How to make amaro – a basic recipe

If you’re just joining us, we’ve written a few posts about amari and touched on bitters and vermouth. The popularity of amaro continues to grow, and I’m pleased to have informed other tipplers about its enjoyment. I’ve taken on producing my own because it’s fun, creative and they’re really, really good!

I’ve provided a lot of data in earlier posts on creating my own amaro, but it is a lot to digest. So, if creating a simple amaro is your desire too, here are the basics from my “experienced” perspective.

Use these ingredients in the order shown. This will produce roughly 1 liter of amaro in about 2-3 weeks.

A. Base spirit – (choose one)
1.   2 cups of grain alcohol (beverage-grade ethanol) of 75% or 95%
– OR-
2.   3 cups of neutral dry brandy — you don’t want something too sweet (note: this will produce an amaro that is immediately more similar to those found in the stores).
– OR –
3.   3 cups of vodka

B. Phase one – Bittering agents (soak for 5 – 7 days in 75% or higher spirit, up to 2 weeks in vodka or brandy)
1. 1 tsp of one or more of each the following dried roots: gentian root, angelica root, wormwood, orris root, galangal root, burdock root

C. Phase two – Flavoring agents
(remove bittering agents above and soak the ingredients below for 2 – 3 days – except star anise – see below)
1.  1 vanilla bean or tbsp of vanilla bean extract
2.   1-1/2 tsp Juniper berries (dried) approx 10-14 berries)
3.   4 cardamom pods
4.   4 cloves
5.   1 tsp dried orange peel
6.   1 cinnamon stick
7.   1 sprig of rosemary (about 20 -30 leaves)
8.   4-5 peppermint leaves
9.   4-5 fresh sage, or 2-3 dried sage leaves
10.   1/4 tsp saffron
11.   1 tsp lemon balm (melissa oficianalis)
12.   1 star anise – soak for 1-2 days and test. Star anise has an intense flavor and will overpower your mixture very quickly if you’re not careful. Keep infusing to taste.

Strain and remove the solids. Proceed to the next phase.

D. Phase three – Sweetening/diluting agents

1 to 1-1/2 cups Simple syrup
1 cup distilled water
1 cup white vermouth (bianco vermouth)

You’re going to want to be careful with adding sweetener because it will both dilute your liqueur (and throw any hydrometer or alcoholometer measurements way off) and thicken it. I recommend a 1:1 mixture of simple syrup and distilled water.  Do the math before adding the water.  If you’re using 2 cups 95% spirits and add 1 cup of simple syrup, 1 cup of distilled water and 1 cup of vermouth (at about 18% ABV), you will produce a mixture of 5 cups at roughly 40%. Once the mixture has been mixed, begin tasting. This is your baseline. Add more simple syrup as needed.

E. Phase four – Mellowing and coloring agents

1. Add mixture to small oak barrel and let it rest for 1 – 3 months, OR add toasted oak chips (about 3 tbsp) to mixture, and soak for up to 4 weeks

Strain and remove the oak chips and any remaining solids.

Depending on the toast of the barrel or oak chips, your amaro will darken beautifully. If after the mellowing period you wish to darken it further, you will need to create caramel coloring by heating granulated or brown sugar in a pan on the stovetop and dilute CAREFULLY and SLOWLY with boiling water. Add up to 1 oz of caramel coloring to darken your amaro more.

Finishing touches
See the fining process in an earlier post if the mixture is too cloudy to your liking. You can let it settle for a few days and try to siphon off the clearer liqueur above any sediment.
Once it is clear, bottle it up. It will be certainly drinkable now, but will continue to mellow over the next few months. Store it in a cool dark cupboard.