This was a killer year for stone fruit in Santa Fe, and I harvested loads of apricots, plums, nectarines, and peaches. After making jams, jellies, chutneys, salsas, and dried fruit, I was left with a big pile of pits, so I shoved them in the freezer, thinking there MUST be something I could do with them.
Did you know that almond extract is NOT made from almonds? It’s the apricot kernels inside the pits that give almond extract its flavor, so I decided to infuse some booze with my apricot kernels. Thus was born a new cocktail: The Almond Joy. It’s a spirit forward, slightly sweet adult beverage, named after one of my favorite candy bars.
The first step in making this cocktail is to make noyaux. Traditional noyaux is a very sweet, almond flavored liqueur. Very, very sweet. And it often has a bright pink color that may (or may not) appear in nature. It’s a required ingredient for the classic, 1950s cocktail The Pink Squirrel, but it isn’t exactly the most popular bottle on the back of the bar. (Maybe because it’s TOO SWEET!)
I don’t mind a little sweet in my cocktail, but I don’t want it to taste like dessert (even if I DO name it after a candy bar). My noyaux is much less sweet than the traditional liqueur, and contains no artificial color. It’s not difficult to make your own noyaux, just a little tedious. But I promise, it’s worth it.
How to Make Your Own Noyaux
You’ll need to accumulate two cups of apricot pits. Wash off any flesh clinging to the pits. I keep mine in the freezer while I gather enough to work with. If you have a dehydrator, dry the pits before you crack them, to make that a little easier.
You have to crack each pit to get to the kernel inside. This is where the almondy goodness lives. Apricot kernels contain a small amount of amygdalin, which breaks down into cyanide. But don’t worry! As I’ve said before, it’s all in the dosage. You would have to drink a lot of noyaux to consume a dangerous dose of cyanide. Roasting the pits (at 350F for 15 minutes) will neutralize the amygdalin, but it also changes the flavor slightly. I choose not to roast mine. If you’re old enough to drink noyaux, you’re old enough to make your own, informed decision about whether or not to roast the pits.
When it’s time to get crackin’, I set up a board on my counter, put a dishtowel down on top of it, spread some apricot pits on the towel, cover it with another towel, then go to town on the pits with a hammer. Don’t worry if the kernels inside break apart; they’re still good to use.
You should end up with about a half cup of kernels. Transfer these to a pint jar, fill the jar with vodka, then cover the jar tightly, and store it somewhere out of direct sunlight. Every once in a while (once a week?) give the jar a shake. You can start sniffing after a month, but let the kernels soak for a full three months before straining off the kernels and throwing them away.
When it comes to sweetening your noyaux, feel free to experiment, and settle where it pleases you. For two cups of infused alcohol, start by adding 1/4 cup of simple syrup. Taste, and add another 1/4 cup if you so desire. That should be enough, unless you have a crazy sweet tooth.
What You’ll Need to Make an Almond Joy Cocktail
- 2 oz. vodka
- 1 oz. noyaux liqueur
- 1/2 oz. carob syrup
- 1-2 oz coconut water
What You’ll Do to Make an Almond Joy Cocktail
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker of ice and shake for a full 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe and enjoy.