010 at 1:10 pm
I need to try this!!! I’ve been enjoying many concoctions of booze and milk or ice cream lately so this is right up my alley. thanks!!!
March 4th, 2010 at 2:05 pm
I am completely intrigued. How do those ingredients become that? I make a lot of liqueurs, mostly fruit in the summer. I’d really like to try this.
The Diva on a Diet says:
March 4th, 2010 at 2:10 pm
Absolutely fascinating! This is going on my “must-try” list immediately. Thanks for such an inventive and inviting post. It looks gorgeous!
Tracy (Amuse-bouche for Two) says:
March 4th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
This recipe speaks to me. I love grappa dearly. I have a feeling that this would be a rather pleasing Christmas gift for my boyfriend’s father who makes his own wine and limoncello every year. This would also be nice to have stashed away in our freezer. There’s nothing better than chilled grappa after a huge meal. Excited for this recipe!
March 4th, 2010 at 6:31 pm
…I am going to try this! I love this idea so much it has prompted me to comment…lol Just so I got this right, will any vodka do? Is that what grappa is? I’m kind of a big dummy when it comes to this sort of thing but I want to try it… :o)
…Thanks so much! Love your site – always have & always will…
Erin in Sacramento says:
March 4th, 2010 at 6:57 pm
I’m starting a batch tomorrow!
March 4th, 2010 at 7:53 pm
Hi TJ! Grappa is not vodka, it is better. It is a grape-based alcohol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grappa). BUT it can also be much more expensive than vodka so feel free to use any unflavored vodka as a substitute. and thanks for the very nice comment!
March 4th, 2010 at 10:07 pm
Wow, I’ve never seen such awesomeness! Milk liqueur and it’s not sweet. The first liqueur I made was limoncello and right now I’ve got some kind of seville orange contraption going on. But this is so unusual and I’d love a sip! Nice job!
March 5th, 2010 at 6:09 am
I have everywhere in house temperature about 20°C. Is it enough cool?
March 5th, 2010 at 12:12 pm
Your post has inspired me to make my first homemade liquor! Thank you!
March 5th, 2010 at 1:18 pm
How cool! I am such a milk junkie & this couldn’t be more perfect :)
And another gem for David Leite’s book, thanks for sharing.
March 5th, 2010 at 3:01 pm
years ago I tried to make my own lemoncello but I couldn’t find the kind of alcohol the recipe asked and my friends use in different countries… so… I gave up… one day the lady at Wallgreens suggested to use vodka instead and I can see now that probably is the way to find the right alcohol needed to make liqueur… I’ll try this one (love the idea and THE COLOR!!) and later the limoncello
March 5th, 2010 at 10:36 pm
I believe that you are speaking of M. Cadieux. I shall ask his daughter if she knows the recipe and if she can translate it. I hope to skype with her this weekend. I’ll get back to you.
March 5th, 2010 at 10:41 pm
Jen- Yes! Please do! I had planned on writing to you about this tonight. xo
March 7th, 2010 at 10:46 pm
So excited to give this a try….however before I do I was wondering if you made any with vodka, if so did you notice any difference? Knowing very well the cost factor between grappa and vodka(however, hands down grappa is much much better)…and deciding who will get the grappa version or the vodka version as a holiday gift this year(wicked woman I am)….And final question, which bittersweet chocolate did you use….much thanks in advance!
March 7th, 2010 at 11:11 pm
Hi Christine, I haven’t tried it with vodka yet, but I will next time I make it. I think that the alcohol goes through such a transformation with that the difference must be negligible unless you have a very sophisticated palate, which I certainly don’t. I used Valrhona bitter sweet chocolate. Let me know if you give it a try!
March 8th, 2010 at 9:31 pm
This is right up my alley, particularly because its chocolate-flavored! Have you turned a corner on chocolate, Tim? Might I have a sip of yours before I dive into the endeavor on my own?
March 9th, 2010 at 11:37 pm
Tim, I suspect the drink you tried in Paris is “Pruneaux d’Agen” (a well-known French liqueur from – as you might have guessed – Agen, which is not far from Bordeaux). You might be able to find Pruneaux at Sam’s or one of those big liquor places in Chicago. While I grew up in OP, just west of the city, I don’t know the liquor scene any more, in the “greater metropolitan Chicagoland area”.
In any event, I do enjoy your blog’s fine writing and exceptional photography. Your blog really stands out among the many I frequent.
