Apricot cordial for the holidays
Just buy a pound of dried apricots (get California apricots, which are tangier and more aromatic than the cheap imported kind). Put them in a large jar, add two cups of sugar and enough vodka to cover the apricots by about an inch -- up to one and a half 750-ml bottles of vodka. You can vary this to taste. Put in more sugar if you want it sweeter, more apricots if you want it tangier. Light rum can substitute for the vodka, or part of it.
Then seal the jar and wait, shaking it once a day until the sugar dissolves. Immediately the liquor will start taking on a beautiful tawny color. Add more vodka if it sinks below the level of the apricots. This will make about a quart.
The flavor will improve for up to six weeks, but the cordial is thoroughly drinkable after four -- mellow and soothing, a taste of drowsy summer. Throw some into Champagne to make an apricot Bellini. (If you like the flavor of prunes, you can make a prune cordial the same way, but go a little easy on the sugar -- you can always add some when you're ready to decant the result.)
Here's a little trick. To punch up the apricot flavor, add half a teaspoon or so of almond extract.
And here's another. When you've strained the apricot cordial from the fruit, save the apricots. They make a grown-up garnish for ice cream.
-- Charles Perry
Photo by Charles Perry