DIY Amaro – the easy way!

Okay, there are a lot of recipes online for amari, and some of them are incredibly simple. As I review this blog, I realize that most of these recipes here are quite involved – they’re well worth the trouble, but if you want a delicious amaro WITHIN A WEEK, follow me!

The secret is the simplest ingredient – tea! That’s right. Green tea, black tea, orange pekoe tea, sage and ginger teas – you name it. There are very interesting teas out there – Republic of Tea, Stash, Tazo, Bigelow and Twinings among others. If you have a favorite tea, grab it and let’s get started!

Amaro Semplicistico (Simplistic Amaro)
Ingredients:
1. Your favorite tea (loose or tea bags)
2. Neutral Spirits (preferably 75% ABV Everclear, but vodka will work too) – 4 cups
3. Simple syrup
4. Bittering component (optional, but recommended) such as gentian root, angelica root or wormwood.
5. Optional flavoring agents (cardamom, green herbs like rosemary, lemon peel, orange peel, vanilla, anise, etc.)

Method: (note – if using vodka, the resulting amaro will be approximately 40 proof – if using grain alcohol, it will be closer to 60 proof)
Create your bitter base: Take 1 tbsp. of each bittering agent in a mason jar and add 2 cups of your neutral spirit. Let sit for 4-5 days (or longer if using vodka).
Boil 2-1/2 cups of water and add tea and any additional optional flavoring agents. Allow to cool to room temperature. Strain off liquid and reserve solids.
Add leftover solids to 1 cup of neutral spirit.
Take 2 cups of brewed tea, 2 cups of bitter base, 1 cup of neutral spirit and combine them together in a larger container.
Add 1-1/2 cups of simple syrup.
Shake or mix well, taste.

Add additional simple syrup (if needed) to taste. Strain and add half of that amount of remaining neutral spirit (containing tea solids).

Strain the entire mixture through a coffee filter.

You’re finished! If your concoction is a little harsh, add some oak chips and let it sit for 1 – 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, you should have a nice amaro for sipping or adding to your favorite cocktail.

It goes without saying, you have every prerogative to further adjust flavors using tinctures, sweeteners and coloring of your choice. Have fun!

*** Some final notes *** The fermented leaves of teas impart their flavors much better in water. You can try and steep them in alcohol, but the flavor changes and seems less mellow. Other flavors such as orange peel and other dried substances tend to work better in alcohol. A basic rule of thumb is if the item in question contains any oils like citrus peels, or is in coarse form (such as cardamom or juniper berries), macerate in alcohol instead.

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5 thoughts on “DIY Amaro – the easy way!

  1. Hi Kurt, I was wondering if you found using higher proof grain alcohol improves clarity in the end product? I’ve used 96% grain, also the same diluted to 50% or 75% to macerate… I’ve used the bentonite solution(sometimes with egg white) to clarify with varying results. Out of about 13 bottles, I had one towards the end which had exceptional clarity and while I take notes, I can’t put my finger on what accounted for the really great clarity. I always end up filtering through coffee filters at the end, so I’m a little confused by the varying clarity. I think different ingredients are responsible for more or less clarity, depending on how long you keep them in. For example anise seems to macerate very clearly for me. Any suggestions on improving clarity that are related to alcohol % or ingredients? Or anything else?

    Thanks!!!

    • Hi Jason,

      Great question! The cloudiness comes from flavor oils (which are usually quite soluble in alcohol) creating an emulsion once the solution is diluted with water. In the past, I’ve taken great care to macerate those components that are oily (such as orange or lemon peels, various seeds, etc.) in a lower alcohol concentration. The reason I do that is so that I minimize the amount of oil being leached out into the alcohol solvent so that when it is diluted with water, there is less oil available for an emulsion. You may need to experiment with different concentrations (as it sounds like you have).

      If my liqueur is the slightest bit cloudy, I will almost always treat it with egg white – unless I’ve got plenty of time to let it settle in a bottle (I’m talking weeks, possibly months). Egg whites will always do the trick (one caveat – egg whites are ineffective if you’ve added any glycerin – you will have to use both bentonite and egg whites in that case). Then run it through your coffee filter.

      Now, I’ve found that the real secret to producing beautifully clear liqueur is to allow the membrane of your coffee filter to plug up (just a little) with impurities from initial runs so that only the finer liquid passes. If your liqueur is running through the coffee filter in a steady stream or drip, then you may not have enough filtration. Let some of the egg white sludge settle in your coffee filter and pour more liqueur through it. The filtering process slows to about 80 drips per minute or less (think of a music tempo). To be perfectly honest, this stops being fun. It makes filtering your liqueur a long, slow arduous process. But the results are quite satisfying! To make it go a little faster, get several filters going at once.

      I buy several of those large 4-cup cone filter holders (you can find the ceramic ones at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or other kitchen supply stores). I put a filter holder on up to 4 mason jars at a time and pour my liqueur through slightly clogged filters so that I’m collecting 4 jars at once – it splits up the time required to slightly more tolerable amounts. It is still slow – the slower the drip, the finer the clarity. Hours later, you’ll end up with four jars of spectacularly clear liqueur.

      Take a look at my filtering operation below….It is the least enjoyable part of the whole process, but if you have several dripping at once, it goes much faster.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if I missed something. Thanks, Jason. Good luck!

      Kurt

      The long, slow filtering process...

  2. Thanks, I often become frustrated with the drip and grab a new filter, so I’m sure I’ll see improved results with a bit of patience – maybe that is what got me my clearer bottles in the past.

    On another note, I have been pretty consistently macerating with 50% grain alcohol (diluted before macerating), so the simple syrup alone would be enough to get my final product down to the desired 35-40%. I was always concerned that diluting after the fact, just adding water before the SS, may tone down the flavors. Have you found this to be the case? Perhaps diluting further after macerating does the flavors a service by mellowing them out a bit. I’m about to start a batch using probably 3 cups of 75%, so I’d probably add water, in addition to SS, to get down to 35-40%.

  3. Hi Jason, In my experience, flavors have been surprisingly resilient through the dilution process. I would agree that adding water probably does mellow some of the flavors out a little, but I’ve also found that the addition of water also helps the flavors complement each other. I’m usually more worried about diluting the alcohol concentration. That’s easily fixed by adding neutral spirit as needed, after finding your desired flavor.

    The other thing you can do is to design your flavor palette, dilute and add simple syrup to get your sweetness and alcohol concentration set. Once you’re finished, get your tinctures out to fine-tune the flavors. Doing it this way, I have created some of the most complex, delicious and surprisingly smooth amari ever.

    The nice thing about tinctures is that they’re always ready to rescue almost any mistake. I say almost any, because there are some herbs and spices that refuse to be silenced – mace, cinchona bark, cinnamon, orris root, to name a few.

    Here’s an interesting tip: My go-to tincture is always star anise – Now, I don’t really care for anise as a strong flavor, but for some reason, it will neutralizes other harsh flavors more than any other tincture I’ve ever used. I don’t know why. It just balances things out. I’ll add the anise to reset things, and then continue on with the tinctures that I think will give me my desired flavor profile. I’ve had a lot of success with that.

    Good luck and let me know how things turn out.

    Kurt

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