Also known as Liquore al Basilico, this herb-infused alcohol (liquor or liqueur, as you prefer) is very similar to its more popular cousin, Limoncello. The basic steps and method are the same for making it.
I made limoncello and crema di limoncello once when I was living in California. I had a Meyer lemon tree in my backyard that made me feel blessed and cursed at the same time. When I was in Lemondrop or Lemonade-making mood, I was blessed. When hundreds of lemons stared at me, ripening before my eyes and begging to be used, I felt cursed. One time I picked a ton of the ripe lemons, peeled off their skins and dropped them into the strongest vodka I could find. The results were…not bad, but nothing like Sorrento.
Basilcello isn’t much different and it actually doesn’t require as much raw material or preparation as peeling a ton of lemons and avoiding the pith (white part of the lemon peel).
Limoncello and Basilcello are both so strong because they are made with grain alcohol (illegal in California when I was living there) and that accounts for the pleasant, full-scale “digestive burn” on its way down your throat. Unfortunately, these liquors made with anything less potent are often a bad imitation. If you don’t have grain alcohol available, make sure you cut back on the sugar as it will be too sweet, but try and get that grain alcohol!
I had purchased a veritable tree of basil one day at the market, and in addition to making some fresh pesto, I knew I wanted to make Basilcello. Though I hadn’t seen or tasted it before (and I found Ilva’s recipe after making mine), I thought it would be a nice experiment.
Basilcello, Liquore al Basilico – Basil Liqueur / Liquor
adapted from Cucina Moderna
20 basil leaves
5 dl (500ml) of 95% grain alcohol (190 proof)
600g white sugar
6 dl (600ml) water
- Clean the basil leaves by wiping them gently with a damp paper towel. Do not wet or immerse the leaves as they can lose some of their oils and will start to blacken.
- Put the leaves and the grain alcohol together in a (preferably glass) bottle and close it tightly. Leave it to infuse for 15-20 days, mixing/turning it over 2-3 times a day. The liquid will start to get green immediately.
- After this time passes, bring the water to a boil in a pan, add the sugar and mix it until dissolved, but take the mixture off the heat before it comes to a boil. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
- Add the syrup to the basil alcohol and mix well, then filter out the basil leaves and other pieces. Close the mixture in a glass bottle, leaving it in a dark place for another 20 days.
- Serve the liquid as cold as possible, and store (for ready-serving) in the freezer or refrigerator. Before pouring, shake the bottle to make sure it’s fully mixed.
The result is a bright green, very sweet basil liquor that will help take away your indigestion just like the best limoncello. In fact I’m starting to be partial to my little basil liquor already and aren’t inclined to share with others. Its bright green color speaks to me. The only way you’ll get a taste of mine is by coming here directly!
Basil liquor too weird for you? Would you pair it with anything?