Many years ago I planted a tiny sweet bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) in my garden*. It has flourished, and produces an abundance of dark green leaves.
I love experimenting with flavors in my cooking and cocktails, and decided to do something bold with my bay leaves. The result is Bay Leaf Liqueur — an elixor long enjoyed in the Mediterranean from whence this noble plant comes.
While the scent of the crushed bay leaf is pungent, the liqueur is surprisingly rounded and balanced. It’s gentle on the taste buds, but full of scent and depth. This liqueur is strong and sweet — rather like Absinthe. Served over ice in small quantities, it is an intriguing apertif. I like to use it as a mixer in cocktails.
Creating this sweet liqueur is simple, and made in two stages. The first stage involves packing fresh bay leaves in a jar and covering with grain alcohol. After soaking for five days or so, strain off the bay leaves. The resulting infusion is a stunning deep emerald green.
Mix the infused grain alcohol with equal parts simple syrup, filter, then you have Bay Leaf Liqueur. Enjoy!
Bay Leaf Liqueur
(makes about 3 cups liqueur)
Fresh bay leaves — enough to lightly pack a 14 oz lidded glass jar (I didn’t actually count them — maybe 60 leaves)
Grain alcohol** — about 12 oz (I used the 191 proof, but 151 proof is also fine to use)
Simple syrup: mix 12 oz boiling water with 1 1.2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar. Stir to dissolve, and cool.
Pack the rinsed and dried bay leaves in glass working jar. The goal is to completely fill the jar with bay leaves. Pour grain alcohol over the bay leaves to the top of the jar. Cover, and set aside in a cool dark place for several days.
Filter the resulting infusion into another glass jar. I filter mine through a new paper coffee filter, which removes any particulate matter that may cloud the liqueur.
Mix the resulting infusion 1 to 1 with simple syrup. Store in a glass container, choosing a container that is the right size to minimize air in the closed jar. Allow to sit for several days. If the mixture clouds, and doesn’t quickly clarify with stirring, filter it again through a clean paper coffee filter.
This liqueur should last for months. Store airtight in the refrigerator, though it will not spoil at room temperature.
*Laurus nobilis is not the same plant as the California native bay laurel.
**Grain alcohol is quite flammable as it is basically pure alcohol — be careful!