For the longest time, the only hazelnut liqueur I had access to was Frangelico’s. It’s okay, but the almond and herbal components interfered with the toasty, rich hazelnuttiness I desire. There are others, but I hadn’t been able to find them in stores. With a large bag of skinned hazelnuts in the freezer, and some tips from Jeremy F., I decided to make my own. And it is good.
- 8 ounces (1/2 pound) hazelnuts (already blanched/skinned)
- 1 ounce vanilla sugar
- 1 1/2 ounces maple sugar
- 1 1/2 ounces light brown sugar
- 2 ounces sugar
- 2 1/4 cups vodka
- Roast the hazelnuts until golden brown, about 5 to 15 minutes in an oven at 350ºF degrees. Stir a couple times to evenly roast the nuts. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. They might look oily, but that’s fine (flavors in there!).
- Roughly chop the nuts, either with a sharp chef’s knife, or as I’m likely to do: Place in zippy bag, partially seal, and crush them with a rolling pin (not into fine grains, though, still roughly). Pour into a 1-liter sized jar.
- Add all the sugars on top of the hazelnuts. Pour in the vodka. Give a good stir with a large spoon.
- Cap off and allow to steep in a cool, dark place (closet, pantry) for 14 to 25 days. Start taste-testing at around 14 days (and also to dissolve any remaining sugar bits), to see if the nutty flavor is to your liking. I usually repeat testing every 3 to 5 days.
- Filtering the liqueur: This took quite a bit of time! First I poured everything though a quadruple-layer of butter cloth, a more finely woven cheesecloth. (I saved the nuts and vanilla, which I puréed and made into a cake. 🙂
- Pour the liqueur into a jug or bottle that can be easily sealed (i.e., spill-proof). Store in the fridge until solids and oils separate—this might take a few days or up to a week, since the liqueur might be somewhat viscous.
- Remove any floating solids and oils: I used an oral medication syringe. This step could be better optimized, I admit, so I’m open to other alternatives that do not filter out too much at the cost of flavor. The key is to remove as much of the water-soluble solids that float to the top, as they may become a mold hazard. I don’t worry so much about stuff that has sunk; as long as there’s enough alcohol and sugar, and low temperature storage. I also don’t mind if there’s a little bit of oil floating; it’s very tasty, and you’ll soon drink it up with the first few servings. I also try to wipe the inside of the bottle’s neck with vodka-moistened towel, to remove any gunk stuck there. I use vodka for any additional rinsing that might be needed, such as the syringe. I had to do this particular step a couple times. Prolonged, indeed.
- The liqueur was wonderful after I had done the secondary filtration(s). I’m sure its flavor and smoothness will only improve with time.