Homemade Amaretto Liqueur: Part 1

This is the award winning recipe for Amaretto Liqueur that won a Gold Award at the 2007 34th Annual U.S. Amateur Winemaking Competition. My name is listed on the winners page (Gold Award Wines – Last Name: Doughty).

There are many homemade Amaretto recipes on the Internet. There is one brand of commercial Amaretto that stands apart from all other imitations – DiSaronno Originale. When I developed this recipe I was trying to achieve the flavor of DiSaronno Originale. I believe my recipe is the best of all the homemade liqueur recipes for Amaretto because it contains flavorings that you won’t find in any other homemade Amaretto recipe. The main ingredient for most Amaretto recipes on the Internet is almonds. A good Amaretto is based on apricot kernels plus almonds, not just almonds alone. DiSaronno Originale uses apricot kernel oil – a key ingredient for the main flavor. I believe that DiSaronno uses a special apricot kernel oil made to their exact specifications that is not obtainable commercially to anyone else. I believe that this is the secret ingredient which is the very heart and soul of DiSaronno Originale. You can approach this flavor by combining and macerating chopped almonds and apricot kernels with a high volume alcohol vodka, but it won’t have the intensity of the original. But you can achieve a very good high quality result with care and skill.

A good Amaretto also has a licorice – like flavor in addition to almonds and apricot kernels. My recipe contains anise and fennel seed which provides the licorice flavor. My recipe also uses caramel syrup (like DiSaronno Originale). Most other recipes you will find on the Internet don’t contain any caramel. Like DiSaronno Originale, my recipe also contains selected compatible fruits in addition to the nuts, seeds and other botanicals. Still, other recipes recommend thickeners like glycerin. My recipe contains all natural ingredients. Thickeners are unnecessary if you follow my reccomendations for making standard sugar syrup and standard caramel syrup found here at this blog.

Although DiSaronno Originale is made from pure grain alcohol, which is fine for a commercial enterprise, the average homebrewer will do fine with a good quality 80 proof vodka and 80 proof brandy obtainable at most liquor stores and grocery stores. The whole idea is to be able to make it at home with readily available (and affordable) ingredients. This recipe is surprisingly easy to make. It is very straightforward and follows the usual steps of macerating the spirits and botanicals together for about 4 weeks, followed by straining, filtering and clarification, then finally sweetening and adding extracts before bottling. For sweetening you will need to make batches of standard sugar syrup and standard caramel syrup – both made from scratch with granulated cane sugar.

Amaretto Liqueur Recipe

Step One Ingredients: Year round – non-seasonal ingredients – dried or frozen

  • 3 cups Vodka (80 proof)
  • 1 cup Brandy (80 proof)
  • 1/4 cup apricot pits (kernels – available online)
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup anise seed
  • 3 tbsp fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup frozen (pitted) cherries (approx 5 cherries)
  • 1/4 cup frozen peach slices – chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots (chopped)
  • 2 tsp chopped peppermint leaves
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/4 inch cinnamon stick – finely chopped
  • 1 allspice berry
  • 1/2 cup distilled water to reconstitute the dried apricots

Step One Directions:

  1. Chop the dried apricot halves into 1/4 inch chunks, then add them to a 2 qt. Mason Jar, then cover with 1/2 cup distilled water. Allow to soak for about 4 hours or until the dried fruit is rehydrated. There should be some apricot juice surrounding the fruit.
  2. Chop the frozen peaches into 1/4 inch chunks, then add to the jar while still frozen, then cover with 3 cups vodka immediately to prevent oxidation. Then add 1 cup brandy to the jar.
  3. Add the frozen cherries to the jar.
  4. Chop the almonds and the apricot kernels either with a manual chopper or a small household electric coffee grinder. Add to jar.
  5. Using the electric coffee grinder, chop the anise seeds and fennel seeds plus the remaining spices: cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves and allspice berry. Add to jar along with the peppermint leaves.
  6. Shake the jar to thoroughly mix the ingredients.
  7. Macerate for 4 weeks.
  8. Shake the jar periodically during maceration to agitate ingredients. Don’t shake during the last 4-5 days. Allow mixture to separate and clarify to be able to rack off the clarified liquid from the top at the end of 4 weeks.
  9. After about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, open the jar and crush the fruit with a wooden spoon, then re-close the jar until the maceration is complete.

