Basilcello, Basil Liqueur-Liquor Recipe

October 23rd, 2007 · Tags: Dessert · Discovering Food · Food · Italy · Recipe

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.

Homemade Basilcello, Basil Liquor

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Making Basilcello

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?


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36 responses so far ↓

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  • 1
    Cedar // Oct 23, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Wow, what an interesting idea! I am saving this, just because I know I would like it with something….perhaps an Italian version of a Bloody Mary or something….hmmm…

  • 2
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Oct 23, 2007 at 8:14 am

    @Cedar, you can definitely definitely drink it by itself! :)

  • 3
    rowena // Oct 23, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Aha! So is this what you meant by getting together when Ilva comes into town? Sure, I’m all for a cup of tea (or a shot of basilcello). Just let me know waaaay ahead of time and I hope it’s a w/e. Right now though, I’m stuck with a cold, so it’s only Tachiparina Flu for me!

  • 4
    Christina // Oct 23, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Basil liquor … It sure sounds weird to me, but who knows — might be fantastic. I would be willing to try. Like Cedar said, an Italian version of Bloody Mary.

  • 5
    Manju // Oct 23, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    This looks and sounds amazing. I’ve never heard of basilcello, but I got really into digestifs in Germany so I would love to try this some time.

  • 6
    Hillary // Oct 23, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Wow – this is the first I’ve heard of basilcello, but I’ve definitely heard of its cousin limoncello! I’m intrigued!

  • 7
    jackie // Oct 23, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I’ve never heard of this either, but it looks too good to pass up! That color of green is amazing!

  • 8
    Shelley, At Home in Rome // Oct 23, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    I’ve never tried this before. I’m one of the few people who doesn’t like mint juleps, so I’m thinking I might not go for this either… but I’d be willing to give it a try!

  • 9
    Amy // Oct 23, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Starting this project this evening — glad they sell grain alcohol in Georgia! I’m surprised that 20 basil leaves is all the recipe calls for. Might try infusing the simple syrup with tangerine zest.

  • 10
    Antonella // Oct 23, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Firstly, how cool is it that you wrote about basilcello (cute name). My mom makes it so I tried it too. She uses 40 leaves of Basil though. Oregon and Nevada sell Everclear but you’re not supposed to bring that dynamite-in-a-bottle onto a plane… oops!

    Secondly: Lemonade! It’s great in lemonade, I found out quite by accident. Who knew? Try it.

  • 11
    Maryann@FindingLaDolceVita // Oct 23, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Wonderful post! Thanks so much. I was looking for a recipe for both limoncello and basilcello. Now I only have to find the grain alcohol haha. But I am def going to make it :)

  • 12
    Kristie // Oct 24, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Ohh…you are very brave. Me+cooking=disaster. I admire you!

  • 13
    Jamie // Oct 25, 2007 at 1:42 am

    I wish I drank more cocktails! This sounds like a fun project. Does it have a long shelf-life after straining?

  • 14
    Roam2Rome // Oct 25, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Being a foodie blog from Italy, I tagged you for a Refrigerator MeMe! It should be interesting to see your fridge :)

  • 15
    Susan from Food Blogga // Oct 25, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    I love Limoncello, but this is new to me. I’m intrigued.

  • 16
    Sara // Oct 27, 2007 at 5:17 am

    This looks fabulous! I made basil lemonade this summer and it was wonderful-I think this would make for a great adult version of that drink. Yum.

  • 17
    Italy Logue // Oct 28, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Wow, I’ve never heard of this one before, although I’ve made limoncello several times. I’m having trouble imagining what basil would taste like in a sweet version… But I’ve got such a sweet tooth I’d probably end up liking it. :)

  • 18
    lieludalis // Oct 31, 2007 at 9:45 am

    ooooh! It’s way to beautiful NOT to try. Plus, I love the basil! I would probably pair this with something salty and acidic maybe? But I like Antonella’s lemonade idea!
    I wonder how this would be with mint? My husband has been on a mojito kick and it’s starting to drive me crazy… he’s always saying he wants more mint flavor! This could be the way, haha!

