Rad Amaro Recipe from yasuaki saito of The London Plane
6 750ml bottles of 151 Proof Grain Alcohol
2-4 750ml bottles of filtered water
1 750ml bottle of white or blanc vermouth
1 750ml bottle of 1:1 simple syrup made with turbinado sugar
1oz cinchona bark
1oz whole cloves
1oz gentian root
1oz juniper berries
.5oz cinnamon bark
2oz licorice root
1oz green cardmom pods
1oz allspice berries
1oz hibiscus petals
.5oz calendula flowers
.5oz yarrow root
2oz fresh chicory root
2oz fresh ginger
1oz fresh rosemary
1oz fresh grapefruit peels
6 vanilla beans
1. Pour the 6 bottles of Grain Alcohol into a clean, large glass vessel with a good size opening. Glass is key as you do not want a reactionary container such as a plastic cambro as it will stain. A lid is optional but you will definitely need plastic wrap at the very least.
2. Start by adding in the cinchona, cloves, gentian, juniper berries & cinnamon bark. You can crush, crack or otherwise break down the ingredients to expose more surface area to accelerate the infusion process. Cover the opening of the glass vessel with the lid or a piece of plastic wrap & keep it covered whenever you are not accessing it. Over the course of the next 3-5 days, taste the liquid as it steeps. Remember, this stuff is high octane so a little sip should work just fine. As it gets to your desired intensity level, take a spider or other straining apparatus & remove the bulk pieces from the liquid. At this stage you do not have to get every last bit as you will be double straining the finished product later in the process.
3. Next add in your dried & higher toned aromatic elements: licorice root, rosebuds, green cardamom pods, allspice berries, hyssop, hibiscus petals, calendula flowers & yarrow root. Repeat the process of steeping & tasting daily over the course of 3-5 days to monitor it's evolution. Depending on the freshness & quality of these ingredients, these flavor profiles can be quick to emerge or slow to develop. Always trust your local herbalist or preferred online retailer as their inventories are usually better than the bulk sections of larger groceries or an unknown online resource.
4. The final hardware addition is the fresh chicory root, fresh ginger, fresh rosemary, fresh grapefruit peels & vanilla beans. Again, 3-5 days of tasting & paying attention to what you want out of the maturing amaro. These fresh ingredients lend a brightness to the mix & the vanilla helps round out the mouthfeel.
5. One last flavor infusion: pour in the vermouth & simple syrup to sweeten & take the edge off the overproof &, at this point, fully bittered beverage. Add the water a little at a time to bring down the alcohol percentage until it is at your desired level of burn. About 2 bottles will get you into the 50% range & 4 will get you closer to the 40% range. By all means, go with what your palate prefers & you can always water it down later via ice, chilled water or soda when you serve it. One caveat: once you've diluted it, it's pretty tough to go backwards so go slow & taste as you add the water :)
6. Now comes the time for straining. Start by pouring through a china cap or fine mesh strainer into a large vessel. It doesn't matter This allows you to get the larger pieces out but don't worry so much about the smaller particulates. Discard the steeped detritus or add it to your compost pile to ferment! After the large elements have been removed, take a large coffee filter & set it into the bottom of that same strainer after its been rinsed thoroughly. Slowly pour the amaro through the filtered strainer into the large glass vessel you used for the steeping, again rinsed completely. The second fine straining is next as you bottle the beverage. Take a large funnel & line it with cheesecloth that has been double over on itself. Slowly pour the amaro into the bottles until they are full. Remember the cheesecloth slows the drain & you'll need to keep an eye on the volume in the funnel as the bottle fills or there will be overflows!
7. The time has come... to wait some more. You can most definitely drink the amaro now but after a few days of maturation in the bottle, it will be even better as the flavors coalesce. There are many ways to enjoy your housemade amaro: a small shot drank neat to aid digestion, over rocks as a sipper, with a splash of soda water & a citrus twist or in a cocktail. Lastly, please use this recipe as a template. You can shrink the batch size by adjusting ratios. You can get deeper & add darker toned spices or back off & add more floral elements. You can keep it all for yourself or give it away as gifts. The choice is yours! Cin cin!