Notes:

  1. Apricot kernels available online from Nu-Gen Nutrition: www.cancerchoices.com
  2. Most spices and herbs can be obtained from the spice section of the grocery store, but you can obtain them in bulk quantities for good prices at Herb Products Co. www.herbproducts.com

Step Two Ingredients:

  • Standard caramel syrup
  • 100 proof vodka (Smirnoff No. 57)
  • Vanilla extract

Step Two Instructions:

  1. Carefully pour off the clear portion of the macerated spirits in the jar, pouring it through a fine mesh stainless steel coffee filter into a jar.
  2. Pour the sludgy part through a regular kitchen strainer into a sauce pan, then strain through the stainless steel coffee filter into another jar. We can call this the “sludge jar”. Discard all the strained ingredients.
  3. Allow the clear part to settle for a few days, then carefully pour off and filter through paper coffee filters. Add the sludgy part to the sludge jar for later racking and filtering.
  4. Blend the macerated spirits according to the following proportions:
  • 1 cup macerated spirits
  • 1 1/3 cups standard caramel syrup
  • 2/3 cup standard sugar syrup
  • 1 cup 100 proof vodka (Smirnoff No. 57)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Bottle and enjoy!

Part I – Preparing and Combining the Ingredients

Begin by chopping the dried apricots into 1/4 inch chunks. Then add them to the 2 quart Mason jar and cover with 1/2 cup of distilled water and let soak for about 4 hours to rehydrate while you prepare the remaining ingredients. After rehydrating you should see some orange colored apricot juice surrounding the fruit at the bottom of the jar.

Shown below is a shot of a coffee grinder with bags of apricot kernels and raw almonds. Make sure you use raw (not roasted) almonds. You could also use a hand chopper, but the coffee grinder is a lot faster and easier.

Chop the almonds and apricot kernels. Don’t overdo it. You just want to chop them like when using a chopper. If you overdo it you’ll have a mess of powder.

Pour the chopped almonds and apricot kernels into a dish, then using the coffee grinder, chop the anise and fennel seeds, along with the peppercorn, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Add these to the dish and set it aside, then add the chopped peppermint leaves (buy the peppermint leaves already chopped).

Shown below is a batch of jars with the rehydrated apricots in the back row. In front of the 2 qt Mason jars is a row of 1 qt. Mason jars with 3 cups of vodka in each jar. In front of the vodka jars are dishes filled with the chopped dry botanicals. All that remains is to add the frozen fruit, then add 1 cup of brandy to each jar, then add the vodka and chopped dry ingredients.

After all the dry ingredients are prepared and the apricots have rehydrated and just before adding the vodka and brandy, pull the frozen peaches out of the freezer and chop them up while still frozen, then add them to the jar (DO NOT THAW the peaches).

Now immediately add the vodka and brandy to the jar. You do it this way to prevent the peaches from oxidizing and turning dark. The alcohol will act as a preservative and prevent oxidation. This is very important. After you add the peaches, add the cherries – whether fresh or frozen. Frozen is better because they will be jucier and will add more flavor and color. You will only use about 5 large cherries per jar. Freezing breaks down the cell walls of the fruit thereby liberating more juice than fresh fruit.

Shown below is a shot of a batch of jars with all the fruit combined with vodka and brandy just before adding the dry botanicals. The dishes in front of the jars contain measured amounts of all the chopped seeds, nuts, spices, herbs and other dry botanicals.

Add the chopped dry ingredients to the jar and shake thoroughly to mix together. The mixture is now ready to macerate for 4 weeks. Set aside in a cool place – like in a garage – for 4 weeks. After 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, open the jar and crush all the fruit with a wooden spoon, then put the lid back on the jar to complete the maceration. Periodically shake the ingredients to keep them mixed up. Don’t shake during the last 4-5 days.

