How To Make Homemade Calamansi Liqueur
By Gabrielle Vernon Melzer
I’m from Boston. It’s cold. Growing up, my idea of tropical fruit growing up was a starchy, imported banana. Citrus was probably the most tangible of the warm-weather fruits; we ate oranges from Florida and lemons from California, but they were a treat from afar. I had never heard of calamansi.
Perhaps this explains why, now, as an adult, I am obsessed with the calamansi tree in my front yard. I live on the other side of the world now, in Melbourne. I tried the incomparable fruit on a stopover in Manila, on the journey that brought me to Australia. I was in love from the first time I smelled it sizzle over my plate of sisig.
Though it is most popular in the Philippines, calamansi can be found under different aliases around the world. Throughout Malaysia, its juice is served chilled in hawker stalls under the name limau kastu. In parts of Japan, a nearly identical fruit called shikawasa can be found everywhere from soaps to beer. Even the lands of my faraway childhood fruits, Florida and California, grow plenty of fragrant calamondin trees.
Like those in the warmer parts of the USA, Melbourne’s calamansi trees are often grown for ornamental purposes rather than culinary. I see them everywhere here. They are a sight to behold; glossy fragrant leaves studded with orange marbles standing bright against the blue sky. For my first few months Down Under, I didn’t make the connection that this attractive tree was bearing the same fruit I’d tasted in Manila. After moving into our house, we had some family for dinner. The first thing my sister in law said when she walked through the door was, “You have a calamansi tree in your front yard!” For months, she’d been telling me the trees were all over Melbourne, but I’d been looking for green fruit. I later learned that in cooler climates such as southern Australia, the skin of the fruit turns orange faster.
I immediately began to use it. I’ve used it in cooking, drinks, and have even begun to save the seeds for cultivation. Everybody I know will be gifted calamansi trees eventually; at least, that’s the hope.
My favourite use for the calamansi so far has been this homemade liqueur. It takes a few weeks to come together, but is well worth the wait. Try mixing it with sparkling water or tonic for an easy, refreshing cocktail. It can also replace cointreau or other citrus-based spirits in recipes. It’s a great “secret ingredient” in cakes and marinades, and a perfect accompaniment to ice cream.
Photo by Gabrielle Vernon Melzer
Homemade Calamansi Liqueur
25-30 whole calamansi fruit
3 calamansi leaves (can sub lemon or lime leaf)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 bottle of vodka
- Juice all of the calamansi, reserving both the skins and the juice. Discard any seeds. The juice can be packed away in a container and kept in the fridge or freezer until Step 5.
- Place the skins into a large, sterilised jar, and pour over the vodka. Make sure it has a tight lid. Keep in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks. Give it a good shake every day.
- After a couple weeks of infusion, it’s time to make the liqueur! First, make the syrup. Tear your calamansi leaves in half and put them in a heatproof bowl. Bring your sugar and water to a quick boil and then remove from heat. Pour over the calamansi leaves and swirl them around a bit, using tongs. Remove the leaves the place the bowl in your fridge to cool.
- Strain the infused vodka into a large, sterilised jar or bottle. Use a spoon to press down on the calamansi skins to extract every drop of delicious liquid.
- When the syrup has cooled, add it to the vodka, along with the reserved calamansi juice.
- Give it a good shake. Your liqueur is ready! Enjoy!