Tangerine/Orange Liqueur: Indulging in Citrus Season

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This tangerine or orange liqueur recipe is a fun way to use seasonal citrus, and it’s easy to make. Really, you can make any kind of citrus liqueur — grapefruit, tangello, lime — depending on what you have readily available.

While you’re mixing up liqueurs, give this homemade creme de cacao a try, too!

When it’s citrus season, we have an abundance (and then some) of tangerines and oranges at our disposal. I’ve made Tangerine-Ginger Jam. I’ve made Tangerine Syrup. Now I’m even getting boozy on you with a homemade tangerine/orange liqueur.

sliced tangerines on a wooden cutting board to make tangerine orange liqueur

First, what exactly is a liqueur? Don’t confuse it with liquor, often called hard liquor or spirits. Vodka, rum, and tequila all fall under the liquor category. Liqueur is first off, more difficult to spell. A liqueur is a sweetened, flavored alcoholic drink made from spirits or liquor. Liqueurs are often flavored with fruits and nuts (think amaretto). My homemade Kahlua-style coffee liqueur is made with real coffee.

These sweetened liqueurs can be sipped straight up as an after dinner drink or combined with additional ingredients to make a fancy cocktail.

Making the tangerine or orange liqueur recipe

You might be familiar with a liqueur known as Triple Sec. This is an orange liqueur with Triple Sec being the brand name. But you, my friends, are going to make your very own right at home. For less!

Making liqueur is easy, but it does require a bit of planning. In order to impart the flavor into the liquor, you’ll combine your chosen fruit or nut or other flavor bomb with the liquor and tuck it away in a dark place for a month or so. The flavor of tangerine or orange in this liqueur needs time to transform into a citrusy flavored drink.

This recipe calls for fresh tangerines or oranges. Juice the fruit, but retain some of the peels, as you’ll use those to give the homemade liqueur an stronger citrus flavor. Don’t use the white pith, as that will impart a bitterness. Use a spoon to remove that, keeping just the colorful outer part of the fruit to make this tangerine or orange liqueur recipe.

You only need four ingredients to make this orange liqueur. You’ll need to cook the sugar in water to dissolve it, but beyond that it’s pretty much just a matter of combining the ingredients in a jar. You’ll need to strain them later, but really, it couldn’t be simpler. And homemade liqueur makes a great gift!

orange liqueur in a ball canning jar with peels visible on bottom

When your tangerine liqueur — or orange liqueur recipe — is ready, strain it to remove the skins and particles. Store it in a sealed jar in a cool, dry place.

tangerine juice in a glass jar with peels behind

Giving liqueur as gifts

Once made, this tangerine/orange liqueur will need at least a month tucked in an out-or-the-way place to let the flavors get happy. Planning to give this as a gift for the holidays? Make sure you allot enough time for that.

Package strained tangerine liqueur in pretty bottles and tie on a tag. You might even consider adding a recipe or two for using this homemade liqueur and a couple of nice cocktail glasses.

triple sec in a glass jar with sliced tangerines

 ★ Did you make this tangerine/orange liqueur recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

Homemade triple sec from tangerines

Homemade triple sec from tangerines

Yield: 50
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Infusing time: 30 days
Total Time: 30 days 55 minutes

This homemade tangerine or orange liqueur is easy to make and a fun way to use seasonal citrus.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups tangerine or orange juice, (about 15 tangerines or 10 oranges)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 750 ml bottle of vodka

Instructions

  1. Cut tangerines or oranges in half; juice. Reserve the peels from four tangerines.  sliced tangerines on a wooden cutting board
  2. Use a spoon to scrape the white pith from the inside of the citrus peel; discard. Slice the remaining peel into 1/8" strips and divide between five pint sized jars.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water; heat until sugar is dissolved. 
  4. Stir in juice. Simmer for five minutes and then allow to cool to room temperature. 
  5. Pour in entire bottle of vodka, then divide liquid between the jars. 
  6. Screw on caps, set the jars in a cool dark place, and forget about them for a month. Once your month of waiting is up, strain out the tangerine peels and you're ready to mix a drink.

Notes

Makes about 5 pints.

