Homemade is better - well, in most things that is. I'm talking about homemade cordials and liqueurs. One of the things I love about making my own is that I can control the alcohol, sugar levels as well as flavoring. Plus it's crazy easy! For example - many liqueurs call for vanilla, and I'm in love with Ronald Reginald's Melipone Mexican Vanilla, which I swear by and use for anything that calls for vanilla. Bonus: it pairs beautifully with coffee for those in love with Kahlua.
In most cases, making your own flavored liqueurs is a lot less expensive, unless your focus is on high alcohol percentages, which you totally can do. I'm guessing it depends on what you plan to use it for - sipping straight? Get the higher quality. The brand names you get in the store usually have lower percentages, not to mention they are often mixed into cocktails with alcohol that do have a higher percentage. That said, you do you boo. I'm not here to judge.
Every year, I stock my crisper drawer with GLBC's Christmas Ale, (yes, I'm one of those people - if that's your pet peeve, I do save the other crisper drawer for actual vegetables), and for years would also stock my liquor cabinet with Kahlua to make a taste beer cocktail which I call the Twisted Christmas Ale.... Then one year when the budget was tight, I did what I always do when that happens; I make it myself. Then, I learned really fast that mine had way more flavor and generally tasted better than what I was buying. Below, I've gathered a few favorites to make - they do make great little gifts - just be sure to keep some for yourself!
2-3 c Freshly Brewed Strong, Hot Coffee
2-3 c Rum
2-4 c Sugar
1-2 T Vanilla Extract, or a Vanilla Bean, cut lengthwise.
Mix sugar and coffee together; if using vanilla bean, add while the coffee is still hot - it will release more flavor. Let the mix cool and add rum and vanilla extract (if using instead of vanilla bean). Vanilla extract can lose flavor with heat. Taste-test and adjust any ingredients if needed. Store in a cool place for 3 or 4 weeks, (if you can wait that long). If using a vanilla bean, leave it in the mixture for how ever many weeks you can wait to enjoy.
2 c Water
2 c Sugar
1/2 c Brown Sugar
2 c Vodka
2 T Almond Extract
1 T Vanilla Extract
In a pan, combine water and sugars, dissolve sugars and bring to a boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, add vodka and extracts. Store in a cool dark place.
Raspberry (or Blackberry) Liqueur
3 c Vodka
2 c Fresh (or Frozen) Raspberries or Blackberries
2 c Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean (cut lengthwise and divided) or, 1 T Vanilla Extract.
Add vanilla bean, (or extract divided equally), berries and sugar (divided equally) between 2 quart jars, then fill jars with vodka. Shake to combine and to help dissolve sugar. Place in the fridge, and shake a couple of times a day for at least a week.