Whether it’s for grasshopper cocktails, holiday hot chocolates or baked goods, creme de menthe is a must. In stores, you’ll find both the bright green and colorless versions, but they’re often filled with artificial colors and ingredients. That’s why homemade tastes so much better. With a few handfuls of fresh mint plus vodka and simple syrup, you can easily DIY creme de menthe for your own kitchen and home bar. And get your stylish bottles ready: It makes a great food gift, too!
What Is Creme de Menthe?
Creme de menthe is a classic liqueur with a bold minty flavor. Despite the name, there is no cream added to this liqueur. It’s usually a bright green color or colorless (also known as white creme de menthe), best sipped on its own as a digestif, used in cocktails like the grasshopper and for desserts.
Compared to peppermint schnapps, a similarly minty liqueur, creme de menthe is a tad sweeter without the medicinal overtones. It has a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) than other sweet liqueurs, too, hovering around 18% to 25% (compared to 40% to 50% ABV for spirits like gin, bourbon or vodka). That’s why it’s a perfect ingredient for desserts and baked goods as well as drinks. It’s boozy, but not that boozy.
Homemade Creme de Menthe Recipe
1-1/2 cups fresh mint leaves, divided
2 cups vodka
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 drops peppermint oil (make sure this is food grade)
2 to 4 drops green food coloring, optional
Step 1: Make the the mint-infused vodka
Tear 1 cup of the fresh mint leaves and place in a 1-quart glass jar. Add the vodka and shake well. Cover the jar and let it stand for at least 12 hours, shaking everything a few times to disperse the herbs.
Step 2: Make the simple syrup
In a large saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely, and then add to the vodka and mint mixture.
Editor’s tip: You can make the simple syrup ahead of time and refrigerate it in a sealed container until you’re ready to use. It will last in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Step 3: Add more fresh mint
Tear the remaining 1/2 cup of mint leaves and add to the jar. Cover and let it stand for 10 hours longer, occasionally shaking to mix things up.
Step 4: Strain, stir and store
Now it’s time to strain it! Strain the vodka mixture through a colander lined with cheesecloth, discarding the mint. Stir in a few drops of peppermint oil. If you want to keep the golden-yellowish color, stop here. If you want it to be green and festive, add the food coloring now.
When it’s the color you want, pour it into glass bottles and seal it tightly. Store in a cool, dry place for up to two months.
How to Serve Homemade Creme de Menthe
Homemade creme de menthe can be used all the same ways you’d use the store-bought stuff. Sip it on its own as an after-dinner cordial, or add to a steaming hot chocolate, coffee or tea. It’s a key ingredient for classic cocktails like the creamy and rich grasshopper or Cary Grant’s favorite stinger.
When it comes to desserts, creme de menthe is a great liqueur to bake with. Whether green or colorless, it’s instrumental in this grasshopper baked Alaska or these delightful creme de menthe cupcakes. For a minty holiday treat, creme de menthe cookies should be in everyone’s cookie exchange.
Just remember that without the food coloring, creme de menthe won’t turn whatever you’re eating or drinking green (a grasshopper must be green!).
How to Store Homemade Creme de Menthe
Thanks to all-natural ingredients, i.e. nothing synthetic or artificial, homemade creme de menthe has a shorter shelf life than store-bought versions. A sealed glass bottle of homemade creme de menthe will last up to two months in a cool, dry place. You don’t need to refrigerate it, unless you want to drink it chilled. Compare that to store-bought creme de menthe, which lasts up to 10 years unopened, and up to four years once you’ve cracked the bottle.
Tips for Making Creme de Menthe
How can you make this creme de menthe recipe your own?
When making homemade creme de menthe, fresh mint leaves give a great herbal flavor. Our recipe also calls for a few drops of peppermint oil to amp up that minty flavor, which you can add to taste.
Thanks to the fresh mint, the final liqueur will be a natural light yellowish hue unless you add green food coloring. Both are perfectly fine and equally festive, but the green definitely adds some pop.