View Full Version : Home-made Holiday Hootch

Nicholas Carey
12-27-2009, 05:58 PM
So this Christmas, I made a batch of Liquore di Basilico, a traditional Italian farmhouse liqueur made from basil.

Similar to limoncello, liquore di basilico is, in a nutshell, basil essences extracted with pure ethanol, then cut with simple syrup (sugar syrup) to approximately 80 proof.

The idea was to give it away as Christmas presents, but a shortage of liqueur bottles at our local brewing and winemaking suppliers delayed things (Apparently everybody in Seattle is making home-made liqueurs or home-made vanilla extract as Christmas presents this year).

All I can say is, "Oh-my-effing-goodness! This stuff is great!"

For a recipe, I looked at a bunch of different ones, mostly from Italy and "distilled" them into my own. The recipe follows.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4049/4220373062_f5e0c465a7.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/handforged/4220373062/)

Liquore di Basilico
Basil Liqueur

Much like limoncello, this is a traditional farmhouse liqueur from Italy. Store the bottle in the freezer and drink it in small shots, neat.

Yield: approximately 4.25 liters of 83 proof liqueur. Will fill 10-12 375ml wine or liqueur bottles.

Caution: Safety First!
Pure ethanol is dangerous. It is flammable; its vapors are explosive. It burns with an invisible flame.

No smoking and no open flames when working with ethanol, please.


Metric (weight)

1.75 L pure grain alcohol (ethanol) at 190 proof (95% by volume) [see notes]
100–125 g fresh basil
2 large lemons, Meyer preferred
2100 cc water
1050 grams white sugar

English (volume and/or weight)

7-3/8 cups pure grain alcohol (ethanol) at 190 proof (95% by volume) [see notes]
4 oz fresh basil
2 large lemons, Meyer preferred
8-7/8 cups water
5-1/4 cups white sugar


5 liter (1-1/3 gallon) or larger widemouth canning/storage jar with airtight closure. A canning jar with a wire bale lid is ideal.
stainless steel or glass funnel
large strainer
large stainless steel bowl
100% cotton cheese cloth


Wash the canning jar well with soap and hot water. Rinse well with boiling water. Let dry.
Pluck the leaves [see notes] from the fresh basil and add to the canning jar.
Using a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler remove the zest from the lemons. Avoid the white portion of the skin: it will impart a bitter taste to the liqueur. Add the zest to the storage jar.
Pour the alcohol into the storage jar.
Store in a coolish dark place. A basement closet is ideal.
Every day, upend the jar and swirl it around—gently—to mix things up.

After 10-14 days have passed in the closet, it's time to "come out of the closet" so to speak,

Make the simple syrup: put the sugar and cold water into a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5–10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. 

Cooling to room temperature is important -- the basil extract contains a lot of heat-sensitive volatiles in it and you don’t want to destroy or damage them.
Line the strainer with several layers of cheesecloth (or a jelly bag) and place the strainer on top of the large bowl. Strain the ethanol (now a verdant green) into the bowl.
Wash and dry the canning jar.
Return the alcohol-basil extract to the jar.
Add the room-temperature simple syrup to the alcohol.

Now it’s time to bottle the stuff:

Wash and sanitize the bottles. A solution of 1 tablespoon unscented, standard chlorine bleach (5.25%) in 1 gallon of water will give you a sanitizing solution containing approximately 200ppm chlorine solution. A contact time of 1 minute or longer should be sufficient to get a 100% kill ratio. Rinse the bottles well with hot water to remove the chlorine.
Fill the bottles. I used a funnel lined with several layers of cheesecloth to strain things a second time and make sure not unwanted bits of basil made it into the finished product.
Seal the bottles with the stopper of your choice. If you are using corks, you’ll need a corking machine and the correct-sized corks for your bottles.

That’s it. Store your product (on its side, if corked) in a cool dark place.


Organic produce is preferred for obvious reasons. Ethanol is a very effective solvent and you probably don’t want to consume the insecticides used on conventional produce. Conventional lemons are also coated with fungicidal wax and are typically dyed to get the brilliant yellow preferred by consumers.

I don’t fancy eating or drinking any of that, do you?

Some italian sources say to use all the basil, stems and all. I didn’t do this, but it would make make sense to do so and reduce the amount of basil required. If you do use all the basil, chop the stems into 1 or 2 inch lengths before adding to the canning jar.

190 proof ethanol is available commercially in most states. The most common brands available are “Everclear” and “Clear Spring”. Not legally sold in the following states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. Note that if your state has a state-run monopoly on liquor sales at either the wholesale or retail level, pure ethanol may not be available, even if the sale of pure ethanol is legal, if the liquor monopoly elects to not sell the stuff.

The highest concentration ethanol ordinarily available is 190 proof. This is because conventional distillation apparatus can’t produce anything stronger than 191.2 proof -- a solution of 95.6% ethanol and 4.4% water by volume forming an azeotrope (a solution that cannot be separated via simple distillation.)

12-29-2009, 04:08 AM
WOW...This looks really good. Thanks for the recipe Nicholas :) :):)

12-29-2009, 05:37 AM
Oh yippee! Another excuse to keep my gf growing basil by the bucket other than for pesto! Thanks for the near idiot proof recipe Nicholas!! I canna wait to give it a whirl! :)