Picnics are one of my top five favorite ways to consume food. No two picnics are the same, but I do have a rule that there must be at least one item from each of the following groups: meat, cheese, fruit, wine.
I broke that rule recently and had a wine and raspberry picnic. (It counts as a picnic, because I was sitting outside on a blanket.) There was something unusually exciting about the way the dark red wine and the bright, fresh berries were blending together to create a new flavor. After my picnic, there was a little wine left in the bottle, so I decided to experiment. Wine and mashed up raspberries with a little whipped cream make an out-of-this-world topping for poundcake. Then I tried a dollop of berry mixture and a bit of sugar in a glass of sparkling wine for a fantastic Champagne cocktail. That's when I knew that I had to turn it into a liqueur I could keep in the liquor cabinet.
What's Available to Buy
You'll be able to find Chambord raspberry liqueur at most liquor stores. It's the one in a round bottle with an ornate gold cap—it sells for around $35. Chambord is thick and sweet with a strong raspberry flavor and hints of vanilla and honey. Mathilde raspberry liqueur is a less expensive option with a lighter fruity flavor that includes some other berries in the mix. Bols, Dekuyper, Marie Brizzard, and Hiram Walker all offer affordable raspberry liqueurs, as well.
Occasionally, people will call a raspberry liqueur "framboise," which is the French word for raspberry. But typically framboise is a catch-all term for any beer, wine, or spirit made from raspberries without adding sugar. So it's not the same as the sweeter stuff you'd use to, say, make a Champagne cocktail.
Raspberry liqueur isn't hard to find, but the bottles you can buy are all over the map. Some options are candy sweet, while others are cough syrup-strong. Making your own liqueur gives you control over how sweet and boozy the end result is—you're likely to end up with something that better suits your sugar tolerance.
But the fun of homemade raspberry liqueur is unleashing your creativity to make something you won't see on the shelf at some liquor store. I wanted something that was bright and fruity while also being rich and complex. Sounds like wine to me, so why not use wine? I went with a Malbec because of its balance of deep earthy flavors with plum and raisin fruitiness. But feel free to experiment with other wines—a bold Zinfandel, maybe even a crisp and fruity white wine.
Vanilla and lemon are natural complements to raspberries, but you could try other secondary flavors like orange, honey, or even other berries. The steeping time is short on this one, so you won't have to wait long to try your new creation.
My favorite way to use homemade raspberry liqueur is to pour a little in a glass of sparkling wine for a simple Champagne cocktail. It's also perfect in a sangria, no matter what kind of fruit you add.
You can also use your raspberry liqueur in the place of creme de cassis. Try it in a refreshing Diablo made with tequila and ginger ale or a Pompier made with vermouth and club soda. Homemade raspberry liqueur is also great on top of ice cream and cake or as a dressing on a fruit salad.