Crème de Noyeau

Darcy O'Neil :: January 29, 2009 11:24 PM

Depending on where you are from, or your inclination for spelling things, there are many ways to spell this almond flavoured cordial syrup. Sometimes it's with an x (noyeaux) sometimes it's shortened (noyau) and it can even be spelt shortened with an x (noyaux), among other varied spellings. Aside from being slightly annoying, this is a mainstay cocktail ingredient that has been usurped by the Italian amaretto's. But it is still called for, and for those who like to dabble in the art of homemade liqueurs, here is a recipe for Creme de Noyeau De Martinique.

I came across this recipe when I was exploring the Seagram's Library. It was in a rare book called: The rum distiller's manual: for the use of sugar planters. By C.J. Hering (1855). I've mentioned it in a previous post, but aside from the copy in Waterloo, I've yet to find a copy of it in the wild (i.e. Google only has a couple of vague references).

Anyway, this recipe exists in books after 1855, as it was a custom to republish the works of people before you, verbatim, without credit. Hence the copyright and trademark system. But recipes don't fall under copyright, so in the traditions of past, here is an interesting Crème de Noyeau recipe.

Crème De Noyeau De Martinique:

Take twenty pounds of loaf sugar; three gallons of rum; three pints of orange-flower water; one and a quarter pounds of bitter almonds; two drachms of essence of lemon, and four and a half gallons of water. Put two pounds of the white sugar into a jug or can; pour upon it the essence of lemon and one quart of rum; stir it till the sugar is dissolved, and the essence completely incorporated. Bruise the almonds, and put them into a four gallon stone vessel, with the remainder of the spirits and the mixture from the can. Let it stand a week or ten days, shaking it frequently. Then add the remainder of the sugar, and boil it in the four and a half gallons of water for three-quarters of an hour; taking off the scum as it rises. When cold, put in a cask; add the spirits and almonds from the stone vessel, and, lastly, the orange-flower water. Bung it down close, and let it stand three weeks or a month; then strain it through a jelly bag, and when fine bottle it off. When the pink color is wanted, add cochineal in powder, at the rate of half a drachm to a quart.

*A drachm is an old unit of measurement that really doesn't have a universal weight/volume. It all depends on whether you follow the Greek, Roman or SI system. But, estimate about 4 grams or 1 teaspoon of liquid.

Creme de Noyeau Recipe (Metric)

600ml White Rum
450g Cane Sugar
75ml Orange Flower water
30g Bitter Almond
10 Drops Essence of Lemon
850ml Water

Now since this recipe was from, at least, 154 years ago we can make some additional modifications. First, bitter almonds may be hard to obtain since they are slightly toxic. You can try substituting processed oil of bitter almonds / pure almond extract (1 drop = 6 bitter almonds). That leads to the question of how many drops does one use for this recipe. Well, an almond weights approximately 1.2 grams, which means 25 almonds, and it's 1 drop per 6 almonds, so that means 4 to 6 drops of almond extract. Or you can just use regular almonds with a drop or two of extract since the almonds will add a slight cloudiness, which would be more authentic. You can also use some homemade orgeat.

The rum during this period would have been higher proof than the stands 40% ABV stuff found on most shelves today. Use something like Wray & Nephew Overproof for the rum. Next, use French orange flower water, not the middle eastern stuff, and you might want to think about adding only part of the orange flower water and adjusting to taste. For "Essence of Lemon" you can use pure lemon oil, which can be found at higher end grocery stores, and online.

Aside from dissolving the sugar, there is no reason to boil the mixture. The "scumming" procedure was used because loaf sugar wasn't very pure. You could use natural cane sugar, brown sugar or refined sugar to make this recipe. Your last choice should be pure white refined sugar, as this wouldn't really have been used in the islands during this period. Most of the refined sugar was exported to Europe.

Aging in a barrel, for a month, might be hard, but you can always substitute some well aged amber rum for part of the white rum, to give it some rapid "oak aged" flavour. If you used almonds, or apricot kernels, put it through a fine strainer and some cheese cloth.

Last, but not least, if you want to be a pure traditionalist, go catch yourself some female Dactylopius coccus (Cochineal insects), dry them, and grind them up and add 2 grams per litre. Or just buy some red food colouring.

Obviously, this recipe has lots of room for modifications.

If you can't find Creme de Noyeau at your local liquor shop, this might your opportunity to mix up that Pink Squirrel cocktail you've been itchin' to try.


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