With the cocktail community’s renewed appreciation for the espresso martini, we’ve also also seen increased interest in the tasty liqueurs that take this drink to the next level. Our Test Kitchen has stirred up drinks using chocolate liqueur (see our chocolate espresso martini) and Irish cream (check out ourBaileys espresso martini), but other liqueurs can also accent the classicand even be enjoyed on their own.
Frangelico, or hazelnut liqueur, is a terrific example. Even cooler: It’s easy to make at home. Here’s our recipe for homemade hazelnut liqueur.
What is hazelnut liqueur?
Hazelnut liqueur is an amber-colored spirit that gets its flavor from hazelnuts but also has accents of vanilla, caramel, cocoa or coffee. It has a pronounced nutty aroma and flavor, much stronger than its almond-based cousin, amaretto.
Frangelico is the most popular brand of hazelnut liqueur on the market. It’s made by infusing a base alcohol with crushed Italian hazelnuts and other flavoring agents. Other brands, like Fratello and Drago, use similar methods.
You’ll often see this nutty liqueur served on the rocks or occasionally mixed into drinks like flavored martinis or spiked coffee. Liqueurs like this can also be used to flavor sweets and baked goods, like banana hazelnut French toast and spumoni cookies.
Homemade Hazelnut Liqueur Recipe
While you can snag a bottle of this spirit at your local liquor store, our Test Kitchen believes that everything tastes better homemade. Here, culinary assistant Mark Neufang shares his recipe.
1/2 pound (about 2 cups) hazelnuts with skins, coarsely chopped3 tablespoons cacao nibs2 cups vodka, divided1 cup brandy, divided1 vanilla bean3/4 cup water1/2 cup sugar
Step 1: Toast the hazelnuts
For maximum flavor in any nutty recipe, including this liqueur, always toast the nuts. For this recipe, the best method is to spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake in a 325F oven. Toast until the nuts are toasty and fragrantabout 10 minutes.
Once toasted, cool the hazelnuts completely.
Step 2: Steep the flavorings in the alcohol
Next, add the hazelnuts and cacao nibs to a large glass jar. Mark suggests using a quart-sized Mason jar. Then pour in 1 cup of vodka and 1/2 cup of brandy. Cover the mixture and let it stand for a week. Shake the container occasionally.
Editor’s Tip:Not familiar with cacao nibs? These tidbits are chocolaty but not as sweet as chocolate. You can find cacao nibs (sometimes called cocoa nibs) at specialty shops and spice stores.
Step 3: Add vanilla
After a week, it’s time to add the vanilla. Use a sharp knife to split a vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the seeds from the pod and add them to the jar of liqueur along with the pod. Add the remaining brandy and vodka and let sit for one week longer. Like last time, give the container a shake once in a while.
Step 4: Strain
The next step is to strain the whole ingredients from the liquid. Do this by pouring the mix into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Repeat the process, this time using a coffee filter to remove any finer particles. Set the liquid aside.
Discard the nuts, vanilla bean pod and cacao nibs. After steeping in the alcohol for weeks, the flavor has been fully extracted. What remains won’t be useful, so toss them or pop them into your compost bin.
Step 5: Add sweetness
The last step is to sweeten up the liqueur. Heat sugar and water in a saucepan until boiling. Then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for five minutes. Cool this simple syrup completely.
Lastly, add the cooled syrup to the liqueur. From there, you can serve or store.
How to Serve Homemade Frangelico
After taking the time to make this liqueur from scratch, Mark insists that you enjoy at least a shot on the rocks. This will let you taste all the flavors that you married together to create the perfect sip.
Hazelnut liqueur is also especially tasty in warm drinks. The cozy hazelnut flavor does wonders to transform a cup of hot chocolate. It also can turn your basic cup of coffee into something special to savor while you settle in by the fire.
Cocktails, though, are just the start. Use a splash of your homemade liqueur in baked goods in lieu of amaretto or rum. Try a bit in this pumpkin tiramisu or a batch of brownies.
How do you store homemade hazelnut liqueur?
The best way to store your homemade Frangelico is in a bottle with a tight-sealing cap or in an air-tight jar, like a Mason jar. For best results, keep this liqueur in a cupboard, your liquor cabinet or another cool, dark spot.
How long does homemade Frangelico last?
Homemade hazelnut liqueur tastes best when enjoyed within two months.If you don’t think you can enjoy a full batch within this time span, share the wealth! Homemade liqueurs make great food gifts.
By comparison, store-bought hazelnut liqueur like Frangelico will keep indefinitely when unopened. Once opened, Frangelico tastes best within a few years. Like the homemade variety, this liqueur is best kept in a cupboard or pantry.
Tips for Making Homemade Hazelnut Liqueur
Do you have to peel the hazelnuts to make hazelnut liqueur?
Good news: You do not have to peel the hazelnuts to make this homemade liqueur. The roughly chopped, toasted nuts can be added right into the liquor mix to steep. Any skins will be strained away after steeping.
Can you use vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans?
Vanilla beans can be hard to find, so it’s absolutely OK to substitute vanilla extract or vanilla paste in their place. Use a tablespoon of extract or paste in lieu of a bean.
How can you adjust this hazelnut liqueur recipe to make it your own?
The best way to make any homemade liqueur your own is to start by using your preferred spirits. If you love brandy (or even cognac), use it in this recipe to give it your own signature flair.
Another way to tweak this recipe is with the vanilla. Different types of vanillathink Madagascar-Bourbon, Tahitian or Mexicanhave a unique flavor profile. A swap like this can also give your homemade spirits a flavor that’s distinctly yours.