Liquore di Basilico (Basil Digestif)

Have you ever had Limoncello? If you have, this libation will be quite familiar. If you have not had Limoncello you should get a bottle, place it in your freezer and then treat yourself to a shot of it in a nice, thick-walled shot glass. It’s best on a hot Summer day on a vine covered patio on the Amalfi Coast but your backyard on a lawn chair will work just fine.

I can’t walk by fresh basil without smelling it or rubbing it between my fingers to release it’s wonderful aroma. So I was fascinated to find a recipe for basil digestif, which I didn’t even know existed. I’ve made Limoncello several times before and knew it to be a very simple process. I was delighted to find you only have to wait 6 days for the basil to infuse while, traditionally, you have to wait 40 days for the Limoncello. I may try a fennel infusion next. I’m a fan of Sambuca and the fennel will impart a licorice-like flavor to the infusion. I’ve also heard of people adding lavender to a batch of Limoncello as it infuses. I’m definitely putting that on my plans for next Summer.

Be sure to use a very strong spirit such as Everclear 151 but since that is not available in NY I used Devil’s Spring 160 Proof Vodka. Use a neutral spirit, not one like Bacardi 151 as it will impart it’s own flavor to the finished product. You want the essence of the infusion to come through. You can use lemon or orange peel, just ensure that there is no white pith left on the peel and increase the steeping time to four weeks. Remember, you will be cutting the proof in half when you add the simple syrup so never use anything less than 100 proof spirits.

I collect decorative bottles throughout the year to use for this and give these Liqueurs out as gifts during the holidays. Presenting them in baskets with a selection of the fruit(s) used to make them is a nice touch. It’s delicious and it’s handmade. Who wouldn’t like that?

Surprisingly, the resulting liqueur is not a subtle flowery thing but a bright peppery slap in the mouth. The infusion is approximately 80 proof and very sweet. With the addition of the basil infusion the resulting mix is incredibly good. Everyone who has tried it prefers it over the more commonly known Limoncello. Which reminds me, I’ve got some freshly made Clemencello in the freezer, awaiting my detailed analysis. Cin Cin!

Makes about 4 cups


  • 25 large, fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups alcohol, such as Everclear 151 or Devil’s Spring 160 Proof Vodka
  1. Place basil leaves in a 1-quart glass jar with a tight fitting lid
  2. Add alcohol
  3. Cover, and let steep at room temperature, undisturbed, for 6 days
  4. After 6 days, remove leaves and add simple syrup (recipe below). Stir to combine. Store in the freezer. If necessary you can strain the infusion through an unbleached coffee filter before adding the simple syrup

Simple Syrup (makes 2 cups):

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup filtered water
  1. Place sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat
  2. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and syrup is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool
  3. If your infusion is not ready to be combined with the syrup transfer syrup to a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use

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