Most of the commercial herb and spice flavored liqueurs are either made
by distillation of alcoholic extracts of herbs and spices or made with pure essential oils.
The most wellknown herbal liqueurs are Chartreuse which is made using 130 types of herbs and spices and Benedictine D.O.M.
which is made of 27 types. It is impossible to create good copies of these liqueurs at home because
of the large number of different raw materials used and because it is in most countries illegal
to distill alcohol at home.
Aromatic herbs and spices contain complex mixtures of flavoring compounds.
Some compounds have pleasant flavor and fragrance, others have not. The delicious flavors of herbal liqueurs
are given by their unique compositions of volatile flavoring compounds (mainly flavors from essential oils
present in the herbs and spices used). When making herbal liqueurs at home by steeping herbs and spices in alcohol, you
will in addition to the essential oils also extract other flavoring compounds which are not wanted.
Therefore the flavor of a homemade herbal liqueur is not as good as a commercial liqueur.
An easier way to make delicious herbal
liqueurs is to use commercially available liqueur essences. For more information see
the essence page and the Absinthe recipe page.
In the 15th to 19th centuries liqueurs made by just one type of herb or spice
were more common. These liqueurs were used for their "medical" properties
and not for their flavor. Today the medical use of liqueurs is limited, the
principal "medical use" is to improve the digestion, for example by drinking bitter
liqueurs which is still relatively common in Germany, Austria and Italy.
Star anise liqueur is the only delicious herbal liqueur which is easy to make. The flavor is similar to Anisette or
Sambuca, the color is slightly brown. This liqueur can be made as follows: transfer 3 tbs. of ground star anise to
a small glass jar or bottle, add 2 cups of vodka (or alcohol with neutral flavor of 80 proof or 40%). After 2 weeks
pour the liquid carefully into another jar leaving the precipitated spices behind. Filter the liquid thru a coffee
filter, transfer to a clean bottle, add 1 cup of sugar, and cap the bottle. Invert repeatedly until the sugar has
dissolved. Store the liqueur for at least 3 months. You may need to add slightly more alcohol or sugar to adjust
A more difficult liqueur is Angelica Liqueur, we are presenting a detailed recipe
on a separate page. See also the herbal liqueur recipe link page.