Saturday, April 2, 2016

Liquore all'Alloro (Bay Leaf Liqueur) for #SundaySupper

“Eating in Italy is essentially a family art, practiced for and by the family. The finest accomplishments of the home cook are not reserved like the good silver and china for special occasions or for impressing guests, but are offered daily for the pleasure and happiness of the family group.” ~Marcella Hazan 

Italians are passionate about eating and family as represented in the quote above by Marcella Hazan, the Godmother of Italian cooking. Enjoying our family around the dinner table is what #SundaySupper is all about, making this week’s event a perfect pairing. From Antipasto to Zabaglione and everything in between, let’s gather ’round the family table. This week's event is hosted by Manuela of Manu’s Menu.

The Sunday Supper Italian Fest Dishes

And Artichoke Torta plus More Recipes for Italian Fest from Sunday Supper Movement

Liquore Alloro
Bay Leaf Liqueur

Travelers who spend more than a few weeks in Italy likely will find themselves around a local family’s dinner table, sipping homemade liqueur. When I was living and working in Rome - I went as an au pair after I graduated from college - I was lucky enough to be at a dinner party where bottles and bottles of homemade grappa and different liqueurs came out after dark! That was the first time I had ever had grappa and I was instantly enamored.

Initially crafted for medicinal purposes by Medieval monks, liqueurs (liquori in Italian) aided in everything from digestion to staving off a cold. And, it seems, that almost every household has recipes that are handed down from one cook to another.

I have never heard of a cordial made with bay leaves. But, when a friend returned from a trip to Italy last year, she mentioned it to me. That was all it took. I was on a mission to find fresh bay leaves and create my own.

Bay leaf liqueur may sound strange, but its aroma and taste are remarkably similar to France’s Chartreuse, a liqueur made by Carthusian monks according to a centuries-old secret recipe. It makes me wonder if bay leaves are not one of the secret ingredients.

The only stumbling block would be: you need fresh bay leaves, not dried. Thankfully, I live on the central coast of California and bay laurels abound on every hiking trail from Santa Cruz to Big Sur. So, when I was out with my family, Jake caught a strong whiff of bay and plucked a small branch for me.

  • Between 30 and 50 fresh young bay leaves plus stems (I just used enough to fill my jar) 
  • 2 C vodka (you can use other base alcohols, but I had vodka)
  • 2 C water
  • 2 C organic granulated sugar

Crinkle and crush the bay leaves in your hand to bring out some of their oils. Place them in a jar and cover with vodka. Let the leaves infuse for at least 1 week. After a week, the liquid will have turned a deep emerald green and the bay leaves themselves will have lost their color.

Make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. The syrup is ready as soon as the sugar dissolves completely and the syrup is crystal clear. Let cool to room temperature.

Strain the alcohol into the sugar syrup. Discard the bay leaves. Let stand for another week. You can drink it after that, but I prefer to pour into smaller bottles and letting it age for another 2 weeks.

Serve at room temperature.

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  1. You already know how much I love home-made liqueurs! And this bay leaf version sounds and looks amazing!!

  2. What a fun idea! I wish we could get fresh bay leaves so we could give this a try!

  3. Wow, what an unusual liqueur! I'd love to take a sip (or two!).

  4. This sounds so interesting. I can get fresh bay leaves from my grocer!

  5. I have a bay tree so this is something I might try sometime!

  6. This is so cool. I live in New England, so it probably won't happen easily for me, but I love the idea!;)

  7. Wow! I have never had bay leaf liqueur. It sounds amazing/

  8. Very creative but is there a certain type of vodka you recommend for this?

    1. DB, you can use any kind of vodka. But I'm partial to Tito's Vodka; I try not to use any alcohol I wouldn't drink on it's own. Others probably disagree, but that's my mode.

  9. Wow. I've never heard of bay alcohol. I bet it's amazing!! Bay leaves are so underused.

  10. This cerebral drink sounds like a good thing. Is it sort of a brain juice that boosts your brain function. And also can you post the recipe?
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