Capri and the Sorrento coast are the undisputed home of Limoncello, although arguments persist as to which side of the Bay of Naples created this famous drink. I’m quite proud of the fact that I was bringing bottles of this magic digestivo home in my suitcase long before it became famous in the USA. I was the American “in the know” about this drink.
Less famous, but also something I drank on Capri with wonderful friends, is Liquore Allora, a limoncello drink of sorts made with young bay laurel leaves instead of lemon. I planted a California Bay Laurel in my garden last year and so this drink has been on my to-do list. Unlike tart limoncello, Liquore Allora is a very herbaceous drink, a wonderful change of pace for a unique Southern Italian meal.
This recipe comes from Andrew Schwartz, who wrote the definitive compendium on Napolitano cooking, “Naples at Table”. You need to find a source for young bay laurel leaves, as this just won’t work with store bought fresh bay leaves.
Ingredients and Directions:
- About 32 young large, bay leaves (about ½ ounce) – young bay leaves are light green in color and soft compared to the older deep green and firm leaves you find fresh in the grocery store
- 2 cups grain alcohol (200 proof or 100% alcohol) *
- 3 cups water
- 3 cups granulated sugar
* This recipe will result in a beverage of 80 proof or 40% alcohol. Adjust the amount of dissolved sugar-in-water to adjust the proof to your liking.
- A large jar sealed with a rubber ring
- Flip-top bottles to store and freeze the drink
- Gently rinse and pat dry the bay leafs. Crinkle and place in the large jar and add the grain alcohol. Seal and store in a dark closet for 40 days. Shake occasionally. You know the infusion is ready when the bay leaves have turned crispy yellow (see photo).
- Dissolve the sugar into the water over medium heat. This is known as “simple syrup”. Let cool completely.
- Drain the infused alcohol through a mesh strainer and return the large jar. Discard the yellow and crispy bay leaves.
- Add the simple syrup to the infused alcohol in the large jar. Seal and let meld for a week.
- Distribute the liquor to serving bottles and place in the freezer.
- Serve after a meal in a clear shot glass.
I have drank & tried several varieties, now I will make the alloro. Thank you,
Great! Let us know how it turns out! Joe
Hello, I’ve enjoyed this drink traveling in Italy and must make some for myself here in New York. One question though: where can I find YOUNG laurel leaves?? Google results tell me nothing. Any info would be greatly appreciated!
Alex: Hi there… You basically need to find someone with a laurel bush or buy one for yourself. The young leaves sprout out in the late Spring. You might ask someone at a farmer’s market who sells bay leaves if they can get you some. Because, I’m in LA, I planted one in my front yard. Good luck!! Joe
Hi Joe, I’m a writer at Atlas Obscura, and I’d love to get permission to use this photo in an article we’re publishing about Bay Leaf Liqueur. Would that be okay? We would use the photo on our website and to promote the article on social media. We’d of course give you credit and link back to your page. Please let me know!
Yes, that would be fine. Thanks. Joe
One day while hiking through Natural Bridhes in Columbia Californoa I smelled a sweet aroma that smelled familiar to me. My greastest sense is my smell and reached a laurel tree. I vowed to go back and collect more for stews, chile, and soups. A recent trip to Florence Italy’s found me at the end of dinner with our adorable waitress consuming shots of laurel liquor with us. This weekend I will be treaking back to Columbia (off the 108 highway near the Sierras) to gather some leaves. My husband makes mead and beer on a gular basis and Im sure he will be able to follow your recipe. Thank you for sharing this post with the recipe. Angela Holmex with Bear Creek Organic Spa in Merced, CA.
Please correct my mistakes if posdible on spelling and grammar. Oops
Excited to find this recipe! In my Bay Area hikes, I noticed the flowers blooming on the California Bay Laurels this past week or so, and it made me wonder if there was anything that could be foraged from them. I’ll definitely try it when there are young leaves on the trees. I did want to point out, however, that this article treats the (Mediterranean) Bay Laurel and California Bay Laurel (also known as the Oregon Myrtle, among other things) as though they are the same, or interchangeable, but they are a different species entirely. I haven’t had any version of the liqueur, but I have read that the California Bay Laurel’s leaves have a different, and stronger flavor than that of the Bay Laurel from which we get our Bay Leaves for cooking, and from which the Italian liqueur would certainly be made. Just wanted to leave this here for anyone else interested. Thanks for the recipe!
I had an interesting experience with Alloro in Italy. Fortunately my daughter was able to pilot me back to our mountain side vacation spot. I’m trying lemoncello and want to try this. However, I want to emphasize that the California bay tree (umbellularia California) is native to California and the only species in that genus. So most certainly it was not used in Italy, which is neither here nor there. It’s according to your taste, but if you truly want to make genuine alloro scavenge your area for a laurus nobilis in the spring, around late April in the Bay Area and pick the supple lighter green leaves. It is easy to tell them when you actually see and feel them, and proceed to follow your recipe
Georgia: Thanks for the comment. You are of course right. I’ve tried this drink with both kinds of bay leaves. They are actually each delicious in their own way. Thanks! Joe
FYI, I’m making this now, in July – if you keep trimming your bay bush (which you’ll want to, as they flourish proverbially) you’ll get plenty of new light green leaves.
Great! Let us know how it comes out! Joe
I’m so grateful for this recipe! I just left an incredible dinner in Puglia that ended with this incredible drink. Living in the Bay Area surrounded by Bay trees, I knew I had to make this. I appreciate the comments discussing the different species and I’ll try to report back on how mine turns out with California bay leaves.
Amanda.. Thanks. Let me know how it turns out!! We can’t get 200 proof alcohol in California so I only can make this when I have a friend driving to Arizona and back!! Cheers.. Joe