It might sound a little odd, but this is a heavenly liqueur that’s well worth the small effort. Fig leaves are easy to find over the back fences in summer, particularly if you do the smart thing and live in a suburb of Melbourne that’s been a Greek and Italian stronghold for generations. And nobody will mind if you take a few leaves.
I’ve (slightly) adapted a recipe published by Beshlie Grimes in ‘Making Wines Liqueurs and Cordials’; she says she had it from a Portuguese friend. She mixes hers with pineapple juice and ice but I much prefer it made strong, aged, and drunk neat.
Things I’ve learned about this liqueur over the past few years :
- Don’t be afraid to go bold. Use big leaves. Boil it hard as directed, and squeeze the leaves out when it’s cool. The strongest version I ever made was a grassy shade of green, tasted far too strong when first made, and won a first prize in a local show. Pale yellow versions seemed better at first, but tasted wimpy down the track.
- Age it. Beshlie asks for a month. Six months is great, two years is heaven, I’ve never got any further than that! Make a lot and stick it away somewhere. The first time around, I’d recommend sticking to one recipe – then when you’re confident, quadruple it.
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (375ml) water
- 7 large fig leaves, washed
- 1 1/2 cups (375ml) dry gin. Not terrible gin: not your most ethereally fragranced gin either. The flavour of the gin will come through, but as a background bass note. A good whack of juniper is great – light floral notes will be lost. I tend to go with Gordon’s.
- Clean a funnel and a 750ml bottle.
- Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the fig leaves and bring to a rolling boil. Leave it there for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. With clean hands, squeeze and discard the fig leaves.
- Decant the syrup into a 750ml bottle and add the gin. Top up slightly with water if it doesn’t fill the bottle.
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