Sunday, November 06, 2011


Some time ago, I had lunch in a nice little place across the Lungotevere from the Ponte Sisto, can't remember the name, but they make a lot of their own digestivos and I had one there that was green and fantastic: Alloro. It's a strong liqueur made from bay leaves, an ancient Roman thing.

Ever since I tried it, I've been determined to try making some, and this week it is slowly starting sink in that I'm probably more or less done with cancer (if the tests turn out the way we hope). So now is the time to start getting around to doing a bunch of the things I was planning to do "when it's all over".

So, tonight, I put up 2 litres of Alloro.

In theory, liqueur making is really simple. You buy incredibly strong grain alcohol, mix it with a bunch of water, sugar and various flora and let it sit for a long time. Strain, mix with sugar syrup, and bottle. Then you drink it. Mostly after dinner.

Amaro means bitter in Italian. It is a herbal infusion in alcohol and amari (plural of amaro) are still popular in Italy as digestives, or after-dinner drinks. There are many brands on the market. The bitter taste is imparted by wormwood, gentian root, quinine, centaury, bitter orange peel,rhubarb, hops, cascarilla, nettles. Aroma is provided by juniper, anise, coriander, hyssop, fennel, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, rosemary, lavender, caraway, camomile, peppermint, tumeric, vanilla, lemon balm, sage, marjoram, oregano, angelica root, orris root, thyme, sweet calamus root.

The recipe I used for my Alloro is here.
* 2 cups (500ml) neutral spirit (40%bv)
* 2 cups water (500ml)
* 2 cups sugar
* 50 fresh bay laurel leaves
* 1 large cinnamon stick
* zest from a large lemon

Steep for 2 weeks. Filter. Add sugar syrup. Bottle and age.

In Italy, making your own liqueur is very popular, and in most grocery stores, they sell bottles of 95% alcohol that is meant specifically for making it. I feel today that I have taken my first step towards becoming more Italian.

It has to sit for at least two or three months, so, if you are around in January, you might get to see if it's working.



Left-footer said...

Great news about your health!

When I had amaretto in an Italian restaurant in London, there was a single coffee bean floating in it, and the waiter set fire to it.

Fine taste, but a waste of alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Oh I did this a few years ago, it was very fun. I think I will try this recipe! How long are you going to age yours for? - Karen

hjw said...

The recipes I saw generally lean towards at least 2 or three months.