In the Catskills, you learn the sound of animals. The peck, peck and hissing of a wild turkey as she fights with her own image in a window pane. You’d think the window was about to break.

Or the snort of a mountain lion. No, they can’t growl. They snort. How would you recognize it? Oh, trust me. When we had one in our front yard, and Suzen and I were hugging each other like our first night together, the conversation went something like this:

“You go look to see if it is still there.”

“You go.”

“No, you.”


“Why me?”

“Because you are the girl.”

A month ago, there was another sound but I knew the species: wifus frustratedus. Yes, Suzen was in the panty and unhappy.

“What is it?” I poked my head in.

“This!” Her hand was on the shelf she has for vinegars and olive oils. We don’t have enough to open up a museum, but we could do a serious popup.

“Well,” I reached forward.

“No,” she corrected, “this.” Her hand now pointed to the shelf above. The one where I store supplies for cocktail research. “Is there an orange liqueur that you don’t own?”

“Maybe one. From Albania,” I admitted.

“I need space. Can’t you do something?”

“Actually, Suzen, I began the solution yesterday. It will just take a month.”

“A month? A MONTH?” Eyes rolled as she walked past. She did not hear my explanation, but I had one.

And now, that month has passed, and I do have a solution. I can eliminate most [but not all!] of those orange liqueurs. And, without ego, I want to say: this:

I made my own orange liqueur and it is wonderful, awesome, excellent.

How? I followed the recipe for Triple Sec in Luscious Liqueurs by A. J. Rathbun. This slim volume has recipes for over 80 home-made liqueurs. I’m working my way through, page by page and this orange gem is the first to complete the process. Each recipe takes, from start to finish, several weeks. Each week and each step is definitely worth the effort.

While the book calls this Triple Sec, I am calling it Orange Liqueur. Triple Sec is, by reputation, the lowest common denominator of orange-flavored liqueurs. This creation is the equal of fine liqueurs, such as my favorite, Mandarin Napoleon.

I’ve enjoyed this liqueur on its own, at room temperature and chilled. In a margarita, it’s sublime. The flavor is sweet and not complex: just pure orange intensity, with none of those chemically aftertastes that can come with, say, conventional Triple Sec.

Of course, since it is so good, I’ll need to make a lot more. And that will mean I need shelf space. I wonder how best to explain this to Suzen.

For the vodka to use here, go with a moderately priced brand. You don’t need expensive, but you want underlying quality.

Homemade Orange Liqueur

Yield: a bit over 1 quart


  • 4-5 medium to large oranges, as sweet as possible
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups vodka


Wash, dry, and peel 2 of the oranges, trimming away any white pith. Put the peels in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.

Juice all the oranges. You need 1 cups of orange juice.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, stir well, and turn on the heat to medium. Slowly add the orange juice, stirring all the while. Raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture just to a boil. Lower the hat a bit and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Add the orange syrup you just made and the vodka to the peels, stir well, and seal. Place in a cool dry spot away from sunlight. Let the liqueur stay calm, except for occasional swirlings for 1 month.

If it is really pulpy, filet the liqueur first through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Otherwise, just strain through a double layer of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other easy-pouring vessel. Strain again through 2 new layers of cheesecloth into a 1 large bottle or a number of small bottles or jars.

Source: Luscious Liqueurs by A. J. Rathbun