Prickly Pear Liqueur.

At the moment it is autumn here in Melbourne which is harvest time. In between processing about 30kg of chestnuts we wild picked, drying apples, making cider, and bacon, freezing and bottling fruits. Getting the winter garden in and preparing the mushroom boxes I was given a box of prickly pear.

I processed most of the fruit into syrup. Froze the rest as either juice or in packs of 10 for later use.

But I had something special in mind for the last of them.

I am lucky I have travelled a lot over the years and so has my family and one of my uncles and aunts had come back from a trip to Malta raving about the local liqueur made from these delicately flavoured fruits.

So I spent about an hour trying to find a recipe for bajtra liqueur. And to my surprise I was unable to find a recipe for it … Something had escaped the power of Google. Shock horror. All I could find was references to it being made with local wild sage honey. I did however find a recipe for prickly pear liqueur made with sugar syrup so thought hell why not try a variant.

Basically I put a bottle of vodka (about 750ml) and 15 peeled and chopped prickly pear into a bowl. Covered it in several layers of cling wrap and left it for 15 days. At the end when I opened up the wrap the vodka had taken on the flavour of the pears but was over powering their subtle musky flavour.

I made up sugar syrup mix and a honey syrup mix and combined them with the vodka as shown below. The flavour was greatly enhanced the muskiness came out with the sweetness and as my neighbour and I sat and drank a few of these over some goats cheese and locally smoked Croatian prosciutto we decided that yes this was definitely a drink ice cold on warm afternoon. My favourite was definitely the honey syrup variety but both are very, very good.

The only thing I am trying now is to put some orange rind into a bottle as when I made the prickly pear syrup I used a little citric acid to enhance the flavour and I am hoping the peel will have a similar effect. I might also try some cointreau with it as a cocktail. Lots of options.

Oh and I will get back to everyone on how adding orange peel goes with the both types. If nothing else it will give me more reason to drink some more. It is only experimenting I promise you…


Soak is a bottle of vodka (750ml or roughly 3 cups) and with 15 or so prickly pear for 10 -20 days. You will end up with around 6 cups or so of flavoured vodka at the end.

Drain the mix through a fine sieve leaving the pulp to drain for a few minutes then using the back of the spoon to get the last of the liquid out.

Make up a sugar  syrup being 2 cups of water and 2 cups of white sugar heated until the sugar fully dissolves . Allow to cool.

I made up a honey syrup by mixing 1 cup of honey with one cup of water heating it until the honey is fully dissolved. Allow to cool.

Mix every cup of the vodka solution with a cup of sugar syrup or a cup of honey syrup. I made up 4 cups of vodka mix with my sugar syrup above and made 2 cups of the vodka mix with two cups of the honey mix. Stir so it mixes lightly and put into sterilised bottles.

Serve as chilled as you can without freezing.


10 thoughts on “Prickly Pear Liqueur.

  1. I’ll try it. This summer in NJ (June-July 2012)I cut up a case of Prickly pears( removed the skins first) about 60 medium size pears and put them into Qt mason jars then filled the jars up with 190 proof grain alcohol. The first two weeks I just shuck the jars a couple times. After that they just sat on a table to date. Originally going to make some kind of cordial, using a solution of Stevia and water to cut the Pear juice down to about 35 proof.
    The idea of using a honey (sage or others) instead of sugar occurred to me, just didn’t get around to it.
    I have made Lemoncello from lemon zest and grain alcohol using a sugar sweetener, came out great.
    Also did the same with cinnamon ditto for that liquore, using cinnamon sticks. Anise, the same.
    Tried Pistachio nuts, crushed and grain alcohol, that too came out good tasted like a walnut
    I’m type II diabetic so trying to eliminate any sugar one way or another, thats’ mainly why I haven’t move forward on the pear juice. I made a small batch of Stevia powder and water up
    and mixed it with some juice, not too happy with the taste. Maybe some Orange peel or lemon peel would change the flavor a little. Or perhaps a few vanilla beans. Will keep trying.
    I do know there is a liquore factory in Sicily that makes a P.Pear liquore called “Ficodi`” and I have tried their concoction but find it too medicinal for my taste.
    I really enjoy P.Pears (Tunas -Mexico) or Ficodini as the Sicilians call them On of the most refreshing fruits ever tried.
    I’m not on Face book or any other bullshit chat line, TFO for that stuff.

    • No reason. I have just never tried it but have a bottle of vodka some frozen juiced prickly pear so I will give it a try and put up a blog post about how it compares to the traditional method.

  2. Pingback: Prickly Pear Fruit - Fernando Antúnez

  3. Hi when mixing the vodka mix and the sugar mix, it is a 1:1 ratio ?
    I mean that one cup of the vodka mix should be mixed with 1 cup of the sugar syrup is that right?

      • I like to use 2:1 sugar and water and add a tspn of acid ( citric or tartaric) to it.
        Boil then when it reaches 114°C part of the sugar has inverted and the glucose and fructose separate.
        Glucose tends to have a smoother mouthfeel that is good in liqueurs.
        Also at that concentration the syrup is about equal in volume to granulated sugar.
        I find it easy for making up liqueur recipes..

        I’m gonna try this prickly pear liqueur recipe with the next batch of fruit I get from the garden.

  4. I’ve got two batches on the go at the moment: one with vodka and one with jenever (Dutch gin). Slightly fewer pears as they were far too expensive over here to put in more. I’m still contemplating whether to try both the sugar and honey versions on both of them or go straight for the honey one. Any updates on the orange peel experiment?

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