I recently found a blog called Open Source Liquors and it really opened my eyes to the fact that I can make amaro at home. I love amaro and gravitate towards any cocktails that feature it, especially negronis! I love how trendy amaro has gotten recently, after dinner at the newly opened Fox & the Knife in Boston, they rolled out an amaro cart for me to choose from!
For my first attempt, I wanted to make 3 different types for an upcoming trip. I settled on something herbal, something inspired by root beer, and something with chipotle. I am going to walk you through the process, but not put specific recipes. I want to stress that there are only a few things you need to worry about getting right, and the rest can be a really fun game of trial and error to find the right mix of flavors for you!
Step one is to source the ingredients. You can buy everything online, but we also have a great spice shop here where I got most of what I needed. I was surprised that finding grain alcohol was the hardest part. Thankfully the liquor store near one of the colleges had it in stock because apparently the students use it in their super powerful “jungle juice”.
After mixing the base bittering agents of wormwood and gentian root with the alcohol, I was free to experiment and add what I wanted in each different mixture for the desired outcome. I will list out the specifics of each at the bottom of the post.
After they sit for 3 to 4 weeks, strain them. Now is when you add sugar and water to get a good balance of flavors and proof.
To the herbal blend, I was aiming for the sugar level to be at about 20% and the alcohol to be about 30% or 60 proof.
After mixing them all, you need to strain with a coffee filter to get out any last impurities or solids, then let them sit another week to combine.
I’ve tried them on their own as well as with soda water and I love how they all came out! Can’t wait to sip these as a nightcap next week on the cape celebrating the 4th of July with some friends.
I think my favorite one was the chipotle. I wish it had a little more prominent spice, but you do get the smoke flavor and a hint of coriander and cinnamon.
I used Open Source Liquors as my main guide for this, as well as these articles on Saveur, Food 52, and Tasting Table.
For all three of these I used pint sized ball jars and started with a tablespoon each of wormwood and gentian root. After adding all the rest of the ingredients I filled the jars with grain alcohol. I let them soak for a month, then strained them and ended up with a cup and a half of liquid. I made a simple syrup for each with about a cup of various kinds of sugar, and 3 cups of water and mixed it together until I got the desired flavor.
To the herbal one I added dried elderflower, and hyssop, fresh mint, rosemary, and basil, lemon and orange peel. After it sat in the grain alcohol for 4 weeks, I finished this one with just sugar and water.
To the root beer one I added birch bark, sarsaparilla, dried cherries, vanilla, ginger, and orange peel, and after the soak I finished it with burnt caramel and water.
To the chipotle one I added one chipotle pepper with the seeds removed, lemongrass, coriander, cinnamon, lime and lemon peel, and cilantro stems. After the soak I finished this one with water and honey.
Do you dry your wormwood first? I planted one last year and it’s thriving now, but I wasn’t sure if the flavor was off with fresh wormwood.
I purchased the wormwood already dried, so I don’t know!