Whether you want to celebrate the last day of Maslenitsa, Saint Patrick’s Day with a Russian twist, or the coming birch sugar season, this is the drink for you. The Irish-cream-like mixture dilutes the intense flavor of birch syrup, helping to reveal its complexity. This might be my favorite way to consume the syrup, in fact!
I originally thought I could take inspiration from Bailey’s, the mother of all cream liqueurs. The main ingredients are well known and advertised, together with the nutrition facts, on their web site. Reproducing the same proportions of sugar (from the birch syrup), fat (from the dairy) and alcohol (from the vodka) should give a similar result, right? Well, not quite. It was a starting point, but the mixture came out way too fatty and boozy. It took me a few rounds to get the balance right, but the result is very enjoyable.
Birch syrup can be purchased here. Make sure you use 100% pure syrup (first run is best, as it offers a more interesting flavor), and premium Russian vodka. High quality dairy is equally important, of course, and since there might be some differences between brands in the fat content of half and half, you may have to adjust the amount of milk (I’m using Ronnybrook products).
Refrigerating the drink for a day or so tends to blend the flavors — in particular, the alcohol is better integrated with the whole. You can probably keep it in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks. Bailey’s boasts a shelf life of over two years, but this is so easy to make that I don’t see the point in pushing the limits.
Finally, if this wasn’t a Russian food blog, I’d also recommend substituting the birch and vodka with maple syrup and bourbon, in the same proportions :)
Russian birch cream liqueur
Yields about 1 bottle (750 ml)
6.3 oz / 180 g pure first-run birch syrup
6.3 oz / 180 g Russian vodka
10.5 oz / 300 g half and half
about 4.2 oz / 120 g milk (see below)
0.5 g salt
- In a blender, pour the birch syrup, vodka, half and half, half of the milk, and salt. Blend on low speed for 1 minute.
- Taste and adjust the amount of milk as desired (I use all of it).
- Transfer to a plastic container, and refrigerate for at least 1 day.