Cinnamon. In ancient times it was a luxurious gift for kings and gods. Today it makes an appearance on our cinnamon rolls, apple cobbler and even french toast.
Me, I just want to devour anything that tastes like it. Mix it with alcohol? Even BETTER.
With no exaggeration, I LOVE cinnamon. It seems that the more I eat cinnamon my love for it just grows like a cinnamon tumour inside me. As I began making liqueurs I knew that cinnamon liqueur would be a key step in my quest for excellent homemade liqueur.
Before I talk about the four cinnamon liqueur variants I made, let me rant a little on the things I learned about Cinnamon.
You think that is Cinnamon on your Cinnamon roll. WRONG.
Cinnamon or Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also called Ceylon cinnamon is a small evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka. It is popular for it's inner bark which is used as spice called cinnamon. However, the big surprise is that if you are in the USA and various other countries, most of what you think is cinnamon is actually Cinnamomum aromaticum or Cassia. Cassia is in the same family as C. zeylanicum, but if you're talking about "true" cinnamon then C. zeylanicum is what you mean.
Turns out, not only is there flavor differences between Cassia and Cinnamon, but in some countries various health agencies warn against a heavy consumption of Cassia due to the toxic component coumarin. Though it seems the consensus is that it may not be toxic enough to worry about unless you are consuming teaspoons and teaspoons of cassia every day. Ceylon cinnamon has coumarin as well, but a negligible amount.
As far as the flavor differences go, both Cassia and Ceylon Cinnamon share similar essential oils except the Ceylon has less of the cinnamic aldehyde. From what I read, this ends up giving true cinnamon a lighter, sweeter flavor and cassia a stronger, harsh bittersweet flavor.
So yes, after all of my excitement about creating a delicious cinnamon liqueur I discover that in fact I have created a Cassia liqueur. The more I thought about this I decided it might be okay since it appears that what I've known and loved as "cinnamon" was most likely cassia anyway. I mean a bakery here and there may use true cinnamon, but from a little googling it appears that cassia is the most popular "cinnamon" here in the states. If you go to the grocery store and buy "cinnamon sticks" it is probably cassia. To get your true cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon, order it online from a reputable spice dealer. I noticed this one shop at www.druera.com, that appears to be in Sri Lanka, and it prides itself on selling real Ceylon cinnamon.
Anyway, note to self...make a ceylon cinnamon liqueur ASAP. For now, enjoy the Cassia.
A taste of Cassia... err Cey.. Cinna.. whatev
Shut up and tell me if it taste good, right? Toxic? We are drinking alcohol here, that is toxic too. Yeah yeah, I'll get on with it.
The Internet contains myriads upon myriads of recipes for everything under the sun, unless you are looking for Cinnamon Liqueur, then there is only one recipe you will find.
1 Cinnamon stick
1 ts Ground coriander seed
1 cup Vodka
1/2 cup Brandy
1/2 cup Sugar Syrup
Steep everything but sugar in alcohol for 2 weeks. Strain and filter and then add sugar syrup or sweetener to taste. Age for 1 week and serve.
Hundreds of websites have this recipe with no attribution. I figured it was a good place to start even though I don't know the origin.
I decided to make four separate batches and vary them to some extremes (why not?) I obtained my so called cinnamon from a local Indian spice store. This of course was Cassia as I found out after I made the liqueurs.
Here is a list of the variations. For number 1 the only change I made was substituting clover honey for the sugar syrup. I did this for all of the variants. In my liqueur making experience so far, white sugar syrup just yields too simple of a taste. With honey, the taste becomes much more complex and better for sipping or drinking straight.
Cinnamon(cassia) Liqueur #1
Stuck with the recipe but substituted clover honey for the sugar syrup. (and in all below variants)
Cinnamon(cassia) Liqueur #2
Added 7 Key limes, just the meat quartered and some pith. Added 1tsp zest of a key lime.
Cinnamon(cassia) Liqueur #3
Added meat of one very large navel orange. Meat was cut approximately into eighths. Added zest from orange, about 1/4 of the orange peel. (went wild)
Cinnamon(cassia) Liqueur #4
Increased cinnamon by about %50. (1/2 cinnamon stick). Decreased sweetener (honey) by about %25.
I tried all of these right after the 1 week of aging time and at least 1 - 2 months after that.
In regards to visual aspect, the color is an orangish brownish on all of these. It tends to be a bit darker on #4 due to the extra cinnamon and have slightly green and more orangey with #2 and #3 respectively. The viscosity is not too syrupy and typical to most liqueur. If you saw the picture up at the top of the article, that is the ol' #4.
If you love cinnamon with all your heart, then #1 and #4 will love you back. #4 has a very strong cinnamon taste and obviously less on the sweet side. Less honey decreased the sweetness and allowed more of the cinnamon profile to come through. #1 is fairly balanced yet is a touch too sweet for my taste.
#2 and #3 I nearly threw out before deciding to let them sit another month or two. I'm glad I did so, because after aging a bit the overly intense lime and orange tastes have become less focused and have broken down into a broader spectrum of flavor.
The key-lime in #2 comes through and maybe overpowers the cinnamon. It's ends up being an interesting key-lime liqueur with the cinnamon accompanying. I felt it more lime-sweet than lime-tart.
#3 ended up with maybe too much juice from the orange as the alcohol bite is just not there. However the orange and cinnamon marry nicely after a few months. The orange is more bitter than I expected, yet it is quite delicious the way it is. If I do this again I'll likely use less orange or up the alcohol to get the bite back.
I'm not used to the flavor of coriander, so it is hard to tell where it shows up in the liqueur. Coriander supposedly has a smokey, nutty and citrus notes
Summing it up
Overall I like each one in different ways. I would say the most drinkable as is, would be the #4 if you like strong cinnamon taste or #1 if you don't want the cinnamon to take over. I'm a big enough cinnamon fan that I can sip #4 straight and really enjoy it. I think after some tweaking, the recipe for #2 and #3 could work. Perhaps less of the fruits.
If there are any cocktails you love that include cinnamon liqueur please comment. I don't know of any popular ones off hand, but I imagine some coffee based cocktails would find cinnamon liqueur attractive.