At its simplest, liqueur-making involves fairly few tools: a jar to steep and/or age in, a funnel, a filter or two, and a sauce-pan to boil sugar and water together. But I quickly found that I wanted more specific tools, and a wider variety of options in my preparations.
The most important part of liqueur-making is the glass jar. I use these jars for steeping, aging and for filtering back and forth. They make the perfect container for every stage of the process. From the beginning I've been using latched jars like these, primarily because Meilach and Meilach recommended it. These jars come in many shapes and sizes - pictured here is a square 1.5 liter jar from Fidenza of Italy. The rubber ring you see is supposed to be replaced and destroyed after one use, but thankfully they are a standard size and shape, so you can buy a stash of them and use them on every jar you own.
After a few years of small batches, I decided I wanted to make liqueurs in somewhat larger volume than I had been, so I went down to my local beer-making store and picked up this fine 5-gallon carboy (shown here 3/4 full of steeping cranberry liqueur). I use it for cranberry production, mostly because I make more cranberry liqueur than anything else. But I don't think I'd have any troubles doing some other flavors in it. The only limitation is that the neck is only about an inch in diameter, making getting things out of the carboy somewhat difficult, so I couldn't do things like nectarine or apple. And since I only have one carboy, I can only age in it if I don't make anything else at that time. One important consideration before using the carboy is the array of items needed to support large-scale operations - basically big buckets and nylon mesh bags. To work with four or five gallons at a time requires that you have a complete set of tools of a large enough scale. If you're going to work with carboy-sized batches, make sure you also get a food-grade 6-gallon bucket with a spigot, and a large sparging bag (which will take the place of the cheese-cloth for the first filtration).
The next item I have to show is a wonderful little device used for washing bottles. Basically, you screw it on to your kitchen faucet, and turn the water on. There's a thin metal rod which wraps around the outside, and extends inside the tip of the main tube. When there's water pressure, the rod is pushed out, which closes off the tube. Put the bottle over the end and press down on the rod where it bends off to the side, and you push the rod back into the tube, releasing the water. Since the end of the tube is much smaller than your faucet, you get a high-pressure stream of hot water, which scours your bottles out for you. You can also use it for jars and the like, or just to squirt water at your significant other.
All photographs Copyright © 1996 or 1997, Donna M. Dubé. All rights reserved.