How to make Cinnamon liqueur: Or so I thought…

Homemade Cinnamon Liqueur
Homemade Cinnamon Liqueur

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. 

Cinnamon vs Cassia
Ceylon Cinnamon(left) and Cassia(right). Photo from wikipedia

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, 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. 

Cinnamon Liqueur 

Yield:1 pint 

1 Cinnamon stick
2 Cloves
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.

30 thoughts on “How to make Cinnamon liqueur: Or so I thought…”

  1. I should have been born in the Dune universe, I love cinnamon so much. I *think* that Garden Cove Produce ( real powdered Ceylon cinnamon, it doesn’t say on the package. They also have Cassia cinnamon sticks, but I really think that the powdered stuff is Ceylon. It taste different from any other powdered cinnamon I have had, like you said, lighter and sweeter. However, I am only comparing it to the cinnamon I have had sitting in my cupboard for the past 3 years, so I could be wrong. I could just be fresher Cassia, and that would explain the taste difference.

  2. Sarah, Thanks! I’ll have to check out Gardeon Cove Produce. I have not been there in years. My next cinnamon liqueur will definitely be made with the Ceylon cinnamon, I want to taste the difference.

  3. Very interesting and useful info, indeed 🙂
    One thing, the “steep … in alcohol” thing, remained to me as an uncertain amount of alcohol,
    this is not in the ingredients list, either…
    Some clue? thanks-

  4. I’m not sure I understand. The amount of alcohol needed for the Cinnamon Liqueur recipe is in the ingredients list. 1 Cup vodka, 1/2 cup Brandy. Let me know if you need any further help.

  5. I have been making liqueurs for a while and just decided to try a cinnamon liqueur. I have been buying my spices from penzey’s spices (on-line at; they have so much great info about spices and their history. I bought sticks from Ceylon, because I learned exactly what you noted about the derivation of “real cinnamon.” I’m psyched to give this a try and am also going to try a mix of cinnamon and cherries, as there is an herbal tea I love with these two combined!

  6. Thanks for these recipes. I have Sri Lankan cinnamon soaking with the other ingredients now. I added 1 star anise and 3 crushed cardamon seeds to it. Just hope I haven’t ruined it. Will come back and post the outcome in a few weeks.

  7. Thanks for visiting. Definitely interested to hear how your Cinnamon liqueur turns out! I checked out your blog; your art is very cool!

  8. Thanks for your kind comments about my blog Rusty.
    Well I have now added the sugar water, only, I was too lazy to make some and had a bottle of Grenadine syrup which I bought out of curiosity and do not recommend. It is an expensive waste of money, though it has added a nice red colour. I am definitely going to be making this again. I just sampled this side by side with Aftershock Red. My son told me about this cinammon liqeur, which still tastes more of cloves than cinammon to me. The home-made version is way superior and less sweet and sickly than standard liqueurs. It is way cheaper to make your own too. There is a very slight bitter aftertaste with mine, which I quite like. I don’t know if this is due to the star anise I added or the cinammon.
    Next time I make this, I’m going to add some raisins to soak along with the other ingredients. I’ll use them in baking.
    Many thanks for this recipe. It’s a winner with me!

  9. Just made some with whiskey instead of brandy. Left it soaking for 3 weeks by accident. Absolutely delicious! About to start a bottle with whiskey again and will add an orange to it this time.

  10. I just did this with 8 oz. of bourbon and one cinnamon stick (and also half a vanilla bean and a couple cloves). Rather than wait for weeks, I sealed it in a mason jar, which I put in a 140° F water bath for about two and a half hours. The result is fabulous. Thanks!

  11. Wow that sounds really good! I’m going to have to try that as well. If I do, I’ll make a post about it! Thanks for visiting.

  12. Rieux–

    did you use anything other than bourbon? Any simple syrup? I’m looking for a cinnamon & vanilla recipe, so any tips are appreciated.

  13. A long time ago, I had a friend that made a cinnamon liqueur that was supposed to be an old family recipe. I don’t remember exactly how he made it but this is very close.

