Some food, some drink.
Homespun Holiday Hooch: Do-it-yourself Cinnamon Schnapps.
A warm fire, a brilliant Christmas tree, good company, and full bottle of cinnamon schnapps. It's just not the Holidays around here without cinnamon schnapps to sip on; and the best kind of schnapps is the kind you make yourself! With a few simple ingredients and some careful attention, a big ol' bottle of spicy-smooth homemade cinnamon schnapps can be made for pennies on the dollar. Also makes a thoughtful gift for those on your list who like to imbibe!
If you're the visual type, then you'll want to check out this companion video for this schnapps recipe. And don't forget to subscribe to my Youtube Channel for my latest recipe videos!
I think it's common knowledge that a person in a committed relationship tends to get the rest family in tow with said commitment (whether they like it or not). I've never had problems with my in-laws, but If I'm to be completely honest, our common appreciation for the great social equalizer that is booze can be given alotta credit for that. Whether it be a party, a stag, or a holiday proper, there's something both comfortable and enjoyable about sitting down and having a few drinks with family and close friends. As if we actually needed something to talk about after the second round, the conversation often turns to the beverages themselves, as I drink amongst those that like to diy. I've dabbled with things like homemade coffee liquor (that's Kahlua people), ginger beer, and even infused vodka for that special Bloody Mary; but it's my father-in-law that introduced me to the easy-sipping delight that is homemade cinnamon schnapps.
Every year around Christmas, my wife's dad whips up a mess of home-spun hooch from a recipe that he keeps in his head; mentally transcribed from a sheet of loose-leaf acquired from a neighbor whose handwriting you'd need a Rosetta Stone to decipher. Even if you don't adhere to scientific method, you don't have to connect too many dots to realize that like so many tall tales and campfire stories, this recipe is in a constant state of flux. to my father-in-law's credit, in the thirteen years I've known my wife, I've seen the man's recipe morph from liquor that was passed around when everything else was gone to the thing pulled from the cabinet first when company comes to call. What he did this year was good enough that my mother-in-law actually wrote it down for posterity. This was my chance: I snapped a shot of the recipe card with my phone, and took it home to tinker (hey, you didn't really think I'd do a recipe as wrote, did ya?).
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Add corn syrup, sugar, and 16 oz of the distilled water to a saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve, CAREFULLY add the cinnamon oil, stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves completely. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to simmer for 5 additional minutes whisking occasionally to ensure that the oil integrates into the sugar syrup completely. Take the syrup off the heat, stir in the remaining 28 oz of water along with the glycerine, and check to ensure that the temperature is well below 172F before adding the grain alcohol (mine was 109F). Add food coloring if desired and store in a glass bottle.
Take a gooood look at that ingredient list. Most of what you need here is stuff that you absolutely shouldn't be futzing with unless you know what you're doing. Warning labels abound:
- Cinnamon oil - There's a reason you gotta go to the pharmacy counter for this stuff (Internet not withstanding): Shit is po-tent! If you've ever played with chiles bare-handed (and I do) that ain't nuthin'. Seriously, cinnamon oil will irritate your skin, melt plastic(!), and its vapors have the potential to wreak apocalyptic havoc on your mucous membranes. Can't emphasize it enough: Be careful and read the damn label!
- Glycerine (lord no; not that Glycerine) - Here's another one that you may have to ask your pharmacist for if you can't wait for the Interwebs to speed it your way. Food-grade glycerine is often listed for topical use only because dumb people would ingest too much and acquire what a good friend of mine would refer to as "intestinal yoga". Two Teaspoons is all you need in 1.75 liters to provide that viscosity that people associate with mass-produced schnapps. It's also totally optional if mouth feel ain't tops on your list.
100% Grain Alcohol - You know this stuff is volatile and highly flammable right? One too many college parties should have also told you that this stuff should be diluted to be consumed - a lot (of dilution; not consumption). You must know the temperature of your flavor base before adding ethyl alcohol to the mix. Ethanol boils at 172F, so you're gonna need to be a lot lower than that to be safe. I added my white lightning after the other ingredients cooled to a measured temperature under 110F.
- Food coloring is optional; though given the ingredient list, it's a safe bet that you're probably not too concerned about things being all-natural. The rule of thumb around here is to add color only in situations where there is no fear of schnapps being spilled on the carpet.
- On the subject of 'natural', you see that I'm employing corn syrup here. First of all, this is not the high-fructose variety that gets folks up in arms nowadays. Second, there are plenty of wonderful things that come outta corn syrup. The original recipe acquired by my father-in-law used all sugar, but I encouraged him to start adding corn syrup to the recipe to improve the physical properties for three reasons (and keep in mind this is all my conjecture): First, the presence of an inverted sugar keeps the sucrose from crystallizing. Second, it also helps to better keep the oil in suspension. Third, even without the presence of glycerine, the overall mouthfeel of the finished product improves.
The final product is a schnapps that's just perfect for sipping. If you believe my math, this recipe creates a bottle that's about 16.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), or 33 proof; which is pretty much on par with a lot of what you'd be picking up from the package store. Around here, a bottle is best enjoyed right out of the fridge or sipped over ice, as the contrast between cool and spicy makes it all the more enjoyable. For something more along the lines of a highball, you can't go wrong with a 50/50 mix of cinnamon schnapps and lemon lime soda. In an inspired moment, I've also made holiday boilermakers by dropping a shot glass of homemade schnapps into a pint of hard cider (homebrew or otherwise).
As far as taste's concerned, this is a schnapps that has just enough cinnamon to make it potent without being overbearing. You know it's balanced because although the cinnamon makes your lips tingle, every sip (or shot) goes down so smooth that there's really no need for expletives between rounds. With a gentle, easy drinking demeanor and a fiery brilliant gem-like color, this cinnamon schnapps is as close as it gets to putting the holidays in a bottle.