Homemade spirits are usually a matter of genuine ingredients, old traditions and passion. This is very true especially in Italy where recipes are handed out generation after generation. In fact, every family has its own special one; a unique mix of fruits, herbs alcohol and sugar. A very special treat for your guests and a secret kick for when our energies are a bit low. These spirits are made by the best herbs or roots usually hand-picked during walks in the woods.
The oldest and most popular homemade spirits in the Country are Rosolio, Ratafià and Nocino. The first one is a Sicilian sweet liquor which has been made since the 17th century, simply by soaking petals of roses into alcohol. A real treat offered to guests to wish them good luck. It has a delicate taste and a refreshing scent of flowers, usually served in small, vintage glasses, great if paired with small pastries.
Ratafià, a real Piedmont tradition, is a bit stronger. It is full-bodied, made with black cherries and alcohol according to an old recipe dated 1600. Andorno Micca, in the province of Biella, is its hometown. Here, Giovanni Rapa “Liquorificio” produces award-winning spirits since 1880. Ratafià is great with ice but it also can be added to desserts, ice creams and fruit salads for an unusual twist.
Nocino is a velvety dark brown liqueur from the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy. It is made from unripened green walnuts collected the 23rd of June (Saint Giovanni’s Feast). After steeping in spirit, the walnuts are removed and the now-black alcohol is mixed with simple syrup. Nocino has an aromatic but bittersweet flavour. It may be homemade; villages and even individual families often have their own recipes, including different additions like cinnamon or clove. Nocino is also available commercially in bottled form. During the Middle Ages, Italian monasteries used Nocino for its medicinal properties and also as an alcoholic treat. It is great when served “neat” at a room temperature of 16-18 °. Absolutely gorgeous when paired with Parmigiano Reggiano or serve it with an unusual ice cream topper.
Easy to prepare and affordable for everyone, the liquorice and coffee liqueurs are the Italians most favourite drinks. The first one, a typical Calabrian tradition, is made with liquorice roots and alcohol. The best ones come from Amarelli in Rossano, a factory dated 1731. The Liquorice liquor is a refreshing treat and usually, it is paired with dried fruits. The second one, it’s great if drunk “liscio” or mixed in cocktails. It goes well with dark chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Aromatic, with a sweet flavour it’s easy to make; just add alcohol to your espresso. For an unusual version try the infusion made with coffee and Trebbiano wine (aged six years in French oak barrels) from Villa Zarri Distillery and you will be sure to add a touch of Italian sparkle to your evening.