Homemade Amaro #1

Background

I decided to base my first amaro recipe after a couple others that I found online: Popular Mechanics and  Tickled Palate. I liked the double-infusion method to have more control over the ingredients. I also did some substitutions to use ingredients (such as dried cherries) that appealed more to me.

Recipe

I used a double-infusion method with the aim of yielding about 375ml of amaro. I used a pint canning jar for the infusions.

First Infusion

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First infusion ingredients (before crushing).

The first infusion uses the following ingredients:

  • 375-ml bottle 100 proof vodka (I used Smirnoff)
  • 3 grams whole cloves
  • 1.5 grams cinnamon bark
  • 3 grams juniper berries
  • 3 grams gentian root
  • 3 grams cinchona bark

Lightly crush the cloves, cinnamon, and juniper berries with a mortar and pestle and then add to a pint jar with the vodka, gentian root, and cinchona bark.

Shake and taste every day until flavor seems pungent enough. When I did this recipe I left them in for a full 5 days, which ended up being too much for my tastes (see tasting notes below).

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A day or so into the first infusion, where the color is still light.

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Near the end of the first infusion with much darker color.

Once this first infusion was complete I strained into a new pint jar and began the…

Second Infusion

This infusion includes the following ingredients:

  • 7.5 grams orange zest
  • 3 grams allspice
  • 3.2 grams cardamom
  • 5 grams orris root
  • 1/4 cu dried cherries (41.6g)
  • 3 grams fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 grams rhubarb root
  • 5 grams rosebuds
  • 2 grams calendula buds
  • 2.2 grams yarrow
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Ingredients for second infusion

Again, these were lightly ground with a mortar and pestle before adding to the pint jar.

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Second infusion ready to go

I let the second infusion proceed for 6 days total, shaking and tasting every day. The orange flavor came on strongly for the first 4 days, but by day 5 it had mellowed. None of the other ingredients really stood out, so that makes me think I should dial back the orange zest and let the second infusion go a little longer next time.

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Second infusion underway

Once this infusion was complete I strained and filtered (with a Chemex coffee filter) the amaro.

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Straining the (unsweetened) amaro after the second infusion; look at that rich dark color!

I then sweetened it with a simple syrup made from boiling together:

  • 1/3 cu granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cu water

I bottled it in a leftover bourbon bottle and then began the tasting.

Tasting

What was first impressive about this beverage is that it actually smells like an amaro–something about that combination of herbs and bittering roots give it the right scent. Outside of that I can smell some cherry and cinnamon.

Upon first tasting I get a strong flavor of cinnamon and cloves, followed by bright orange but well-balanced sweetness. The bitterness hits me early, and lasts into a dry finish.

At 40% alcohol, the amaro is a bit hot and drinking it over ice helps cool it down.

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The final product in a tasting glass with square ice cube.

Suggested Recipe Changes

Overall I’m incredibly happy with how my first amaro turned out. The overall strength and amount of sweetness is great. The flavor is great but there are aspects out of balance that I will change for my next batch:

  • The first infusion was too long as the bitterness, cinnamon, and cloves are too strong. I’d reduce this from five days to three and bump up the juniper to get more flavor from that.
  • From the second infusion all I can really taste is the orange. I shouldn’t have used zest for this; maybe just the peel instead. Or, I should have used maybe 20-30% of what I did (i.e. 2-3 grams). If I made that change, I may have left it longer in the second infusion to bring out more of the other flavors.

 

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