quarante quatre (44)
this is an old recipe that is pretty easy to play around with. the only real trouble with it is that it requires ample planning, which can be somewhat rare these days. quarante quatre is a home-made (or home-modified) liqueur that is flavoured with orange and coffee - the name comes from the ingredients and the length of time (44 days) it takes to infuse. the amount of vodka (or other clear spirit) used as a base varies wildly in recipes, as does the sugar, so trial and error and personal preferences come into play. the orange and coffee beans are also varied (use other citrus, vary the bean count or use different spices instead, but classic 44 is orange and coffee). it gets described as both an aperitif and a digestif, but i like it at the end of a meal with a cup of coffee - or in the coffee, if you must. we had ours on new year's eve after dinner this year.
4 cups vodka
44 coffee beans
4 tablespoons sugar
have a sterilised sealing jar with a wide mouth cooled and ready to fill. poke an orange all over, deep enough to reach into the flesh, with a knife or the handle of a spoon 44 times and poke into each hole one coffee bean. put the orange in the jar, add in the sugar, and pour in the vodka, then seal and shake until the sugar is fully dissolved.
find a cool, dark home for the jar, something reasonably accessible as you need to grab it once a day for the next 44 days and give it an extended shake. the first few days it doesn't do much, but after the colour starts to show it evolves nicely. after 44 days of this routine, strain the liquid through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and pour into a bottle.
you're supposed to discard the orange at this point, but i tossed mine in the freezer and ate it (in small portions, with chocolate). it would probably make a pretty good granita or sorbet, too.
the flavour is more powerful than expected from the fragrance (and if you've been exposed mostly to storebought liqueurs). the raw vodka taste is muted, though, and the coffee works more as an undertaste that builds slowly as you sip - this is a sipping drink, not something to pound back. as mentioned, it can be added to coffee, or to white wine or sparking water. i like it best straight.
one note: use a quality orange and decent coffee beans, but no need to go mad with expensive vodka. cheap crap tastes cheap, and there's no point in wasting a month and a half of effort.