Liqueur made with bay leaves sounds very strange, but its taste is hardly strange at all.  This liqueur’s scent, flavor and even color are similar to French Chartreuse, a liqueur made by monks following to a centuries-old secret recipe. It makes one wonder if bay leaves are not one of the secrets.

You need young, new growth leaves to make this exotic liqueur and not the typical leaves found in the spices aisle at the supermarket. Some organic food markets occasionally have very fresh leaves and those are good, but nothing beats freshly picked ones. New growth leaves, still pale green and supple, give up their flavor and color readily, while dark green, fully mature leaves do not. You need access to a bay tree to pick such leaves – consider it pruning. Some people keep a bay tree as a house plant for its wonderful scent. It needs plenty of sun, so talk to your local garden center. California’s climate, being so close to Italy’s allows the Laurel trees (Bay) to grow out of doors year round quite successfully.

Light colored as the leaves are, after a day or so in alcohol, they will turn the alcohol a green so dark that it looks nearly black. Once you dilute the infused alcohol with the sugar syrup, it lightens to a slightly greener than true chartreuse color. As the liqueur sits, some color will rise to the top. Just agitate the bottle a little before serving, to blend the color again.

Bayleaf Liqueur (Liquore Alloro)
An aromatic liqueur that uses little more than Laurel (bay) leaves to create a unique flavor.
Recipe type: Liqueur
Serves: 5 Cups
  • about 32 large, young bay leaves (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 2 Cups grain alcohol (usually 95% alcohol)
  • 2 Cups water, distilled
  • 2 1/2 Cups sugar
  1. Crush the bay leaves in your hand. Put them in a jar and cover with alcohol. Let the leaves infuse for at least 24 hours. You can shake the jar a few times, but it really isn’t necessary.
  2. The infusion is ready when the alcohol has turned dark green and the bay leaves have lost their green color and have become golden-colored and look brittle.
  3. Combine the water and sugar in a 2-quart non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes. The syrup is ready as soon as it comes to a simmer. As it settles, it will become crystal clear. Let it cool to room temperature.
  4. Strain the alcohol once through a fine mesh strainer, then again through a coffee filter. Pour the filtered alcohol into the sugar syrup and stir well. Discard the bay leaves.
  5. Pour the liqueur into a jar or bottles.
The liqueur can be drunk within 24 hours of being made, but it will taste strongly of the alcohol. It improves with some aging, at least 1 week, but a month, stored in a dark, cool place will make it much better.

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