Category Archives: Liquor

Isn’t Prosecco just Italian Champagne?

image source - flickr.com/photos/heliocentric
image source – flickr.com/photos/heliocentric

Other than both being sparkling wine, no.

Champagne is undoubtedly the king of sparkling wine. Three things must be true for a sparkling wine to be called Champagne. First, it must be produced in the Champagne region of France…no ifs, ands, or buts. It must also be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier grapes. Finally, Champagne can only be fermented using the Champenoise method which is a two step fermentation process: first in barrels, then in bottles. Anything else, even in France, is just sparkling wine.

None of these things are true about Prosecco. First of all, Prosecco is named for both the grape (now known as Glera) and area in the Veneto region of Italy where it is produced. To be a true Prosecco, at least 85% of this grape must be used. Fermentation is done using the Charmat method which is also a two step fermentation, but both take place in stainless steel vats.

Prosecco is meant to be drunk when it is young and fresh, so the production process is usually faster than that of Champagne. That is why most Prosecco is modestly priced while finer Champagnes can be quite expensive.

Cin cin!

Is there really an Italian liquor made from artichokes?

cynar2

Yes. It is an amaro called Cynar.

Cynar is a bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants, the predominant one being artichoke. It’s name comes from cynara scolymus, the Latin name for artichoke. It has traditionally been enjoyed as either an aperitif or a digestif but has recently become a favorite ingredient on many craft cocktail menus.

Here is a recipe for the delicious Cynar Flip, courtesy of mixologist Thomas Mooneyham:

2 oz. Cynar
1 oz. Death’s Door Gin
.5 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and hot water)
1 whole egg

Combine all ingredients and shake in a cocktail shaker without ice. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a snifter and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Thanks Thomas. (@ThomasMooneyham)

Is it true that no almonds are used in the production of Amaretto Disaronno?

amaretto

Yes.

Amaretto is an almond-flavored liqueur, and Disaronno is the king of amaretto. The name amaretto comes from the word amaro which means bitter in Italian. Not to be confused with many amaro that are bitter liqueurs mainly flavored by herbs, amaretto is a bitter liqueur sweetened with almonds, or in the case of di Saronno, apricot kernels. That’s right, the stone of an apricot is what gives Disaronno its flavor.

The legend of Amaretto Disaronno (or Disaronno Originale, as it’s now known) dates back to 1525 in the town of Saronno, Italy. The artist Bernardo Luini, a student of Leonardo da Vinci, was commissioned to paint a fresco of the Madonna and used a beautiful, local innkeeper as his model. As a gesture of her gratitude, she gave the artist a flask of what is said to be the original recipe of the amaretto from Saronno.

To this day, the recipe has remained a secret. The company states that it is pure alcohol, apricot kernels, burnt sugar and a blend of seventeen different herbs and fruits that give Disaronno its unique flavor. There are absolutely no nuts used in production, so it is safe for those with allergies.

And the trademark rectangular bottle? It was designed by a master glassmaker from Murano in 1971.

Is it true that Campari gets its color from crushed insects?

campari

Not anymore.

Campari, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a bitter Italian liqueur known for its dark red color. From its inception in 1860 until 2006, the aperitif had been colored with carmine dye made from crushed cochineal insects. As unappealing as it sounds, carmine dye is actually quite common in a variety of other items including fabrics, cosmetics, and food colorings. In fact, you can still find the dye in many jams, juices, and candy. For some, carmine dye can be the cause of severe allergic reactions.

Campari now uses an artificial colorant. Many loyalists have complained that the taste and consistency have changed with the new recipe. The color does seem to be a bit more orange than the original deep red. Regardless of the change, Campari has remained one of the top selling liqueurs. With some soda and an orange slice…don’t mind if I do.