Mmmmm. Oranges. I love them. Dearly.
I’ve even been known to eat the peels of oranges, candied or not; minus the pith, of course! Orange is one of my favorite flavors to add to baked goods, hot drinks, custards, and more. Sometimes that’s easily accomplished by squeezing a little wedge of orange into or over a dish, but sometimes it requires a little more finesse. Sometimes it requires Grand Marnier.
This classic liqueur is basically the essence of oranges blended with cognac (fancy-pants brandy). There are times when that small addition of alcohol is necessary to release flavors that otherwise would remain sadly locked away in their little alcohol-soluble encapsulated molecules*. And there is no substitute for a little nip of something potent at those times.
*Think tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, etc… All of those have flavors that cannot reach their full potential unless joined with alcohol. I’m not saying you have to drown your food, I’m just saying a judicious glug added to a recipe can make the difference between ‘great’ and ‘spectacular’.
A couple weeks ago, I shared my recipe for Blueberry Tiramisu and a quick, informal poll showed that most of you wanted to know how to make a Homemade Grand Marnier Clone. This means one of two things:
- You want to refill the bottle of the ‘real’ stuff you bottomed out when you generously made margaritas for your entire neighborhood. Or…
- You, like me, just want to prove that you can do it better than ‘the man’ does. You know. The ‘Grand Marnier’ man. Sitting in his fancy chateau in Les Alpes, sipping his apéritif and laughing haughtily at all the hoi polloi paying big money through the nose for something that can be made so easily at home. *Insert snooty Gallic snicker here.
Well, one way or the other, I’m your gal. There is one really difficult thing in this recipe, though; you’re going to have to wait 2-6 months after putting it together before you start sipping if you want it to taste like the real deal. Of course, if you’re popping it in a blender with a bunch of ice, some sugar syrup, lime juice and tequila, you have my blessing to cheat on that time frame a bit. I mean honestly. Is it REALLY going to make a difference how ’round’ a flavor you have if you’re going that direction?
But if you want to sip on this or use it in cheesecakes or dunk ladyfingers in it for tiramisu or add it to pastry cream or drizzle it over crêpes prior to flambéeing the tar out of them, you may want to go that extra mile. Trust me.
Psst. Hey. Want to impress your favorite food or wine or cocktail aficionado? Decant the finished liqueur into a beautiful bottle with a cork or stopper, wrap with a lush (pun intended) ribbon and watch their jaws drop and eyes pop when you tell them what’s in it. I tried this out on my favorite wine snob (her description, not mine) friend and asked her whether she thought it measured up to the real thing. Her response? “This is amazing! This is BETTER than Grand Marnier! Grand Marnier WISHES it tasted like this.”
For a photo-free, printer-friendly version of this recipe with no blah-blah, click here!
Homemade Grand Marnier Clone
While this is a project that is simple, it is definitely one that requires forethought. At a bare minimum, this liqueur takes 2 months to be ready. And yes, it will be delicious at 2 months, but if you go all out, whole hog, pedal to the metal and give it the full six months to age you will be rewarded with an amazing depth of flavor and smoothness. Of course, if your patience is anything like mine, you’ll want to try it sooner, so do what I do: divvy the batch into two containers, one for now and one for later. ~or~ Double the batch! You could quadruple it for the same price as a 750ml bottle of the real deal. And I think you’ll find that this is not only just as good as the ‘benchmark’ but even better!
- The zest of 8 oranges (gently washed and toweled dry before hand). Take care to get the zest only- no white pith!
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- 4 cups brandy (Using a better quality brandy or cognac will result in a much smoother sipping finished product.)
- optional, 1 teaspoon liquid vegetable glycerine (This creates a finished product with a more velvety mouth feel.)
Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the sugar over the zest in a mid-sized bowl or mortar and squish together with a pestle or the back of a heavy spoon.
Continue smooshing and adding sugar 1/4 cup at a time until the sugar and orange zest are almost paste-like.
Transfer this mixture to a large, clean jar with a tight fitting lid.
Pour the brandy over the mixture and stir well.
~And here is where the photos stop. Honestly, I’m all out of the aged stuff and I’m not willing to wait 6 months before I post this recipe for you. Take my word for it. It’s pretty and it’s delicious. I’ve made it many times before. Remember my amazing yet ill-fated Blueberry Tiramisu? That *sob* work of art used the very last of my Homemade Grand Marnier Clone. (Blasted dog!) So if you make this now, we’ll have it available at just about the same time. To your health!
Cap tightly and age 1-3 months, shaking weekly, in a cool, dark place. (Basements are usually perfect for this!)
After at least 4 weeks (the longer you let this age, the better it will be!) shake the jar well and pour the mixture through a fine mesh stainless-steel strainer into a bowl or large measuring cup with a spout. Rinse the strainer and the jar that you used to age the liqueur. Line the strainer with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel and pour the liqueur back into the aging jar. If using the liquid glycerine, stir it in at this point. Cap tightly again and continue aging for an additional 1-3 months.