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The Art of Giving + Liquore all'Alloro (Bay Leaf Liqueur)


Earlier this week I posed a question on social media because my family and I were having a discussion about homemade gifts versus store-bought gifts. I am going to share what some of my sagacious friends posted.

"I think the value lies in the thoughtfulness, but that can be attained with a store-bought gift. I don't see it as either/or. Homemade and store bought can both be thoughtful or thoughtless, it depends on the gift and it's meaning to the recipient." - B

"Thoughtfulness about what the other person enjoys is most important in my book. Doesn't matter so much if it's homemade or store bought. Doesn't matter the [money] spent. What matters is the thought and love that went into the gifting." - J

"I love and appreciate any kind of gift because it means that they thought of you! However, I really enjoy homemade gifts-there’s just something super special about it being made. That being said, I also understand some people aren’t crafty and buy gifts instead. I love it either way!" - R

If you are here reading my blog, you know how much I love to create in the kitchen. Back in 2015, I hosted #HandcraftedEdibles and my blogging friends and I shared Twelve Weeks of Giving., including Spice Blends, Jarred Mixes, Jams and Jellies, Pickles, Nuts, Chocolates, and even Creative Wrapping Ideas. So, most of the time, my holiday gifting involves homemade goods - cookies, cakes, spice blends, and liqueurs. "My daughter is a bootlegger," my mom joked at Thanksgiving as she poured my 2019 Nocino for her guests. Ha.

Well, given all of the gifting sentiments, I'm not sure that this is as much a thoughtful gift for my recipients as it is me sharing something I love. Maybe this is a selfish gift, in that regard. Still, it was made with love and I hope my friends enjoy this and the nocino I'm bottling up this week for Christmas sipping.

Liquore all'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, she mentioned it to me. That was all it took. I was on a mission to find fresh bay leaves and create my own. And I've been making it every year since.

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.

Ingredients
  • 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

Procedure
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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