Traditional Orange Liqueur made with a 1.5 or 2L Alembic Still

Ingredients: 6 oranges, raw sugar, 750ml 50% ABV neutral base spirit (or 1L 40% ABV vodka)

Many households in Portugal use this basic recipe for making orange liqueurs at home and it’s a great introduction to your new alembic still. The liqueur is delicious on its own, over ice or we make a variation on Champagne Cocktail, using the orange liqueur instead of cognac. You can also modify this recipe by trying other citrus fruits, or by adding a few cloves or honey. Use spices sparingly though or you may spoil your liqueur.

The sugar quantity depends on your personal taste. You’ll probably start with about 100-150g but you can always sweeten after distilling if you find the spirit too sharp.


  1. Slice your oranges about 5mm thick.
  2. Place a layer of orange slices into a large dish and add raw sugar. Continue adding layers, sprinkling more sugar over each layer of slices.
  3. Add spirit – either our neutral base spirit or vodka.
  4. Now sprinkle some more sugar over the whole lot and allow to stand overnight for the flavours to marry.
  5. After you’ve allowed the mixture to steep overnight you can begin preparing for the distillation. Pour all the liquid from your mixture into a jug and stir well to dissolve any remaining sugar. Pour this liquid into the still copper pot.
  6. Place the column on the pot because we are going to use steam distillation.
  7. Put your orange slices into the column. You won’t be able to fit them all in so choose the smaller slices that fit in the column nicely.
  8. Place the head onto the unit.
  9. Connect the head to the condenser coil. Seal the column top and bottom joints with electrical tape.
  10. Connect the hoses and start the water pump to ensure it all works nicely.
  11. Adjust the temperature control to its highest position. Check the temperature of the head and once you find that you can no longer touch it comfortably then the distilling run is close to starting. Lower the temperature control slightly to position 4 and maintain a slow and steady distillation. A slower distillation gets the best flavours from the oranges.
  12. Once spirit starts coming through, discard the first 5ml and collect the rest of the distillate. Be careful you don’t go too long as you don’t want to burn sugar onto your still. For a 750ml bottle of 50% alcohol you should collect around 500ml of liquid.
  13. Depending on your patience, the final spirit will be between 50 & 70% alc/vol. It will be difficult to measure because there is quite high sugar content so we just make back up to 750ml using a nice water source (Tongariro Spring, Pure Dew etc.).