Homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe (finocchietto digestif)

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Leggi questo post in: Italiano

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

As my readers know, I was born and raised in the United States, but moved to Italy years ago and married into a Neapolitan family. Which means that I’ve learned a lot of my husband’s family’s culinary recipes and secrets, lucky me! It would be really hard to choose one favorite hand-me-down recipe, but the wild fennel liqueur recipe definitely ranks way up there!

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One of the culinary treats that is most famous from the area where we live is limoncello, a lemon liqueur, but what many people not from this area don’t realize is that there is a plethora of different types of liquers that you can find, and most families have their own traditional versions to make them at home. And my absolute favorite of these is finocchietto, wild fennel liqueur.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

Wild fennel grows all over the place in certain areas near us, such as in the Cilento, where we go on vacation frequently. Here is a random finocchietto plant growing on the side of a country road in Pollica, in the heart of the Cilento. They have strong woody stalks with umbrella-shaped groups of yellow flowers, sort of similar to the Queen Anne’s Lace flower.

If you get them at the right time, they also have tender wispy greens that are absolutely delicious with fish and vegetables. The greens and the flowers have a wonderful anise-like taste that I love, but another great thing about them is their digestive properties. Whenever I have problems digesting something, I make myself an infusion of fennel seeds, and it always does the trick.

So a classic in Italian homes is to take the bottle of finocchietto liqueur out after a big meal and have a little glass of it to help digestion.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

In June and July, these “umbrellas” look like little hard seeds, though I suppose they’re actually flower buds. Most people pick these seed umbrellas to make their finocchietto fennel liqueur.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

But I prefer to pick the flowers themselves (which are also delicious for seasoning and garnishing food) in August/September to make my finocchietto. I’ve always gotten a lot of compliments on how it comes out, so perhaps there is indeed something special about the flavor of the flowers as opposed to the seeds.

This obviously comes out the best when using just-picked flowers or seeds, but if that’s not possible for you, you can always use store-bought dried fennel seeds. I usually pick a ton of flowers in the summer and make a bunch at a time because I like to bring it when we are guests for dinner or for a night away. A bottle of finocchietto is always well-received, so it’s a really great gift!

So what do you say? Do you want to know my beloved wild fennel liqueur recipe? Let’s get started!

Ingredients

For 2 liters of finocchietto you’ll need:

  • 2-3 large handfuls of wild fennel flower umbrellas (I’m not sure exactly how many dried fennel seeds you would need, but I’d try with maybe a big handful of them. If you try it that way, let me know!)
  • 1 liter of food-grade alcohol (Please, for the love of God, don’t use rubbing alcohol! Alcohol for making liquers is apparently not available in the United States, as far as I know, so use vodka instead.)
  • 800 grams sugar
  • 2-liter jar that closes hermetically (I use this type of Bormioli brand canning jar* for making liqueurs and homemade iced tea)
  • Funnel (definitely a regular funnel, but if you have a wide-mouth funnel*, it’ll be handy in one step)
  • Gauze, cheesecloth* or clean dishcloth

How to make wild fennel liqueur:

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

1. Rinse the fennel flowers well and let them air dry completely on a clean dish towel.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

2. Put the dry flowers and the alcohol in the jar*, making sure the flowers are covered. Close the jar and put it in a dark place (such as the back of a cabinet or closet) for at least 30 days.

It’s not a problem if you leave it longer. This past year I somehow kept forgetting to take it out and the fennel stayed in infusion for almost a year! Whoops!

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

After a day or two, you’ll see the alcohol has a gorgeous green color.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

At the end of the 30 days or so, you’ll see that the fennel stalks and flowers have leached out all their color. This means you’re ready for the next step!

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

3. Make a syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with the 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. Then let it cool down.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

4. While the syrup is cooling down, filter the alcohol. Put a funnel (I use a wide-mouth funnel* for this step) at the top of another jar (or just another bottle if you don’t have another canning jar) and put a piece of gauze, cheesecloth* or clean dishcloth in the funnel. I usually just use a clean cloth napkin.

Then pour the alcohol through the funnel, making sure that none of the fennel itself gets in.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

This is when you can really appreciate how much color has seeped out of the fennel and into the alcohol!

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

5. Mix the cooled sugar syrup into the filtered alcohol. Pour it into a clean 2-liter hermetically sealing jar (the one you used before is fine, just make sure you wash and dry it first!) and let it sit another 4-5 days in a cool dark place.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

6. Now we will filter and bottle the liqueur. Put a regular funnel in the bottle with another piece of gauze, cheesecloth* or clean dishcloth, and pour the mixture into the bottle. (I just reuse the bottles that I buy alcohol in, but you can buy fancier ones if you so desire.)

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

I use a small ladle to help pour from the full jar, otherwise it spills everywhere, which is a damn shame!

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

You’ll probably see a bit of organic matter caught in the cloth. Wash the cloth or throw out the gauze.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

7. Store the bottles in a cool dark place for at least another 3 months, but the longer you let it sit, the clearer it gets and the better it tastes.

In the picture above you can see the just-bottled batch of liqueur to the left, and on the right is a bottle that I’d made a year or two earlier. Notice how the fresh batch is quite cloudy, while the older batch is very transparent.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

One thing to remember is that this is an old-fashioned and natural procedure using fresh products. Therefore there is no avoiding sediment buildup. Fennel liqueur sediment floats to the top of the bottle over time.

When you move the bottle, the sediments will get unlodged and start sinking in the bottle, as you can see in the picture above. It may not look pretty, but it is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL and you can drink it. Otherwise you can try to flick it out of the bottle when it’s concentrated at the top, but you risk spraying out good liqueur that way, too.

