Navan Liqueur is a cognac based vanilla liqueur. Did you love it, but are unable to find it anymore? There’s a reason. Navan is no longer in circulation. I know. Bummer. But apparently there are a few places with a stockpile ready to sell to consumers willing to shell out a lot of dough.
Luckily I still have half of a bottle of Navan in my bar pantry. When it was no longer available locally I slipped my bottle to the back shelf so I could still enjoy it once in a while. Since it’s going to be empty in the near future I thought it would be a good time to try to create a substitute recipe while there’s still a sample to test against.
There are distinct differences between cognac and brandy that go beyond where it is made. The linked article goes into depth about the area of Cognac, its soil, temperature and the aging process. Though there is a difference between the two spirits, I chose brandy for the infusion recipe. Brandy is much less expensive, making it a great option for recipe and infusion use.
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Brandy & Cognac: How to Serve
From the Maryland Bartending Academy
Taste: Navan Versus Homemade Vanilla Liqueur
My vanilla liqueur infusion is darker in color than Navan’s pale straw hue. Navan also has a hint more viscosity than the infusion. Not enough to make a viable difference though. Navan has a distinctly cleaner vanilla flavor than the infusion. But the infusion contains this wonderful nutty pecan back note. The nut flavor is so subtle it’s almost unrecognizable. Navan also has a little more burn than the vanilla liqueur infusion. My guess is it retains higher proof than the homemade recipe. The sweetness factor is nearly spot on.
Though there isn’t a true replacement for Navan Liqueur, this infusion makes a great substitution in cocktail recipes.
Homemade Vanilla Liqueur Recipe
Vanilla Liqueur – recipe by Cheri Loughlin
2-3/4 cups (22 ounces) E&J Gallo XO Brandy
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Simple Syrup
2 Whole Vanilla Beans (Madagascar Beans)
Slice vanilla beans open lengthwise and open at the slit. Place vanilla beans in a quart size glass jar that can be sealed with a lid. Add brown sugar, simple syrup and brandy. Swirl or stir contents of the jar until all brown sugar has dissolved. Seal jar. Store jar in a cool, dark location such as a closed pantry, cabinet or refrigerator.
Stir or swirl contents of jar every day for minimum of two weeks. Taste at the two week point for vanilla taste reference. Continue to allow the mixture to infuse with vanilla up to four weeks if desired.
Once mixture has reached the desired vanilla flavor, remove the vanilla beans. Save them to make vanilla sugar if desired. Strain mixture through cheesecloth or filter through a clean coffee filter placed inside of a fine mesh metal strainer. Dampen the coffee filter before using. Straining the liquid will remove any crystallized sugar and vanilla bean particles.
Pour liqueur into a decorative bottle or back into the original brandy bottle. Liqueur will be shelf stable.
I use Madagascar vanilla beans. It’s less expenisive to purchase vanilla beans in bulk and use them for several differernt recipes. One of my favorites and SUPER easy to make is homemade vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is extremely expensive purchacing by the ounce. Why not make vanilla liqueur and vanilla extract and save yourself time and money?
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Cheri Loughlin is the Omaha writer and photographer behind www.intoxicologist.net. You can email Cheri with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.