Don't use the white pith, as that will impart a bitterness. Use a spoon to remove that, keeping just the colorful outer part of the fruit to make this tangerine or orange liqueur recipe.

You can use any citrus juice to make this liqueur. Grapefruit, orange, tangello -- they're all fair game. 

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 50 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 85Unsaturated Fat: 0gCarbohydrates: 12gSugar: 12g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below or share a photo on Instagram!

Inspired by this recipe for homemade triple sec made from Cara Cara oranges.

Originally published in February 2012; this post has been updated.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

16 comments… add one
  • Heather Feb 26, 2012, 3:07 am

    I did this recently too. I have a sour orange tree growing in the backyard of the house we just started renting. At first I was all “No scurvy for us,” thinking it was a regular orange tree. So disappointed when the fruits never got yummy! So I tried two recipes, one that called for just the peel and the other that used a whole orange and some coffee beans. Cant’ wait to try it out!

    • SoniaR Feb 26, 2012, 8:26 am

      Sour oranges are great for making a marinating sauce we Cubans call ‘mojo’ (pronounced moe-hoe).  You can adjust the quantities with no problems:
       
      Cuban Mojo Sauce
       
      3 heads garlic
      2 teaspoons salt
      1 teaspoon black peppercorns
      1 1/2 cups sour orange juice (In a pinch, use two parts orange to one part lemon and one part lime)
      1 cup minced onion
      2 teaspoons oregano
      1 cup Spanish olive oil
       
      The mojo with oil marinade is best for chicken, duck, fish, and so on. The oil prevents the meat from losing fat and moisture.
       
      Mash garlic, salt, and peppercorns into a paste, using a mortar and pestle. Stir in sour orange juice, onion, and oregano. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or longer.
      In a saucepan, heat olive oil to medium hot (approximately 220 degrees F) and remove from heat. Carefully whisk in the garlic-orange juice mixture (prepared above) until well blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
       

  • SoniaR Feb 26, 2012, 8:26 am

    Kris, this sounds good!  I made pineapple vinegar using a similar method (no vodka, though 😉
    It was good!

  • Sheryl Feb 26, 2012, 8:36 am

    Tangerine triple sec sounds divine. And how nice that you can just go out and pick your own fruit for it!
    PS. I’ll be right over (I wish…) 

  • sarah henry Feb 26, 2012, 9:13 pm

    That sounds like a cocktail of choice on a balmy evening.

  • FrugalKiwi Mar 11, 2012, 4:35 pm

    We are working on our first batches of limoncello and pompelmocello from very scratch-including brewing up the alcohol which is legal here in New Zealand. When our mandarins are ripe, we’ll have a go at some triple sec too. This sounds great.

    • Melanie Sep 24, 2014, 7:43 am

      We did makes some last year out of our mandarins and it was divine. This year I’m trying it with some of the neighbor’s tangelos.

    • Mikey E. Jan 31, 2020, 11:38 am

      I had an abundance of oranges and tangerines. Made a double batch, it turned out great.
      I also just made the simple syrup and keep it in the fridge, we love it.

      • Kris Bordessa Feb 6, 2020, 7:25 am

        Awesome! Thanks for letting me know you liked it.

  • christy Feb 16, 2014, 8:27 pm

    can’t wait to try this recipe..i go through store bought triple sec way too fast. i hadn’t even thought that i could make my own…and i bet this is much tastier!

  • Amanda Apr 4, 2018, 6:00 pm

    How long does this last without going bad? Does it need to be refrigerated once it’s done brewing?

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 9, 2018, 5:20 pm

      Oh, for a good long time. I’d say at least a year. And no, I don’t keep it refrigerated.

  • Rose Sep 29, 2018, 9:29 am

    Hi, can I use gin instead of vodka with the tangerines?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 17, 2018, 9:38 am

      Sure! It will taste different, but it will work.

  • Mary Jean Jan 13, 2019, 8:22 am

    What if anything could I sub for the regular sugar in this? alternatives?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 13, 2019, 8:24 am

      Mind you, I haven’t *tried it, but I imagine honey or rice syrup could work fine.

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