Home Brews – Anisette

Three recipes for making anise flavored liqueurs-

Anise flavored liquors and liqueurs are popular in Europe and around the Mediterranean. Often served before or after a meal they are thought of as a digestive aid. I personally can’t vouch for that but they are tasty unless you don’t like licorice- in which case you probably won’t like these.

Anise flavored liquors (like Ouzo) and Liqueurs (like Anisette) turn cloudy when diluted with water. This is called “the Ouzo effect”. This is due to chemical compounds- mainly trans-anethole- imparted by the anise seed and star anise coming out of suspension as water dilutes the drink and lowers the alcohol content. You can see this in the two pictures below of a glass of Mastika with ice melting into it-

On that note: never store anise-flavored spirits in the fridge or freezer as this will cause a similar effect due to the drop in temperature. Once the anethole comes out of suspension it will eventually turn to sediment and will negatively effect the flavor of the brew. Honestly you shouldn’t be keeping liquors or liqueurs in the freezer anyway.

Liqueur Recipes- Simple and Easy Anisette

*This liqueur tastes remarkably complex for how few ingredients there are. The scent and flavor is very similar to Marie Brizzard Anisette. Unlike commercially produced anisette though it is a greenish-gold color -not clear- as this brew is not distilled afterwards.  It makes an interesting ingredient in cocktails and it’s wonderful on the rocks.

* For an herbaceous, green anisette that looks and tastes similar to a pastis or absinthe add a tbsp or two of mashed fresh fennel greens and fresh parsley to the brew a full 24 hours before straining.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. Coarsely crush the spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add to the jar.
  3. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool dark location for at least 5 days (preferably a week or two), shaking daily.
  4. After the spices have infused check the brew. The liqueur should have an intense and intoxicating anise scent balanced with underlying spicy and citrusy notes. Add a tbsp of honey and let it dissolve then taste and see if it has the desired level of sweetness. If not add more honey (it should be semi-dry and very smooth). Seal the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Let stew for another 8 to 12 hours, shaking every so often.
  5. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a beautiful translucent, greenish gold. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar (preferably dark glass) and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Complex and Spicy Anisette

*This liqueur tastes (and smells) similar to Ouzo although it is smoother, spicier and sweeter. It can be served like brandy, in cocktails that use anise based liqueurs or on the rocks. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder coarsely crush/grind the spices and add them to the jar.
  3. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool, dark location and let stew for week, shaking daily.
  4. Dissolve a tbsp of the honey to the jar and taste it to see if has the desired sweetness. If not add more honey. Then seal it back up. Shake the jar vigorously for a minute or so. Return the jar to a cool, dark location and let stew for a few more days to a week, shaking daily.
  5. Open the jar and smell the brew- it should smell intensely of anise with an underlying backbone of cinnamon and cloves with floral notes. Taste the liqueur again to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol but it should not burn like moonshine. This liqueur should have a brandy-like mouth feel so if the alcohol is to strong add a little more honey. It should be semi-sweet, complex, spicy and smooth
  6. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a beautiful, translucent earthy red- like a fine China black tea tea. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Mastika

*Mastika (or Mastica) is an anise-based liqueur flavored with gum mastic that is popular in Greece and surrounding countries. Gum mastic or mastic of Chios is a resin obtained from a tree related to pistachios native the Aegean basin. Gum mastic has a slightly bitter, piney, bay-leaf like scent and flavor. This liqueur tastes (and smells) similar to Ouzo. It can be served like Ouzo in cocktails in or on the rocks. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle crush the gum mastic and add it to the jar. Let it dissolve (this may take a few hours).
  3. In a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder coarsely crush/grind the other spices and add them to the jar.
  4. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool, dark location and let stew for week, shaking daily.
  5. Dissolve a tbsp of the honey into the brew then taste it to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. This liqueur should be semi-dry with some a bitter, piney notes imparted by the gum mastic. Seal the jar back up and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Return the jar to a cool, dark location and let stew for another day or two, shaking occasionally.
  6. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a translucent reddish-brown – like tea. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Home Brews- Bath Tub Gin

Two easy home brewed gin recipes-

So I was looking for recipes that called for juniper berries and found several for “bath tub” gin. Fairly simple- mash up some juniper berries pour some vodka over them and let them sit overnight. Then add whatever botanicals you want the next day, let them infuse a few hours more then filter and serve. I looked up which herbs went into my personal favorite gin- Bombay Sapphire- and decide to try an experimental batch with those and a second batch that would be lighter, sweeter and more floral.

For Batch #1 I went with a combo of juniper berries, almonds, orris root, lemon peel, green cardamom and cassia cinnamon. And since I don’t have angelica root I used a combination of some celery seed, bay leaves and gum mastic (which smells like angelica- trust me). And for a little extra zip I added a piece of galangal root.