  • 19
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Oct 31, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Yes, I think the next batch might be a hybrid basil-lemon, but I look forward to finishing this batch :)

  • 20
    Kate // Jan 2, 2008 at 6:21 am

    I’ve got far too much basil in my fridge and I’m looking for ways to use it – this sounds delicious but I”m also intrigued by how to make the basil lemonade, any recipes anyone?

  • 21
    Robin // Jan 4, 2008 at 4:24 am

    Found this while looking for a recipe for basilicocello. I read about it in “A Year in the World’ by Frances Mayes.
    Sounds delicious – we will make it when basil is back in season.

  • 22
    Elena // Jan 7, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    I’m too young to drink legally, so it’ll definitely be a few years before I try this, but it’s quite the neat idea! It reminds me of summer, when the local ice cream shop sells basil ice cream. Apparently the idea is that basil is a close cousin of mint so works the same way. We’ve definitely had fun with the ice creams- nice gazpatchos with a dollop of creamy goodness in the middle. I’m sure my mom would love a bloody mary made with this stuff.

  • 23
    Corradovet // Jan 24, 2008 at 1:37 am

    This sounds excellent, I am still curious about the shelf life myself. I assume the less water in your sugar solution you use, the more shelf stable it is. I would also suggest keeping it in the refrigerator and/or in a dark (opaque) bottle. Additionally, basil liquor should extract the essentials out of the basil and pick up some of its anti-depressant activities.
    About the italian bloody mary, I am not sure a sweet basil liquor would have any place in a notoriously salty and spicy drink. It would probably end up tasting like over spiced gravy. That been said, you might consider mixing it with lemon or seltzer water. I imagine with seltzer water it would be a phenomenal apertif.

  • 24
    Marie // Mar 17, 2008 at 12:50 am

    I’d mix it with a clear strawberry liqueur, like a bar in downtown Seattle does with the fresh basil leaves and liquor. This would definitely be interesting with strawberries, but I can’t wait to try it as is!

  • 25
    Jan McIntyre // Jul 29, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I would like to give this at Christmas. Will it keep that long?

  • 26
    Philip // Sep 1, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    There are serveral types of basil. What variety did you use?

  • 27
    casalba // Nov 24, 2008 at 7:46 am

    I came over from My bella Vita. I never heard of this either. The colour!!! This is a definite!

  • 28
    shells // Aug 24, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    How many servings does this make? I’m thinking of doubling this recipe – we have quite the bumper crop of basil this year!

  • 29
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Aug 25, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Hi Shells, it’s quite a lot of liquor, actually – should be more than a liter in total.

  • 30
    claire // Dec 19, 2009 at 12:13 am

    What a great, simple recipe. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing. And Marie is a genius–of course this would go great with a strawberry liquor. Brilliant!

  • 31
    Leslie // Apr 5, 2010 at 10:14 am

    There is a place here that makes a great basil strawberry martini. This seems like the perfect liquor to try replicating the drink at home.

  • 32
    bruce // Jul 9, 2010 at 6:27 am

    My basilchello oxidized to brown! any ideas on how to prevent this?

  • 33
    Dave // Aug 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    How bad is it when the leaves start to blacken?

  • 34
    Ames // Oct 10, 2010 at 1:48 am

    My leaves went brown, too, but the basilcello seems to be working. Bottling mine up tomorrow. The green color is really amazing.

  • 35
    Tom // Mar 7, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Had liquore di basilico in a small Rome restaurant. It wasn’t on the menu, but our kind waiter had it in the freezer. The green color is amazing. Upon a return trip to this same restaurant, they didn’t know what I was talking about. So, I am happy to have this recipe to relive the experience. BTW, I”m somewhat of a freak with basil. I’ve even made basil ice cream — deelish!

  • 36
    Melissa (Alienbody) // Aug 8, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Everclear IS available in California! Woot! It can be purchased at BevMo and we’ve made Limoncello (sp?) with it in the past…always fearful that the slightest rubbing of our clothing would cause a spark and then *poof* there goes the neighborhood. So, this time we are making it with 100 proof vodka. Now we just try the basil version. (found your link from BlogHer on Facebook)

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