    750 ml Everclear,
    16 cinnamon sticks
    16 cardamon pods
    16 raw almonds
    8 whole cloves
    2 cups sugar
    750 ml water

    He added the spices to the alcohol, brought it to a boil, added simple syrup made from the sugar and water, let it cool, and then filtered it. It was done in a day. I never liked the safety problems of boiling 95% alcohol so I recently made a batch a bit differently.

    I crunched up the cinnamon sticks with a pair of pliers and broke the other ingredients up a little in a mortar and pestle. I put them in a lidded glass jar from Walmart and added the alcohol. I let them soak for 10 days and then added the cooled simple syrup made from boiling the sugar and water together. It immediately turned cloudy. I let it settle for a couple of days, siphoned off the solution from the solids with vinyl tubing, and then filtered it until crystal clear. I bottled it and put it in the freezer. The result is about 40-45% alcohol, smooth as silk, and absolutely delicious, if you like cinnamon.

  14. I’ll probably cut down on the sugar next time and make up for the volume with a little more water. Maybe cut the sugar to half – I can always add more. I used that much because most of the liqueur recipes I found used about a cup of sugar per 750 ml of final product. It didn’t taste terribly sweet but everything it touched got quite sticky. I also might let it mature for awhile longer before and also after adding the syrup. I calculated that, if you use 750 ml of 95& alcohol and want to end up with 40% alcohol, the final perfect volume would be 1780 ml, assuming no losses (there will always be losses in filtering, though). I found that each cup of sugar contributes about 150 ml to the final volume.

    Filtering is always the bottleneck and its tricky to get the solution crystal clear. I’ve been refining gold for 40 years and almost every day (before retiring) I settled, siphoned, and filtered acid gold solutions. If the gold solution weren’t filtered until crystal clear, the final gold would be contaminated. I have learned a few tricks over the years to achieve this clarity and to speed up the filtering. For the batch I made, I only had a basket from a 5 cup Mr.Coffee and 4 or 5 cup paper coffee filters. I used the process outlined below. I used only one paper in the basket. I changed the paper 4 times and it ended up taking all day. I allowed the final amount to filter overnight. Next time, I’ll use a regular filter funnel and larger flat bottom coffee filter papers, flattened out and fluted (see below). Here’s how I will try to do it next. I bought a couple of plastic funnels from the Walmart Auto Dept. – a 7.5″ for $.96 and a 5.5″ for $.69. Tomorrow, I’ll try to buy larger coffee filters from a restaurant supply. They are available online from 8″ -24″, spread out.Tomorrow, I’ll get the biggest ones I can from the local restaurant supplies and use the funnel that best fits them.

    The crux of this is to realize that, at first, the cloudy solution will come through the paper. After a few minutes, the paper will start to clog and the particles trapped in the paper will act as a finer filter that will trap the finer particles and produce a clear solution. The trick is to visually catch the point where the filtered solution starts running clear and then switch the funnel to a 2nd clean receiving container. At that point, the filtered solution will be clear and will continue clear

    Here’s how I will try it. It’s all experimental.

    (1) Somehow, support the funnel over a clear glass receiving container.

    (2) Flatten out a paper and “flute” it. Fluting will increase the surface area and speed things up. Place the fluted paper in the funnel.

    (3) Fill the paper with solution and let it filter. Observe the drips coming out of the bottom tip of the funnel. At first, they will be cloudy. When you observe them to be clear, switch the funnel to a 2nd clean glass receiving container. You can keep adding unclear solution to the filter at that point. Transfer the solution already filtered from the 1st container to the unfiltered solution container.

    (4) When the drips get too slow, either let all of the solution to drain through or pour what remains in the filter into the unfiltered container.

    (5) change the filter paper and repeat.

    I probably didn’t explain this too well. Let me know if there is any confusion.

  15. Try buying “Mexican” cinnamon, which is also true cinnamon. It’s got a flaky, papery texture and breaks easily into shards and grinds easily. Look for it wherever “Mexican” spices are sold.

