Butternut Squash Five-Spice Liqueur

Butternut Squash Infused Vodka

Recently featured on Food52, my Butternut Squash Five-Spice Liqueur is a festive libation perfect for holiday celebrations.  I’ve actually consumed this liqueur a number of times over the past several weeks.  On November 18, I was gleefully sipping on a frosty glass of this liqueur to celebrate the completion of a major grand opening event that had come to a close the evening before (more details below).  Then again on November 23, I was toasting to the end of another successful Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday (once again, more below).  In this recipe, tender butternut squash is steeped in vodka until fragrant.  The infusion vodka is then sweetened with a homemade syrup spiced with cinnamon, clove, black pepper, fennel and star anise.  The finished liqueur is warm, complex and SO delicious.  Continue reading for the recipe.

Peeled Squash Roasted Butternut Squash

When I’m not cooking and making photos of my food, I do marketing for Westfield UTC, a shopping center here in San Diego.  Over the past year, the mall went through a $180 million dollar renovation.  I’ve been working at the property for almost 5 years now, so I find the transformation quite amazing.  We recently had two major Grand Opening events on November 15 and November 17.  The first featured a fashion show hosted by Giuliana Rancic and a live performance by Natasha Bedingfield.  I had a chance to meet Natasha before the show, and she was really sweet!  Here’s a photo from that evening (more photos here).

Westfield UTC Grand Opening

The second event was a Holiday kickoff headlined by San Diego’s Idol, Jessica Sanchez (photos here).  Jessica was SO amazing.  Shivers!  Both events were packed with attendees, and considered to be very successful.  One of the major projects I was leading up in the weeks before Grand Opening was a life-sized Pinterest Board.

Westfield UTC Pinterest Pop Up

The board features a number of prizes from Westfield UTC retailers ($5,000 in prizes total).  The contest is actually still going on right now!  Recently, Mashable did a short feature on the program.  So exciting!   After many, many months of hard work and planning, the Grand Opening was finished and I was ready for a drink :)  This Butternut Squash Five-Spice Liqueur was the perfect solution.

Roasted Squash in Jar

Shortly after the events ended at Westfield UTC, I jumped right into Thanksgiving preparations.  Hosting dinner for 12, I cooked many of my favorite recipes from last year. Really, the only new item I served this year was Pickled Quince.  Made with cider vinegar, juniper berries, black peppercorns and bay, these pickles were a bright accompaniment to the many cheeses served during the appetizer hour.  So delicious!  Here are some iPhone photos from the evening – the first is the outdoor dinner table, the second is the appetizer table and the last is a picture of the man and me prepping harvest salads.

Thanksgiving 2012

The day after Thanksgiving, I sipped on another celebratory glass of liqueur.  My guests loved the meal.  I was able to enjoy the dinner.  My boyfriend graciously did the dishes!  So much to be thankful for :)  Now… on to the recipe (and an animated GIF).  Cheers!

Sugar and Spice Pouring

5.0 from 1 reviews
Butternut Squash 5-Spice Liqueur
Recipe type: Infusion
Serves: 1 Liter
  • 3 to 4 pound butternut squash
  • Good quality vodka
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 cups water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Peel butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, then clean out seeds and guts. Discard skin, seeds and guts. Cut the squash up into 1.5-inch chunks. Spread out in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until just tender (test by inserting the tip of a knife), 20 – 30 minutes. Do not overcook here. The squash should be tender, but not falling apart. Let the squash cool to room temperature, then transfer to a large mason jar.
  3. Add vodka to the jar until it covers the squash by 1 inch (I used between 750 ml and 1 L). Seal the jar and store in a cool, dark spot.
  4. Give the jar a gentle shake every few days. Start tasting the vodka after 1 week. The finished infusion should taste very strongly of butternut squash. I was pleased with the flavor after 2 weeks; however, this can vary based on taste.
  5. Once you are satisfied with the butternut squash flavor, pour the mixture through a medium-mesh basket strainer into a clean bowl or jar. Discard the solids. Strain again through a fine-mesh strainer into another clean bowl or jar. Set aside while you prepare the 5-Spice Syrup.
  6. In small saucepan, combine sugars, spices and water. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture comes to a boil, drop the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely, then strain out all of the spices. Discard spices.
  7. Pour syrup into the infused vodka, stirring to combine. Cover and let rest for 1 more day before serving.

Butternut Squash 5 Spice Liqueur

Related recipes and articles:

Roasted Pumpkin Five-Spice Ice Cream

Night Market Five-Spice Chicken

Five-Spice Powder

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Chile and Lime

Chinese Five-Spice Shrimp Stir Fry

Chinese Five-Spice Pecans

Pinterest and Westfield UTC photos by Joel Jordan.


  1. says

    Looks and sounds amazing and I bet smells fab!

    Congrats on the UTC renovation and on meeting Natasha – how cool!! And that you have a boyf who even does the dishes…nice :) I wish he could come train my husband!

    • Brandon Matzek says

      Thanks Averie! Yes, the aroma is just as intoxicating as the alcohol!

      Yeah, Jorge was a trooper. I was cleaning as I was cooking, but by the end of the night, there was still a massive pile of dirty dishes!

  2. says

    This looks and sounds amazing. Great pics. I’m especially impressed since the subject is orange-hard color to shoot without it looking all glow-y and radioactive.

  3. Jessica says

    I was pretty skeptical of this recipe but had to try it anyway – absolutely amazing! My butternut was small so I just let the first step sit longer. I used 2 large star anise instead of 5 because I’ve had that flavor overpower too many things for me. Totally delicious.

    Because I can’t waste anything I used the strained squash to make a quick bread. Coarsely mash squash to make about one cup. Re-boil strained spices at about half strength (1 cup water half cup each of sugars). Mix 1 2/3 cup flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt,1/4 cup sugar, and 1 egg. Add squash and about 4 ounces strained spice syrup (8 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon). Mix well, put in loaf pan and bake 40 to 60 mins, until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

    I put the leftover spice syrup in a jar to add to tea or bourbon. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Brandon Matzek says

      Yay!!! Glad you like recipe :) That quick bread sounds delicious. Thanks for the idea. The leftover syrup is also good over vanilla ice cream.

  4. Shelly says

    Is there a ‘use by’ date associated with this recipe? Such as “Use within one month after adding the syrup”. I’m thinking of making this this weekend, and if it tastes as good as it sounds, I was considering making some to be given out as Christmas gifts. Since most of the people I’d be giving the liqueur to don’t drink often, I’d hate for it to go bad or dry out before they were able to finish it.

    • Brandon Matzek says

      Hi Shelly, this liqueur will last for months stored in the freezer; however, as the months roll on, the flavor will diminish. So, it won’t go bad, but it’s best consumed during the first month.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Rate this recipe: