Sure, you could bake cookies this holiday season. But everyone gives cookies, and the gift of a sugar rush — and subsequent crash — hardly soothes nerves frazzled by family obligations and last-minute shopping. So instead of hitting the baking aisle, head to Polcari’s Coffee.
At the aromatic North End spice shop, more than 50 varieties of flavor extracts cordially invite you to transform bottles of common vodka into liqueurs, aperitifs, and digestifs. Essential essences for residents of the Italian neighborhood include sambuca and strega, which makes a yellow liqueur with a floral flavor similar to Galliano. You’ll also find non-Italian flavors, such as whisky, cognac, and raspberry and orange brandy, the latter of which is comparable to Grand Marnier.
Back at home, you’ll slave over a hot stove just long enough to earn a “homemade” gift-giving gold star. Polcari’s owner Bobby Eustace says the most time-intensive step in the process is creating the necessary simple syrup by boiling a pint of water, dissolving 10 ounces of sugar in it, and letting it cool for a minimum of four hours. He suggests letting it stand overnight and then adding your half-ounce bottle of flavoring and 11 to 12 ounces of alcohol in the morning.
Although vodka will do, Eustace also recommends a trip to one of our neighboring states — where whole-grain alcohol is legal — to purchase the high-octane booze that will give your liqueurs a Rockettes-worthy kick.
Available for $1.99 for a half-ounce bottle (including recipe) at Polcari’s Coffee, 105 Salem Street, Boston | 617.227.0786.
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