Simplicity and Libations for the Holidays

We are trying something new this year… and I must admit I’m a little bit nervous. As a family, we decided that we wanted to simplify Christmas and focus on the joy of being together. So, for the first time ever, the adults are not exchanging gifts. Gulp and Yikes! I am not buying my babies gifts! Again, Gulp and Yikes! We can, however, make something small for one another… jars of jam, a tin of shortbread, or in our case, homemade liqueurs.

Actually, there is a reason we went this route. First off… I was going to make a “six pack” of unusual jams and jellies for each family. I had visions of jalapeno jelly, apple butter and tomato jam. Well, summer came and went with nothing to show for it! (Uh, I did get as far as to buy lovely tall canning jars… I’ll be ready next year :) Anyway, I needed a Plan B.

My father helped me formulate Plan B. Soon after I was married, my father started making his own Kahlua. A month or two before Christmas, he’d make up a batch, and give a bottle to each family as a gift. He did this for many years, until his disease, frontal lobe dementia, robbed him of his normal routines. Sadly, as each year goes by, my dad slips farther and farther away from us. There is now little left of the father I knew, but I decided to carry on his tradition, thereby including him in our celebration, even in this small way.

So, with the help of my trusty sidekick, Timothy, we made a batch of Kahlua. I swear it was an accident, although I’ve been accused otherwise, but I miscalculated, and we made twice as much as we needed. Oops! Something tells me it won’t go to waste! We also found and made a recipe for a Butterscotch Liquor that I can’t wait to taste!

So, this Christmas, things will be a little different. Hopefully, as a family, we will take joy in our new tradition, simplifying, and perhaps add another tradition that has its roots in an old tradition started by my dad :)   

BTW… Before anyone asks… We bought our bottles and bottle tops online from Quality Wine and Ale Supply. We purchased the assorted wine bottle collection and the expansion stoppers. They look so pretty lined up on my cabinet!


KAHLUA – Makes 1/2 gallon
2 cups boiling water
3 cups sugar
1/3 cup instant coffee
1 fifth 100 proof vodka
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (very important not to use imitation vanilla)
Combine boiling water with instant coffee. As soon as the coffee dissolves, add sugar. Allow to cool to room temp. Add vodka and vanilla. Pour the mixture into a big bottle (at least 1/2 gallon jug) and cover. Set aside for at least 30 days. Shake the bottle each day. Keep tightly closed. 



1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup 100 proof vodka
1/2 teaspoon butterscotch flavored extract
Bring sugar and water to boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat stirring constantly. When the sugar water mixture turns clear, remove from heat. Cool to room temp. Add brandy, vodka, and extract. Pour the mixture into a 1 quart container and cover. Set aside for at least 30 days. Shake the bottle each day. Keep tightly closed.







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  1. Darcy Campton says

    Perfect. Every year we give small gifts to our employees. We are so doing this. Thanks. The photos are incredible, btw.

    Sorry to hear about your dad. We went through the same thing with my mum. Not an easy path to travel. God Bless.

  2. Butterscotch Fan says

    These look delicious!

    Any idea how long they last? Do I need to keep shaking them daily after the 30 day wait period?

    Thanks very much!

    • Kimara says

      One bottle my dad made was hiding in the back of our cabinet. When we took it our, we realized it was 10 years old. It was the BEST Kahlua we ever tasted. It was so rich and mellow. I can't tell you if it will last longer than 10 years, because the family quickly enjoyed the bottle, but you certainly don't need to worry about it going bad. As a matter of fact, the liqueur is ready to drink in 30 days, if you can be patient, it really is better several months, even a year later.

      After shaking the bottles every day day for 30 days, you no longer need to do that. But, we always give the bottle a couple of shakes before we pour a drink.

      Enjoy. It is easy to make and very yummy :)

    • Kimara says

      A "fifth" is a fifth of a gallon, or 4/5 quart: approximately 750 ml.

      A fifth is a common way to buy alcohol. It is the tall, thin bottles. So, you need 1 bottle or 1 fifth.

      Hope that makes sense now :)

  3. guest says

    We use grain alcohol (190 proof) and bakers flavorings (the extract contains alcohol) to make a bunch of different liquors. We “specialize” in sambuca but have made peach brandy, guilliano, coffee brandy and lemon cello. It’s a great holiday tradition. We even have a liquor making party so everyone can taste test.

    • Kimara says

      To be honest, I don't know. It seems to me you should be able to. It shouldn't affect the flavor. And as far as "shelf life" is concerned, it doesn't seem like there should be any significant differences. You could certainly do a more thorough investigation online if you have any concerns, but I think you will find that it just won't be quite as "potent" as the 100 proof.

  4. Guest says

    Is there a way to change the butterscotch recipe a little bit so that it is thinker and creamy. I love this recipe, but I’d like it to be cream-based, if possible, so it’s not just flavored vodka.

    • Kimara says

      I have never made a creamy liquor before… but I love drinking them :) Typically, I serve our liquors with half and half. If people want to make them creamy, they ad fresh cream. If you do come up with a recipe for one, please share. I'd love to hear how it turns out.

  5. says

    any suggestions on a type of coffee to use in this recipe? I got something cheap, but it smelled really burnt, so I pitched it rather than ruin an entire bottle of vodka. Now I am trying to figure out a good instant coffee brand.

    • Kimara says

      We just used Folgers Classic Roast and it came out yummy. We gave away about half our bottles last year, and now that we have some that is a year old, it is so mellow and delicious. Although both the butterscotch and the kahlua say it is ready in 30 days, we found the butterscotch tastes great in 30 days, but it is best to give the kahlua more time :) 

  6. Danelle says

    For the Kahlua, you said to pour into a 1/2 gallon jug for 30 days.
    Does this have to happen or can you divide the Kahlua amongst several smaller bottles (750ml or 375ml) and shake those for 30 days as well.

    Thank you!

    • Kimara says

      You pour it into a larger container because it takes a while for all the coffee to get thoroughly mixed into the liquids. If you never shook the bottle, at the end of 30 days you would find sediment in the bottom of the bottle. You shake it every day to make sure everything mixes together. The single bottle makes it easy. You can pour it into individual bottles to start, but make sure you keep mixing up the liquid before you fill each bottle. The coffee will begin settling immediately. If you don’t mix, some bottles with wind up with more coffee than the others.

      So… yes you can… but it is much easier to control the quality if you keep it in the one bottle.


  7. Bill says

    Love seeing these. I’ve been making my own Limoncello, makes a great cheese cake, for years and it’s so simple.

    Zest 10 large lemons, I like to use a micro grater so I get a lot of really fine strands and put them all into a Mason jar big enough to hold a fifth, 750ml, bottle of Vodka, I like to use Tito’s. Once you have all the zest in therer pour in the Vodka, close up the jar and set it on a shelf. You can let it go for as little as 4 days but i like to let it go for 15 to 30 days. I also like to give the jar a little shake every morning as I wait for the coffee to make.

    When it’s done steeping add 3 1/2 cups sugar to 2 1/2 cups of water to a medium saucepan. Stir the water and sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the lemon zest. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold.


    • Kimara says

      OMStars this sounds INCREDIBLE! I am a nut for lemons. At restaurants I ask for water with an obscene amount of lemons. I’ve come to realize I tend to tip based on how many lemons slices they bring me. One waitress brought out an entire lemon sliced. I offered her my first born 😉 I am going to start a batch this weekend. Thanks for taking the time to share the recipe. I may well turn it into a blog pots. Many ((hugs)) ~Kimara~

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