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Almond Liqueur

Log Notes and Documentation

Submitted: Caid Brewers Guild Interkingdom Brewing Contest, GWW VIII (10/9/04)
By: Journeyman Lynnette de Sandoval del Valle de los Unicornios

Modified from documentation turned in a several brewing contests

The Recipe:

    (Modified from Homemade Liqueurs p.106)

Sugar Syrup:   Combine 2 parts sugar with 1 part water. Boil together for about 5 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.
  Remove from heat and set aside.

Main Recipe:   4 teaspoons pure almond extract (original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon)   1 1/2 cups vodka   1/2 cup sugar syrup

Combine all ingredients when the sugar syrup has cooled. Shake well.

Let mature for a few days in a closed container. Bottle.

Yields approx 2 cups.

Log Notes:

Not much to tell here. The liqueur was made as per the above recipe and bottled on February 9, 1997, for the Brewers Guild Tavern at GWW I. The bottles offered up here have been in storage since.


Mark Shapiro, in Complete Anachronist #60 Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle Ages records the history of liqueurs thusly:

Among the earliest writings on the subject of flavored alcohols are those of the Catalan Arnold de Vila Nova, an alchemist in Spain and France who was born in 1240. He wrote, in The Boke of Wine, of the distillation of wine into aqua vitae and the subsequent flavoring of these spirits with various herbs and spices. He especially wrote of the restorative and life giving properties of these waters. It was the firm belief of Raymond Lully, a student of de Vila Nova's that so vital and life restoring were these waters, their production was a divinely inspired gift from Heaven.

It was primarily among the alchemists of this early date, however, that these waters became known. It remained for a later period for these beverages to be much used as pleasurable drinks and not as alchemical potions. By the fourteenth century, however, the drinking of these liqueurs had become popular in Italy and spread into France. This popularity is often attributed to Catherine de Medici, who, along with her Court, brought the use of these liqueurs with her to France from her native Tuscany. There is, however, some evidence of an earlier diffusion of liqueurs, or an independent outgrowth of these drinks prior to their introduction by Catherine. There can be little doubt, however, that the Court of Catherine certainly increased the popularity and acceptance of these potables among the nobility of France.

Between the fourteenth century and the early seventeenth century considerable production of these liqueurs was from the alchemists and the monastic orders. Benedictine, as the name indicates dates to the Benedictine monk Dom Bernardo Vincelli, in the Abbey of Fecamp about the year 1510. The recipe for Chartreuse was originally an 'Elixir de longue Vie' (an elixir of long life), given in 1605 to a Carthusian monastery near Paris by the Marechal d'Estrees, a captain under Henri IV. Cusenier Mazarine, a French Anise liqueur, dates to a 1637 recipe of the Abbaye de Montbenoit. Recipes, too, for the herbal liqueurs of Aiguebelle, Carmeline, La Senancole, and Trappastine were also originally monastic elixirs (primarily Cistertian). It would be a mistake, however, to claim that the total production of liqueurs was limited to these monasteries. By the middle to the end of the sixteenth century several distilleries had been formed which were producing commercial quantities of liqueurs. These included the Dutch distillery of Bols, founded in 1575 and Der Lachs, a German distillery which began producing Danzig Goldwasser in 1598. The first of the liqueurs produced by Bols was an anisette liqueur on which they began production shortly after the founding of the distillery.

Talking about Medieval liqueur recipes, he says:

Recipes for liqueurs and cordials are a strange and unusual lot. Of those liqueurs whose names have come down to us through the years, in many cases that is all that we know. Others are simple herbal mixtures of only a single spice, such as anise. Some, like Kummel are made up of only two herbs i.e. caraway and cumin. We know that Hippocrates drank an anise flavored beverage called anisum, and that the ancient Greeks used caraway and cumin in their beverages. We can also find references to the use of these herbs in alcoholic beverages in the Bible in the Book of Isaiah. Legend has it that apricot pits were distilled four centuries ago to make amaretto. We also have some liqueurs which have survived to this day, but for the most part ignorant of what the actual ingredients are unless we happen to be one of the four people in the world which are trusted with the secret of the recipe for Chartreuse. I am not one of those people and I don't know anyone who is. I have neither seen, nor heard of any recipes which claim to duplicate Chartreuse at all well. Recipes for Benedictine-like liqueurs do exist, though they often contain bitter almonds, or the oil of bitter almonds, which, contain cyanide and are quite poisonous, and oil of wormwood, which can cause brain damage and is also illegal in most civilized countries as well as other ingredients now known to be quite poisonous. Almond extract may be used in place of oil of bitter almonds and oil of horehound or oil of hyssop for oil of wormwood.

The ingredients:

Almonds: Almonds are mentioned in the bible and Shakespeare, and numerous sources in between. By the late 1500’s Gerard tells us that almond trees were “ in our London gardens and orchards in great plenty”. Almonds (sweet and bitter) were in great use in medieval Europe, both the nut and the oil derived from them.

Almond Extract: Is made by dissolving the almond essential oil in alcohol. Gerard lists several Medieval uses for almond oil and its healthful benefits.

Sugar: Cane sugar was imported into Europe from India. The Arabs had brought sugar cane cultivation to Southern Europe during 8th century AD, but it didn’t move to the rest of Europe until late in the Middle Ages. Medieval European sugar was processed by the Sugar Bakers to remove the molasses and achieve a white processed sugar.

Vodka: Vodka originated in Eastern Europe around the 12th century and was known and used in Russia by the 14th century. Medieval vodka differs from modern vodka in that it was a lower proof, by virtue of modern distillation processes; and it was made from grain rather than potatoes, although the high proof of vodka’s distillation insures that little or no flavor of the original components survives in the finished product.


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