Continue to Amaretto Liqueur Recipe – Part II

Comments

  1. Aaron Ramson says:

    I cannot wait to try the amaretto I made using your recipe. I made a version of it using a “top secret clone recipe” of disaronno originale, and all it contained was vodka, sugar, and almond extract. I’m currently on day 6 of maceration; I can’t wait till its complete!

  2. Aaron Ramson says:

    I want to thank you for posting this amazing recipe. I made a ‘variation’ of it, as I could not obtain apricot kernels in time to give this liqueur away as Christmas gifts; I ended up substituting high quality almond extract (Williams Sonoma brand) in equal parts with the vanilla extract, in hopes to give the liqueur a necessary bitter almond flavor that it would be missing. I am happy to report that it was still a success and I have received numerous praises about what a tasty and complex flavor this liqueur has!! I plan on making it again next year, and this time I will have the apricot kernels. I will also experiment with a little less sugar syrup and more cherries in the maceration, for my own person tastes. I have also noticed that the flavors continue to evolve with aging. I highly recommend this recipe to anyone looking for a liqueur that is truly comparable to Disaronno Originale.

  3. skinwellness says:

    This looks awesome! Can’t wait to make this. Would it be okay to use an older red wine rather than Brandy?

  4. I wouldn’t use wine as a replacement for brandy. The resulting alcohol content would be low. Wine is around 12 percent and brandy is 40 percent alcohol.

  5. missmyliss says:

    Are you able to tell me how may cups a single batch makes? We are making this soon and need to adjust the quantity. Also on the bottling step is that 1 cup macerate and 3 cups syrups and vodka for 1 single bottle? or and that be for several bottles? Thank you for your time and help.

  6. Hi missmyliss: It makes about 3 1/2 cups infused spirit. You have to blend this with 3 parts blending stock (sugar syrup + caramel syrup + 100 proof vodka) to 1 part infused spirit. So 3.5 cups plus 10.5 cups (3.5 x 3 = 10.5 cups) for 14 cups total.

  7. When making this recipe, or others, do you prefer to use sulfured/unsulfured dried fruits? Would this make any noticeable difference in flavor?

  8. Alex:
    I think the sulfured fruits give a better flavor (my wife will kill me for saying this).

  9. This was unbelievably good! I followed the recipe to a T. I even purchased bottling supplies from the recommended vendors and they were very high quality! Thank you very much!

  10. I’d like to start on this this weekend, but I note that in exactly 4 weeks I will be traveling. Does the first step need to maserate for 4 weeks exactly, or would 5-6 also be acceptable?

  11. Mike Doughty says:

    To Jennifer:

    5-6 weeks should be okay. I never tried it but I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work out good.

  12. The vodka that I like and get is 100proof or 50%abv can I use it as is or do I have to dilute it to 80proof?

  13. Mike Doughty says:

    Erick:
    I would use the 100 proof vodka just as is in the infusion stage, then check the final blend with a small test batch of blending stock. The blending stock calls for 100 proof. If it has too much bite, then try dilluting the blending stock a tiny bit at a time to get the right flavor.

  14. Your recipe calls for 1/4 cup anise seed, which I used, and now believe I’ll regret because this is a typo on your part I think- is it not? Have I just made strange-tasting anisette?

  15. Mike Doughty says:

    Matthew – The resulting infusion is very bitter and in order to finish the liqueur it has to be blended with the sugar syrups, 100 proof vodka and vanilla extract. You have to use three parts blending stock to only one part infused spirit.

  16. Bob Johnson says:

    Mike: Been able to get some fresh peppermint here in Thailand. No fresh peaches available. Don’t feel canned peaches will do? What about fresh nectarines?

  17. Bob Johnson says:

    Mike: My caramelized syrup did not come out as dark as yours. In fact can see through it. More like a dark rum color. Can I some how salvage it or start all over again?

    • Mike Doughty says:

      The only thing I can think to check is to make sure it is 100 percent cane sugar – from sugar cane. Maybe food packagers use sugar beets or other things.

    • Bob Johnson says:

      Mike: Hmmmmm! This is quite interesting indeed. Will check it out. Many thanks again.

    • Bob Johnson says:

      Mike: Hmmmmm! Quite interesting indeed. Will check this out. Many thanks once again. Waiting for those apricot pits to get here from Slovenia.

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