Now pour yourself a little shot glass of your homemade finocchietto and marvel at how GOOD it tastes! And remember to drink some next time you have a tummy ache after eating just a bit too much!

How to make arancello (orange liqueur)

If you enjoyed this wild fennel liqueur recipe and want to make some other homemade liqueurs, make sure you try out my traditional Italian recipes for arancello (orange liqueur) and limoncello (lemon liqueur)!

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And of course don’t forget to PIN THIS recipe if you liked it!

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

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21 COMMENTS

  1. My husband and I recently went to Italy and experienced this fennel liquor for the first time. Amazing! I thought the waitress said it was called white fennel liquor but I’m thinking I heard wrong because of her accent. My question is which is the best to order if I don’t make my own which I most likely won’t be doing. It truly is a wonderful thing.

    • Hi Betsy! Isn’t it fabulous?! Yes, probably you just misunderstood the accent, because, as far as I know, you can’t make this liquor from the white fennel bulb. I’m sorry, but I have no idea what type to purchase because I have never drunk a non-homemade version of this liquor! Good luck! I hope you can find it and enjoy it!

    • Great tip, Matthew! I live in Italy, and this type of alcohol is used regularly for making liqueurs. I was under the impression that in the States at least, there isn’t that type of alcohol and so vodka is used. So, I haven’t tried Everclear myself, but it looks like just the perfect product! Thanks!

  2. I dont think the seeds come before the flowers but I am trying your recipe on my fennel patch now with flowers. Then i will try the rest with seeds. will report back!

  3. After opening a bottle of this store-bought, what is the proper way to store it? Refrigerator? How long is it good for after it’s opened?

  4. We purchased a house in South of France last year and were very excited to notice lots of wild fennels in the garden! My husband had been lucky enough to be able to test finocchietto at some friends, but we were never able to purchase any.
    I think it’s time to pick some flowers now and try your finocchietto receipe. As we are so close to the italian border, I was able to purchase 95° alcohol which is not available in France. I have already tried to make Violet liquor, linden liquor and limoncello, but every time, they did not turn quite as expected, the alcohol remaining super strong. My husband says it’s because I tend to forget the flowers and leave them in the alcohol for longer than 30 days, but I can read you sometimes do as well and your liquor turns fine.
    Wish me good luck and hopefully this batch will turn right!

    • Hi Liquorella, I have had to figure out how to make palatable herbal liqueurs, and for me the key is to not use too high a proof of alcohol. I have tried using 100-proof alcohol, which I use for my tinctures, but for a sipping liqueur–ugh! So I use 80-proof and get much pleasanter results. And leaving the plants in the liquor for more than 30 days is not the problem, they can stay indefinitely, and with me they sometimes do! I hope this helps. I love that you are using all those wonderful plants for your liqueurs!

  5. Hi, I have about 2 cups of the actual fennel seeds that come after the flowers. Trying to figure out what to do with them, yours was the first recipe that I found when googling. It looks simple and easy and I am eager to get to it, even though I have a different stage of the fennel. I am sure it will be fine, or at the very least, interesting.

    BTW, as long-time herbalist who has made hundereds of tinctures and other alcohol-based herbal products, if there is enough alcohol in something it will keep indefinitely. I am not sure what the minimum percentage is, but I think if you are using 80 proof (40%) vodka or liquor and diluting by less than half, you should be fine for preservation purposes.

    So happy I stumbled on your blog!

  6. I can tell you it is an ugly plant! Doesnt really flower. Very little info on when and how to harvest and use so i am cutting it down and hanging it to dry and adding perhaps about 25% to these batches as it is supposed to be the most bitter of all herbs which i am hoping tames the sweetness of the simple syrup some. It also is renowned for its digestif properties so… Yea!

  7. Dear Lisa.
    I was first introduced to finocchietto while vacationing in Capri back in 2017. We where served with this delicious liqueur for desert after we had told our waiter we would not be having desert, we’ll as in most cases when dinning in Italy they provide a little something anyway ! I will never forget the creaminess of this drink and how smooth it was . I was introduced to your blog from my daughter and amazingly this summer I left unknowing a few fennel plants in my garden that sprouted the beautiful umbrella shoots of flowers as you describe in your blog/ recipe . I have followed the recipe and I’m now putting up my 2nd batch that i have bottled with 2 – more batches sitting with the flowers in everclear alcohol . I was very curious and sampled some of the first batch and it was great and can’t wait to see how much better it will be sitting for the recommended 3 months. I will keep you posted. Grazie Miele for you recipe !!!

    Have you ever made Caffe Sport ??
    Caio!
    Augustine

    • Oh, how wonderful, Augustine! What a lovely surprise to find fennel blooming in your yard! I have stopped drinking most sweet liquors and other drinks, but this continues to be my favorite. I just love the flavor and I’m so glad to hear that you do, too!
      What do you mean about Caffe Sport? I don’t know what that is!
      A presto! 🙂

      • Ciao Lisa !
        Caffe sport was introduced to me by a relative and its made up using Espresso, a powered form of Vanilla that comes in a small packed, and sugar, it also is a sweet liquor that is quite delicious. I was also fortunate to have a taste of this when we were in Capri I did notice the texture there was more creamy. Whats your thoughts on how to create the creamy texture in the Finocchietto ?

        Ciao!

        • Ah, so it’s a coffee liquer. I love those! I have never made it myself, but it’s supposedly easy to make. When you mean that the texture was creamy, you don’t mean like the cream limoncello creaminess? Those are made with a milk syrup as opposed to just water and sugar. You can see my recipe for that here in this very old post of mine: https://www.cucicucicoo.com/2009/05/limoni-limona/ I’ve never heard of creamy finocchietto, though, but it might exist.

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