Despite the known history on the introduction and acceptance of almonds into Italian cuisine, more recent takes on the origins of Almond Liqueur have come about, further popularized by the major commercial brands. Though of sometimes questionable truthfulness, these tales hold a sentimental place in Italian culture.
In 1525, a Saronno church commissioned artist Bernardino Luini, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s pupils, to paint their sanctuary with frescoes. As the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Luini needed to depict the Madonna, but was in need of a model. He found his inspiration in a young widowed innkeeper, who became his model and (in most versions) lover. Out of gratitude and affection, the woman wished to give him a gift. Her simple means did not permit much, so she steeped apricot kernels and almonds in brandy and presented the resulting concoction to a touched Luini.
Almond Liqueur may be served neat (by itself) or on the rocks (with ice). It is often added to other beverages to create several popular mixed drinks. It is also a popular choice of liqueur to add to coffee in the morning or evening.
- 1 pound almonds, shelled
- 2 Cups vodka
- 1/2 vanilla beans
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon glycerin
- Coarsely chop the almonds by hand or in a food processor (a blender will chop them too fine). This should yield 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 Cups chopped nuts.
- Combine the nuts, vodka, and vanilla bean in a 1 quart Mason jar. Seal the jar, shake to mix, and set it aside in a cool, dark place for at least 10 days.
- Strain the liquor through a fine sieve into a 4 cup glass measuring cup and discard the residue in the sieve. Rinse the sieve and the Mason jar thoroughly. Fit the sieve with a damp coffee filter and strain the flavored vodka back into the jar. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Continue to boil for 2 minutes, until a clear syrup forms. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temp.
- When the syrup is cool, add it to the Mason jar. Add the vanilla and glycerin. Seal the jar and shake it gently to blend. The liqueur can be transferred to a decanter.