  16. I tried your modified recipe #4 with a few of my own tweaks – I used high quality vodka and brandy – a total 7 cups, more than doubled the cinnamon, used “true” cinnamon, extra cloves and a few whole allspice. Let it steep for three weeks before adding 1/3 cup of honey for each 2 cups of liqueur and let it steep another two weeks before trying. It starts off as a fine, complex brandy but finishes with the soft, warm sweetness of the cinnamon without being too sweet. Fabulous alone, in a hot toddy or spiked cider. Am planning on making a sauce to serve with warm apple pie for adults. I am sharing with friends – and the are all eager to try this and your other recipes. Thank you!

  17. The main recipe (which you note is usually not attributed) is almost the same as that given in “Homemade Liqueurs” by Dona and Mel Meilach (1979). They note that it is particularly good with brown sugar syrup, and also that a slight twist can be given to it by adding a few raisins or currants and a slice of lemon zest.

    I’ll just add that a somewhat different recipe appears in “Cordials from Your Kitchen” by Vargas & Gulling (1997), with cloves and mace instead of coriander.

    In a Swedish book (by Sölvi Vatn), I find yet another version that includes vanilla: 10 g (3-4 sticks) cinnamon, 3.5 dl vodka — steep for two days. Add 1 vanilla pod — steep for another 2-3 days. Filter, and add 1.5 dl syrup (white or brown). (No suggested aging time, so it’s a matter of taste. I should probably also say that the vodka is assumed to be plain 40 vol%, not 90%)

  18. As to Cinnamon based liquors, see Fireball Cinnamon Whisky (and the other products listed therein) at Wikipedia.

  19. Thanks for the good info! I learned to make Limonchello from an Italian coworker several years ago. I’ve made it with both 80 proof and 190 proof vodka. The latter is necessary if you want to store and serve out of the freezer. It’s very popular amount my friends.

    I recently used this same technique to make vanilla extract, which was a popular Christmas gift for my friends and family this year. When I made the vanilla, I overbought vodka (that don’t normally drink). Inspired by the growing popularity of Fireball and the health benefits of cinnamon, I bought a 7oz container of cinnamon sticks. I tasted it lest week and it’s really strong and really good. I’m ready to bottle it now. My plan was to make make a simple syrup however I’m trying to cut processed sugars our of my diet and you’ve given me reason enough to use local honey instead. My next experiment will be to try Ceylon cinnamon.

    PS:A bad beer can always be made better by dropping a cinnamon stick in it.

  20. I’ve been meaning to drop a note on this thread for a long time, for I stumbled across it several years ago on my journey toward launching my Cannella Cinnamon Cordial this past November in San Francisco.

    In the final recipe I ended up using a blend of both cassia and ceylon (this post is how I learned what ceylon is!), which provides a nice balance between spicy and aromatic, and used a brandy & vodka base – very smooth. Initially I used Presidente brandy and Luksusowa vodka, before I began purchasing direct from distillers.

    I also cut back on the sugar quite a bit, to under 6% by volume (100% cane sugar). Fireball, by comparison is something like 17% sugar by volume (100% HFCS). And of course is using whiskey instead of brandy. So just depends what type of finish you’re looking for. Everybody’s different.

    and… this is definitely not a pitch to go buy my product. I absolutely encourage everyone here to keep making their own! I’m even starting to host events here in San Francisco teaching people how to make their own liqueurs at home.

    Cheers to Rusty and everyone who contributed to this little thread over the years. It definitely helped me along my way!

  21. I’m glad to hear your story Joe! Thanks for posting. It is cool to see that my post was helpful to others. Here I thought I was alone in the world in my liqueur making hobby. 🙂
    Your liqueur sounds delicious, perhaps I’ll get a chance to try it out soon. If I do, I’ll definitely throw up a review.

    Good luck with your business venture. Feel free to stop by anytime.

  22. We have tried following the original recipe and ours tasted more like Red Hots than the dessert-type cinnamon I love. Are most of you going for that hot cinnamon flavor or did ours turn out weird? Any ideas for fixes?

  23. You might try Joe’s tips in the comments for a good variation. He has sent me some of his product and I’ll be writing a review on it soon.

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