Beech Leaf Noyau – A Delectable Botanical Infusion

posted in: Wild Food 5
Bubbles in goldern liquid
Beech infusion with bubbles. Photo: Alison Delaney.

There are many things that I look forward to making each year as the seasons roll around, but the gin-based liqueur beech leaf noyau has to be up there in my top five of must-makes every year.

It’s truly wonderful, difficult to get wrong and I urge you to give it a go and see for yourselves, you won’t regret it.

Gin has seen a massive resurgence in popularity, with a proliferation of small producers adding different selections of botanicals for their own special blend. Add a dash of foraged food into the mix yourself and you are automatically off the hipness scale.

Truth be told, what I most often make isn’t really beech leaf noyau but more of an infusion. It’s even easier than the noyau. I’ll give the recipe for both and perhaps you can see which tickles your fancy.

Editor’s Note: In case you are wondering about the origin of the word noyau used in this context, there is a French liqueur called crème de noyau, usually brandy-based and flavoured with essential oils from the kernels of peaches, plums and cherries or from almonds. All of these give a flavour of bitter almonds. Noyau is literally translated as “kernel” or “stone”. For example un noyau d’abricot is an apricot stone.

Ingredients for Beech Leaf Noyau

  • 750ml gin
  • Young fresh beech leaves (Fagus sylvatica)
  • 225g sugar
  • 200 ml water
  • Splash of brandy

Ingredients for Beech Leaf Gin Infusion

  • 750ml gin
  • Young fresh beech leaves (Fagus sylvatica)
  • Lemonade or tonic water (when ready to serve)
Beech leaves, Fagus sylvatica
You need young, fresh beech leaves. Photo: Alison Delaney.

Methodology – Beech Leaf Noyau and Gin Infusion

Gather enough young beech leaves to loosely fill a kilner jar or similar. You’ll know the leaves are young enough if they’re still soft, sticky and a lime green in colour (generally). They’ll taste soft and citrusy when chewed. Cover the beech leaves with gin.

I don’t see much point splashing out on the expensive stuff for this recipe and I generally buy shop’s own brand, particularly as I tend to make five bottles worth per year. Don’t judge me. Pop the jar into a dark cupboard and give it a shake whenever you remember to.

Bottle of Windsor gin and beech leaves in a jar
Beech leaves left to soak in gin in Kilner jar. Photo: Alison Delaney

Most recipes say to leave it for about four weeks but I once forgot and left the gin and beech leaves to do their thing for about four months; it was a wonderful accident as it happens.

After whichever period of time you choose to leave your gin, remove the beech leaves, which will now have turned from lime to slime in colour and squeeze out every last drop of gin possible.

If making the infusion, your work is done, simply enjoy with your mixer of choice. This is the lazy option and, quite frankly, the one I do most often.

If you’d prefer the more authentic beech leaf noyau experience, you’ll need to dissolve your sugar in hot water until it dissolves. Pour into the strained gin, add a good splash of brandy, decant into a bottle, then leave for three months or so before drinking. Longer would be better… if you’re able.

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Alison has spent many years sharing her enthusiasm for all things nature with both children and adults in her roles as primary school teacher, green schools and environmental awareness co-ordinator, scout leader, guide with the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service and latterly via wild foods via Nibbling On Nature. Alison has worked with Frontier as a course assistant since 2013.

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5 Responses

  1. Craig
    | Reply

    Now you’re talking. “medicinally” of course…. Lol

  2. Chas
    | Reply

    Can you use copper-beech leaves to make Noyau?

  3. Tom Molloy
    | Reply

    Outstanding recipe! The only mistake I made was only making 5 litres and giving way most of it!
    Next Spring, I’ll be going into an industial level of production! 😉

  4. steve Bowers
    | Reply

    Hi there, can you make (or I make rather) a liqueur with bird cherry blossoms or is it poisonous

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