Commercial fruit schnapps is expensive… but did you know that you can make your own? Use your favourite homegrown produce to create intense fruit liqueurs and thrill your friends. There are dozens of recipes online and there are even specialist books on the subject. Here’s our guide to making fruit schnapps.
Schnaps, Schnapps, Gin, and Wine…
There are some differentiations to be made before we start. You can use fruit to make a number of liqueur recipes, and they’re all a bit different. Schnaps (a German term) is different to Schnapps, which is the American word for a fruit-flavoured spirit. The former is made by fermenting fruit with yeast, and the latter is made by infusing a distilled spirit (such as vodka) with fresh fruit.
Of course, you can also make fruit gin – raspberry and sloe gin are very popular – and fruit wine. Gin is made by mixing fruit, sugar and bottled gin, and leaving the concoction to infuse before straining and drinking. Wine is a more complex process, and doesn’t involve any bottled spirits. Essentially, wine is made by fermenting fresh fruit in a bucket (with yeast, water and sugar) before straining into a jar (or demi-john), where the wine continues to ferment for a number of months. Finally the wine is siphoned into bottles, sealed and stored for a few more months before it’s ready to drink. Fruit wine is an established English tradition, and it’s the cheapest way to turn homegrown (or foraged) fruit into alcohol.
Making Schnapps – The Basics
To make schnapps, you’ll need:
Gin or vodka (your supermarket’s basic version is suitable)
Berries – blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, sloes, elderberries, or blueberries are all worth trying. You can also use apples, pears, or rhubarb. The fruit should be washed and dried, and bigger fruits cut into chunks.
Sugar – ordinary caster sugar is best (not pectin or jam sugar), but brown sugar will make the schnapps more golden.
A large kilner jar or demi-john with a bung or rubber lid that can be sealed tightly. Sterilise it before you start by washing in soapy water and drying in a low oven, or by using a commercial sterilising solution (sold for wine making).
The amount of sugar, fruit and alcohol should be measured proportionally. That means that you should fill between a quarter and a fifth of the jar with sugar, then another quarter/fifth of fruit, and finally top up with spirit. Before blending sugar and fruit, taste the fruit for sweetness. If it’s already sweet, you will not need much sugar at all. And remember that you can add sugar at a later stage, when the schnapps has been infusing – it’s better to begin with too little.
When your jar is filled, seal it tightly and put into a dark place to infuse. The high alcohol content in the spirit will preserve the fruit, although the fruit’s colour will probably fade as it transmits to the schnapps. Taste it after a couple of months and add more sugar if you like. If the flavour is intense enough for your liking, strain the schnapps into clean, sterilised bottles and label carefully. If not, replace the jar and leave for another month before tasting it again.
Once you’ve tried one recipe, you’ll have more confidence to change the amounts and add your own flavourings. Try a cinnamon stick with 2 chopped apples, or a vanilla pod with cranberries to make festively-flavoured schnapps. Blend your favourite homegrown berries and make your own schnapps cocktails! It’s also worth experimenting with the proportions of fruit and sugar that you put in. When you bottle the schnapps, make a note of the recipe you used, so that you will be able to recreate it if the schnapps tastes great in a few months’ time.