Erin in Sacramento says:
March 16th, 2010 at 2:44 pm
Found decent priced grappa at Trader Joe’s. Bought the jar today (that was holding me up a bit since all the jars in my house were too small). Just printed out the recipe and grated the chocolate (Sharfenberger here). Will report back in 11 days!
March 18th, 2010 at 3:14 am
My batch of Milk Liqueur will be ready on the 20th (Made with Vodka). My only worry is the mix didn’t really curdle even though I used whole milk. Should I have added a little more lemon and will the lack of curdling affect the final liqueur?
I’ll let you know how my liqueur turns out. Thanks for the great recipes!
March 18th, 2010 at 10:02 am
No worries, Tony- it will work. Looking forward to hearing how it turns out.
March 20th, 2010 at 11:11 am
I am just enjoying my first sips of my first batch (made with vodka) right now. Success! I had the same experience as Tony where my mixture didn’t curdle very much, but you’re right, it was fine. Also my cheesecloth managed to remove nearly all the milk solids, so the coffee filter step was relatively quick. I do find the liqueur to be a little bit on the sweet side, and was wondering if you think reducing the sugar would mess up the chemistry of everything?
Thanks for adding so much fun to my week!
March 22nd, 2010 at 4:03 am
Lack of curdling aside the final liqueur turned out great. A beautiful colour. Took about five hours (and six coffee filters) to filter.
I didn’t find the liqueur too sweet like Fiona, the flavours actually seemed really well balanced with the dark chocolate singing through nicely.
Looking forward to sharing it with friends. Thanks again.
March 23rd, 2010 at 12:05 pm
Thanks so much for the update, Tony. Glad to hear you were happy with the results.
March 23rd, 2010 at 12:06 pm
Oh, and Fiona- not sure about the chemistry or if you should reduce the sugar. I agree it is sweet, but I was okay with that in small servings. Maybe someone else will know….
March 24th, 2010 at 8:56 pm
Hi Tim, it is sweeter than I would normally like, but I have also been enjoying it a fair bit! Didn’t mean to give the impression that I found it unpleasant in any way. Thanks again.
March 25th, 2010 at 8:41 am
I finished mine a few days ago. How the H does it work? It came out exactly as promised.
March 25th, 2010 at 8:43 am
Laura, it is magic. ; )
Glad to hear that you guys are giving this one a try! It sure is fun. We’re still enjoying our batch, I find that I kind of like it served over ice.
April 6th, 2010 at 6:17 pm
Yes, this is pure magic. I just had my first sip and it is delightful- creamy,with a subtle taste of chocolate. I don’t taste any lemon which is fine with me, since I think it would interfere with what is already going on. Will certainly make more and give as gifts.
I would love to know how to make Prune Liqueur. If anyone has a recipe I would love for it to be shared. This could become a new obsession.
Erin in Sacramento says:
April 7th, 2010 at 12:43 am
Hey Tim we drank ours after Easter dinner and all agreed it was delish. We pondered the chemistry of it all. How does it work? It’s classic liqueur … Lift it to the mouth and the nose predicts “ooo, too strong” and then the tongue picks up the essence (in this case chocolate). What a cool process. My family & friends looked wary every time I pulled out the jar of not terribly pleasing looking liquid from the linen closet and shook it. But they all agreed it’s great!
April 11th, 2010 at 11:30 am
Hey – so, I just started a batch of this. It smells like milk and lemon, but it’s not curdled, and it just looks like milk+lemon and chocolate. Is it supposed to have that golden color during the first few days, or will it only come out that way after filtering it at the end? I’m a little apprehensive, but still faithful after reading these comments =)
April 11th, 2010 at 1:52 pm
Hi Alex, yours is great! It won’t look like final product until the final filter. It should look exactly as you described. So, now you just need to be patient and wait your 10 days!
April 13th, 2010 at 7:49 pm
So, I’ve got a follow-up question. I’m visiting my good friend this weekend, and I want to bring this over to maine to show off. However, it will only have been aged 7 days, and I’m worried that something will go wrong if I skip those last 72 hours… can I cheat a little and filter it after only a week?
April 13th, 2010 at 8:01 pm
I just finished my first batch and it’s amazing! I’m giving away most of it as a present but definitely reserving a bit for myself.
April 13th, 2010 at 8:32 pm
Give it a try! I haven’t done it, but nothing bad will happen- flavor might be a little less interesting.
