Liqueur Making Workshop, Combe Grove - Bath

I recently visited Combe Grove for a delicious evening meal. You can read about my experience here, which may help with Valentine's Day approaching next Tuesday! The hotel restaurant will be hosting a Valentines Tasting Menu and this will be running from Friday 10th - Saturday 18th February...

Combe Grove kindly invited me back to attend their first Liqueur Making Workshop of 2017, which took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon in January. Our masterclass was hosted by Combe Grove's Head Barman, Shane Turner...

Shane began with asking us the question, "what is a liqueur?" (Hold that thought!) He then gave us a brief history on each of the liqueurs that lined the table; where they came from, and, what different processes are used to make them. We listened on whilst enjoying a glass of homemade strawberry, mint and cucumber cordial.

So, what is a liqueur? I was none the wiser until Shane informed us that a liqueur is a flavoured, sweetened liquor, of at least 15% ABV (alcohol by volume) and, which consists of at least 100 grams of sugar per litre. The spirit dates back to the early part of the 13th century in Italy, and, it is understood that, as soon as we were making sugar, we realised this sweet carbohydrate could make drinks taste far more palatable too. 

Interestingly, I also wasn't aware that any spirit with the word 'crème' before it, has a higher content of sugar. A liqueur such as Crème de Cassis, has ~450 grams of sugar per litre of spirit! Definitely a tipple you would want to go easy on! 

Here we have a French coffee liqueur, which, instead of being made with a plain base alcohol, is prepared with a fine aged rum base. We didn't sample this, but you can expect sweet and spicy notes of vanilla, cocoa and liquorice (and not quite as much sugar, I think!).

Next up, how liqueurs are made? Shane demonstrated two different ways of producing limoncello. First up, a cheaper, quicker, easier method is by 'cold compounding' the spirit. Highly concentrated flavouring essences are combined with neutral alcohol. Pictured below, this bottle contains ~5 ml of lemon flavouring, which will be enough for a litre of the finished spirit! Shane informed/warned us, that this method produces liqueurs that can taste synthetic and lack any real depth.

So, as an alternative method to making limoncello, there is the process of 'maceration'. Fruit is added to a neutral spirit, bottled and then left to absorb. As an example, Shane showed us a limoncello that he had started making a month previously; ~20 lemon peels and two bottles of vodka were in the jar...

...and to these ingredients, Shane added sugar and water to blend and reduce the intensity of the flavouring...

A much purer, fresher more intense hit of zesty lemon awakened the senses! 

We sampled both versions of the limoncello. I preferred the natural, traditional method of adding freshly infused lemon peel...

It was then time to whip up our own infused tipple to take away. We were given ample choice of fresh fruits, herbs and spices that we could use to create our liqueur. From sage and thyme...

...to coconuts, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cucumbers...

...strawberries...

...oranges, peaches and pears!!!

With so much choice, it wasn't easy to narrow down the ingredients I wanted to add to my jar! However, with the help and guidance of Shane, I opted for peaches, mint and rose petals.

To begin, I roughly chopped the fruit into the air-tight kilner jar...

...added approx 20 mint leaves

...stirred the mixture together...

...then finally introduced edible dried rose petals (a small handful).

I then opted for honey rather than sugar to be added to the kilner jar, which was then finally filled to the brim with a bottle of vodka! Everybody set to work assembling their chosen ingredients...

...and soon the long table was filled with gorgeous, colourful kilner jars...

Shimmering like jewels in the late afternoon sun.

The masterclass was a wonderful experience and I certainly left with a few new facts and a delicious keepsake (which I cannot wait to crack open this summer!) Thank you to Shane, and the team at Combe Grove for kindly inviting me to join in.

If a Liqueur Making Workshop tickles your fancy, then check out their available dates over here