It’s been four weeks since we embarked on this little kitchen project, but I’m happy to report that our amaretto is ready! Exhale that bated breath, uncross those fingers and wonder no more, dearhearts: it is marvelous. The amaretto tastes of almonds and spice, with the baritone warmth of brandy or bourbon but very little bite, any prickly edges smoothed out and softened with a lush, maple-syrup sweetness. It’s like a cashmere throw blanket, if cashmere were potable.
In a happy accident, the almond liqueur makes for a lovely pairing with the pfeffernüsse I made last week, and it’s very easy to picture a glass alongside gingerbread or poached pears, or tucked into baci di cioccolato, Italy’s chocolate-hazelnut cookies. It would shine next to any dessert with cinnamon or caramel, though this almond-sweet amaretto is an after-dinner treat all on its very own.
Lest you think the project was all sunshine and smooth sailing, I’ll admit my kitchen did take on a decidedly “Appalachian Moonshining Operation” vibe while I was filtering. I doubled the recipe and had to McGyver a setup (a couple of colanders, a strainer, a stack of coffee filters, the gallon containers, a roll of paper towels, four bowls and a funnel) to deal with all that volume. Which may have made me a little impatient while pouring. Which might explain the spillage and why I ended up smelling like a bar. (A really nice bar, one with a piano and bartenders in white jackets, but a bar nonetheless.)
That said, the whole process was really very simple: mix the almonds and fruit and hooch (Part One), let it sit, filter, sweeten, bottle. Considering how cozy-warm and ambrosial the amaretto turned out to be, it’s worth any mess I made, and certainly worth the initial cost of the vodka and brandy. I’m really pleased with the result. (DiSaronno who?)
I’m also super-pleased that I have a stash of handcrafted gifts for family and friends (ones they’ll actually want to receive this year), hostess gifts ready to dash out the door, a decanter full of homemade amaretto to share with holiday guests and, best of all, a new Christmas tradition on my hands. Worth it, indeed. Cheers!
- 1/2 C brown sugar
- 1/2 C granulated sugar
- 1/2 C purified or bottled water
- 1 C vodka
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- fine-mesh strainer
- basket-style coffee filters
- gift bottles
Set two large pieces of cheesecloth in the bottom of a strainer or colander over a large bowl and pour out the infused liquid. Discard the solids, pressing out as much liquid from them as possible. (Side note: I tried an apricot and wouldn’t recommend getting behind the wheel if you do, too. Yowza.) Next, filter the liquid through two basket-style coffee filters (stacked on top of each other) and set into a strainer over a fresh bowl. The liquid that comes through (it will take a little while; do the laundry or turn on some TV) should look dark and clear and will leave a beige sludge (delicious!) behind in the filter; discard the filters and repeat, if desired. (I strained three times, which may have been overkill.)
In a medium saucepan, make a simple syrup by heating the sugars and water until completely dissolved, about five minutes. Bring to a simmer and take off the heat. Let cool.
Add the vodka, almond and vanilla extracts to the filtered amaretto base. Add about half of the simple syrup, stirring to combine. Taste and add more syrup to sweeten to your taste. (I had about 1/4 C left over.)
Use a funnel to transfer the liqueur to clean, glass containers; amaretto will keep for about six months.