This year, the holidays are probably going to look a bit different than what we’re used to, as we stay closer to home and keep our gatherings small. We might not get to see all of our loved ones in person, but you can still show them how much you care with homemade gifts straight from your kitchen. And while cookies and jams are always nice, a festive bottle of something special is even better.

Liqueurs and other bottled drinks are surprisingly easy and affordable to make, can be stored in nearly any kind of lidded glass jar or bottle, and will stay fresh for months at a time. These are some of my personal favorites for make-ahead beverages, and I’ve found them to be the perfect gift for friends and family. Not to mention, they’re so delicious, you might end up keeping at least a few bottles for yourself!

Coffee Liqueur

This homemade coffee flavored liqueur is best when it has at least a couple weeks to set. You can use vodka or rum for the alcohol base, whichever you prefer.

Ingredients:

2 cups white sugar

2 cups brown sugar

4 cups water

4 Tablespoons (2 oz) instant coffee granules

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and halved

1 750ml bottle vodka or light rum

Bring water to a boil and add both sugars, stirring well until the sugars dissolve completely, then add the instant coffee. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately three hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then add vanilla, vanilla bean, and alcohol. Store in a sealed glass container (a large glass jar with a lid works well) in a cool dark place for at least two weeks. Using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth, strain the liqueur to remove any pieces of vanilla bean, then divide into individual bottles for gifting.

Irish Cream

If you enjoy drinking Bailey’s over ice, you’ll love this quick and easy version. Be warned, you’ll probably need to make multiple batches once your friends and family get a taste! For best results, be sure to choose a decent quality of whiskey.

Ingredients:

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons chocolate syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 2/3 cup Irish whiskey

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about one minute. Pour into bottles or other sealable containers and store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Limoncello

A homemade version of the classic Italian drink, limoncello liqueur takes a little time (and a lot of lemons!) but the results are worth it.

Zest from 10 lemons

1 liter of vodka

3 cups sugar

4 cups water

Place the lemon zest in a large glass bowl and add vodka. Cover and let sit for about one week at room temperature. After the vodka is fully infused, combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, boiling for 15 minutes without stirring. Cool to room temperature, then add to vodka mixture. Strain into glass bottles and seal, then allow the liqueur to age at room temperature for another two weeks. Store in the refrigerator or freezer and serve cold.

Cranberry Liqueur

Nothing says holidays quite like the bright, tart flavor of cranberries, and this cranberry liqueur is a delicious treat that packages up beautifully. It also keeps very well either in the refrigerator or at room temperature, lasting for about a year.

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

12oz package of fresh cranberries

3 cups vodka 

Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water and bringing to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then cool to room temperature. Finely mince the cranberries in a food processor, then combine them with the vodka and simple syrup. Pour into a couple of large glass jars and seal, storing in a cool dark place for up to three weeks and shaking the jar every couple of days. After three weeks, strain using cheesecloth and transfer to glass bottles.

About Jody Ellis

Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and style. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.

View all posts by Jody Ellis

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