For Batch #2 i wanted something more floral and perfumey so started with juniper berries and added linden flowers, German chamomile, rosebuds, frankincense (which has like an intense woodsy, floral scent with citrus notes and has a resinous piney flavor), orange peel and orris root. Orris root comes from the Dalmatian iris plant. the root is then slowly dried and aged for 2-5 years to develop a strong floral scent similar to iris – the raw root doesn’t have much scent or flavor. It imparts a perfumey scent and a violet-like taste to the gin.

I placed the mashed up berries in two different mason jars, along with the orris root, mastic and frankincense and in batch #2’s jar I added the chamomile and linden flowers. I poured a high proof vodka over the herbs and resins, sealed up jars and placed them in a sunny window to let them stew for 24 hours. I think that was a bit to long as the scent- and flavor- were a little overwhelming. I also probably shouldn’t have put the orris root in so early as even the few pieces I added came out very strongly in the brew. Otherwise they smelled and tasted about right. I then added the remaining herbs and spices, resealed the jars and let them marinate overnight. The next day I strained and filtered both batches. They were a bit darker  (batch #2 came out about the color of a brown ale) and a little more bitter than the commercial blends I’ve tasted but still fairly close.

Batch #1- while a bit piney- was actually pretty good once diluted (and chilled) with lots of ice. Batch #2 was really bitter but a little honey and some ice to cool and water it down turned it into a refreshing, bittersweet liqueur.

Liquor Recipes- Amber Gin

*This home brewed gin tastes (and smells) very much like Bombay Sapphire and can be used in cocktails like true distilled gin or served on the rocks. If served with ice or tonic water this translucent liquor will turn cloudy like ouzo.

*The juniper berries should be fairly fresh and plump- similar to a raisin- not hard and crunchy. They should have a piney, cedar wood like scent and a sweet, fruity and spicy flavor. They should not be bitter or taste like turpentine. You can use almond meal in place of whole or slivered almonds.

*If you can’t get angelica root a combination of ¼ tsp celery seed, 2 bay leaves and a slice of galangal comes pretty close to it.

  • 1 1/2 cups vodka (80 or 100 proof)
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries, raw almonds
  • 1 tsp granulated dried lemon peel
  • 1 tsp each whole coriander seed and angelica root
  • ½ tsp orris root, whole or minced
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 3” stick cassia cinnamon
  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle mash up the juniper berries and almonds. Add to the jar along with the lemon peel.
  3. Shake the jar vigorously and place it in a cool dark place. Then let it sit for 8-12 hours.
  4. In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush the coriander, angelica, orris, cardamom and cinnamon. Add these spices to the jar.
  5. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar back in a cool, dark location and let stew for 24 hours or so. Shake the jar every few hours.
  6. After 24 hours the liquor should have developed a lovely rich, amber coloration. Open the jar and smell the brew- you should note the sweet piney juniper scent first against a spicy, floral background. Taste the liqueur to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol and orris root but it should not burn like moonshine or be unpalatably bitter.
  7. Decant and strain the liquor -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a rich, translucent amber- it should not be cloudy. Place liquor in a bottle or jar (preferably dark glass) and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Gin Blossom Liqueur

*This gin-based liqueur can be used in cocktails like true distilled gin or served on the rocks. If served with ice or tonic water this translucent liquor will turn cloudy like ouzo.

*The juniper berries should be fairly fresh and plump- similar to a raisin- not hard and crunchy. They should have a piney, cedar wood like scent and a sweet, fruity and spicy flavor. They should not be bitter or taste like turpentine.

*If you can’t get Mushaad grade frankincense any high quality omani or Yemeni franckincense will do. Mushaad frankincense has an intense perfume-like scent –similar to violets with hints of balsam and citrus. The flavor is floral, piney and somewhat bitter.

  • 1 1/2 cups vodka (80 or 100 proof)
  • 1 tbsp each juniper berries, linden flowers and German chamomile
  • ½ tsp Mushaad grade frankincense
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp granulated dried sweet orange peel
  • 1 tsp each whole coriander seed, orris root, whole or minced, and rose buds or petals
  • ½ tsp lavender buds
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 3” sticks Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1-3 tbsp honey (or to taste), preferably clover or linden
  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle mash up the juniper berries and frankincense. Add to the jar along with the linden, chamomile, bay leaves and orange peel.
  3. Shake the jar vigorously and place it in a cool dark place. Then let it sit for 8-12 hours.
  4. In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush the coriander, rose, orris, lavender, cardamom and cinnamon. Add these to the jar.
  5. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar back in a cool, dark location and let stew for 24 hours or so. Shake the jar every few hours.
  6. After 24 hours the liquor should have developed a dark brown coloration- about like coco cola. Open the jar and smell the brew- you should note the sweet piney juniper scent first against a perfumey, floral background. Add the honey- a tbsp at first. Let the honey dissolve and then taste the liqueur and see if it is sweet enough. It should be bittersweet but not so bitter that you couldn’t drink it on the rocks. After adding any additional honey (if needed) reseal the jar and let sit another 8 hours or so.
  7. Decant and strain the liquor -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a dark translucent amber- about like a brown glass bottle- and not cloudy. Place liquor in a bottle or jar (preferably dark glass) and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.