Cinnamon (/ˈsɪnəmən/ SIN-ə-mən) is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used in both sweet and savory foods. The term “cinnamon” also refers to its mid-brown colour.
Cinnamomum verum is sometimes considered to be “true cinnamon”, but most cinnamon in international commerce is derived from related species, also referred to as “cassia”.
Cinnamon is the name for perhaps a dozen species of trees and the commercial spice products that some of them produce. All are members of the genus Cinnamomum in the family Lauraceous. Only a few Cinnamomum species are grown commercially for spice.
The flavour of cinnamon is due to an aromatic essential oil that makes up 0.5 to 1% of its composition. This essential oil is prepared by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in sea water, and then quickly distilling the whole. It is of a golden-yellow colour, with the characteristic odour of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamaldehyde (about 90% of the essential oil from the bark) and, by reaction with oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and forms resinous compounds.
Cinnamon constituents include some 80 compounds, including eugenol found in the oil from leaves or bark of cinnamon trees.
Cinnamon is a popular flavouring in numerous alcoholic beverages, such as Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, and in continental European herbal-liqueurs i.e. Schlossfrieder etc.
Cinnamon brandy concoctions, called “cinnamon liqueur” and made with distilled alcohol, are popular in parts of Greece. In Europe, popular examples of such beverages are Maiwein (white wine with woodruff) and Żubrówka (vodka flavoured with bison grass).