April 15th, 2010 at 1:33 pm
Hi again… my batch is almost gone and was fantastic (have also ordered the book). Now I’ve set my sights on making the Pruneaux d’Agen liqueur mentioned above. Tim did you track down this recipe and are you planning to post a follow up to the milk liqueur with this? Fingers crossed. All the best
April 15th, 2010 at 7:38 pm
Hey Tony, I am in the process of researching the other liqueur but it will probably be a while before I get around to posting. If you are anxious to get started I would begin experimenting/researching. Glad you liked the milk liqueur! Will keep you posted.
April 15th, 2010 at 7:43 pm
So, I filtered it after a week, and it turned out great! It’s delicious. I guess it might have been slightly tastier and more amber-y if I’d left it in a few more days, but it’s fantastic nonetheless. Will definitely be making more!
April 18th, 2010 at 7:30 am
Hey Alex, thanks for the update. Glad everything went well!
June 18th, 2010 at 10:28 pm
So I just finished filtering this deliciousness. I used 190 proof Everclear and only let it set a week. It is a dark amber and tastes just like the fine chocolate I used in it. Very happy with the outcome.
June 19th, 2010 at 3:42 pm
Glad you like it, Katrina!
August 12th, 2010 at 5:23 pm
This sounds wonderful! The necessary ingredients are on the shopping list and I am eagerly anticipating the outcome. If my batch is a success, I plan to include it in gift baskets this Holiday Season with the Louisiana-style cherry liqueur (cherry bounce) and the limoncello I made last month. How much liqueuer does a batch make, and will this recipe stand up to being doubled? Or would it be best to simply make multiple single batches (my poor pantry will look like a science project gone wild! LOL) ? Your advice would be very much appreciated. :)
January 4th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
I can’t wait to try this! It’s so unusual and interesting. I hope you share the Frenchman’s recipe with all of us, when you get it!
January 12th, 2011 at 1:41 pm
This looks fantastic! I have been making liqueurs for years but i never imagined milk would produce a result like this. i am definitely going to try this – thanks for sharing!
As an aside, my favorite recipe is a good dose of hibiscus flowers (think five or six herb teabags), one lime (with rind) and a relatively small amount of sugar (so it isnt too syrupy sweet), made in 70cl of vodka! Both the flavor and colour are unbelievable.
Another quick ‘cheat’ recipe involves toasting an orange over the stove for a while, then putting the peel (only) in a nice whiskey with sugar and two cloves, then leaving it for a week – out of this world flavor.
January 20th, 2011 at 6:18 pm
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.
January 20th, 2011 at 6:19 pm
OMG! Ruining the taste, not urining!
February 11th, 2011 at 8:27 am
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?
February 16th, 2011 at 6:12 am
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?
February 16th, 2011 at 6:42 am
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?
February 16th, 2011 at 6:46 am
And Amanda, yes- filter it now. Don’t worry about curdling.
Rachel Lynn says:
February 20th, 2011 at 8:01 pm
I’m having the same problem: filtered twice through coffee filter, still milking looking. Mine went 15 days, no curdling.
February 20th, 2011 at 8:15 pm
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…
February 21st, 2011 at 4:12 pm
I strained it through the coffee filter. It’s beautiful and delicious! Thanks so much for posting an answer to my question!
February 24th, 2011 at 1:05 pm
Yay, Amanda! Glad to hear it worked out.
March 7th, 2011 at 10:10 pm
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!
March 15th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
I made this and it turned out AWESOME!!! Thanks so much!
September 4th, 2011 at 5:28 pm
I made this with rasberries and chocolate etc. and everyone RAVED!
December 31st, 2011 at 8:20 am
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?
January 18th, 2012 at 7:51 am
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.
January 18th, 2012 at 2:42 pm
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. ; )
January 19th, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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.
January 19th, 2012 at 1:28 pm
Hi Tami- Thanks for that very helpful comment. The pasteurization makes sense, I use dairy from a local farmer.
February 4th, 2012 at 6:42 pm
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
February 20th, 2012 at 4:11 pm
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.
March 9th, 2012 at 10:53 am
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.
March 9th, 2012 at 11:36 am
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)
April 5th, 2012 at 8:31 am
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!
August 27th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
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!
August 27th, 2012 at 4:02 pm
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.
November 28th, 2012 at 6:00 pm
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
November 28th, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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?
Beth C. says:
November 28th, 2012 at 9:18 pm
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!
Mary B says:
December 18th, 2012 at 5:43 pm
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.
December 19th, 2012 at 6:26 pm
Mine is filtering more clear than golden. It tastes great but any thoughts on the color?
January 27th, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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!
April 24th, 2014 at 12:23 pm
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.
April 24th, 2014 at 1:59 pm
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!
September 10th, 2015 at 1:31 am
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!!
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.
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.