The idea behind all flavored spirits is infusing. You take something tasty, make a sugar syrup flavored with it, let it steep in something alcoholic (but relatively tasteless) for a while, and when you're done you've got a flavored alcohol. We're doing coconut today, but this procedure can be applied to pretty much anything you'll want to make.
It's really quite simple, sort of fun, and impresses the heck out of people!
So let's gather our mise and get started!
Mise en Place for Coconut Rum:
1 ea Coconut
1 750 mL bottle of decent but not amazing white rum
1.5 cups water
12 oz. by weight white sugar
1 Vegetable peeler
1 Hammer (May or may not need)
1 Drill and drill bit (May or may not need)
1 Colander or large strainer to wash the peeled coconut meat
1 medium pot
1 Rubber spatula for stirring
1 food processor with shredder disc (or box grater)
2 1L glass jars or one 2L glass jar. Wide mouth will really help. Mason jars work great
(Hardware needed at the end for finishing)
1 Coffee Filter
1 Large mixing bowl to strain into (Might not need depending on how you decide to strain)
1 Nice container for your finished product, 750-1000 mL
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2. Combine sugar and water in the saucepan on the stove, but don't turn on yet
Step 1: Cracking the Coconut
1. Get your drill (CLEAN the bit!) and drill through two of the eyes and drain the coconut water into a container. I know what you're thinking: It's so SO tempting to save the water and put it into the rum. It doesn't work! It's not going to blend it and you'll wind up with a fatty layer on the top of your rum. It's possible you might be able to use it as part of the liquid in the sugar syrup and it'll mix that way, but I haven't tried that yet.
2. Put the coconut in the oven for about 15 minutes. This will dry the shell out and make it easier to pull away from the skin and the meat.
3. Remove from oven and let sit for a minute or two (it'll be HOT) and remove the hard outer shell with whatever tools you require: mostly a whack or two with a hammer and pry with the screwdriver.
Step 2: Peeling
When everything is peeled, give the chunks a good rinse to get any stray particles off.
Step 3: Shredding
Step 4: Making the Coconut Syrup
Sugar syrup, I've found though, is the way to go with these for 'sweet' infused spirits (fruit spirits, not so much pepper or chile vodka).
1. Combine the sugar and water in the medium saucepot if you haven't already
2. Put on stove over medium high heat. You're going to want to stay put and watch, as it'll go fast. You want to completely dissolve the sugar into the water, then simmer away some of the water. It will get cloudy then go clear.
3. Let simmer about two minutes. You do NOT want it to start turning brown (making sugar syrup, not caramel) a little color won't hurt it, but that's not what we're going for.
4. Add the coconut and stir to combine. It's going to look pretty 'dry' since there's more coconut than syrup, but it will cook down a little. I had a particularly high yielding coconut so it almost didn't look like enough, but your mileage may vary.
5. Let simmer another couple minutes then remove from heat.
6. Let cool a bit before proceeding...sugar is VERY hot.
Step 5: Dividing Into Jars
Add the rum, again as near to even in both jars as you can. Use the spatula to push any coconut around the inside of the jar into the rum.
Step 6: Infusing and Finishing
This is where the waiting starts. Let it sit, giving a light shake every other day, for one week. At the end of a week, give it a taste to see how it's going. Odds are it won't be ready, but you'll get an idea. The main thing you're looking for right now is sweetness. The coconut flavor will continue to develop (and I guess you can add more coconut at this point, and it's alright if you want to use a little bagged and not bust out a whole new coconut), but it's as sweet as it's going to get. If it's not sweet enough, make a note to make a little more sugar syrup when you go to bottle to adjust the sweetness with.
At the end of the second week, give it another taste and decide if you want to bottle it or wait a bit more. At this point, you won't get that much more flavor out of it by letting it sit more, but do so if it needs.
To finish the rum, put a coffee filter inside your strainer and place over a mixing bowl, and pour the rum through. Note it's never going to be perfectly crystal clear, since we're not filtering it as much as a commercial operation does.
Cautionary Note: The leftover coconut or fruit isn't nearly as delicious as it seems like it'll be. Remember: All the flavor went into the alcohol. Cherries from a batch of cherry bourbon tasted like cardboard soaked in kerosene.
Funnel into your bottle, and you're done! Congratulations, you've made your own coconut rum! Now that you have the basic technique, you can make all sorts of good stuff! Cranberry vodka for the holidays, chile or black pepper vodka for cocktails (no sugar syrup step for 'savory' infusions), delicious cherry whiskey.