Some years ago I was lucky enough to find a copy of Italian Liqueurs: History and Art of a Creation. If you have an interest in making liqueurs that are a bit out of the ordinary, this book is well worth finding. It’s not only full of delightfully weird, complex and interesting recipes for Italian liqueurs, it’s spectacularly well illustrated with prints that show how plants and the liqueurs made from them have figured in Italian art.
At the time I bought it, Italian Liqueurs was a very rare book, and I got mine from a second-hand bookseller in Florence. We had a long and somewhat torturous email conversation, hobbling along on scraps of shared French and some Google Translate. I’ve since seen the book on sale for much less money and trouble: perhaps there was a reprint.
The recipe below for ‘Cumquat Elixir’ is presented as-is from Italian Liqueurs, save for a few small details. One, the author calls for 190 proof (90% abv) alcohol, whereas I have used a milder vodka (40%). Two, the author doesn’t specify to prick the kumquats; I did so because I love the full range of sweet, aromatic and acid flavours that the whole fruit gives when slowly macerated whole.
I have just set mine on, and so far it is developing well. The white vermouth, lemon zest and clove seem to marry beautifully, giving a spicy complexity.
Read on after the recipe for a gorgeous video about Italian Liqueurs.
- 400ml vodka
- 200ml white vermouth
- 250g sugar
- 400g cumquats (fortunella japonica or fortunella polyandra)
- 2 cloves
- Zest of one lemon
“Add all ingredients to a jar and let macerate for three months, delicately shaking the jar occasionally. After the three months, filter and bottle. Keep the bottles for another three months before tasting.
With the filtered remains you can prepare another aperitif by adding one bottle of Chinato wine or vermouth, then letting stand for another three months before filtering the new drink. Chinato wine or vermouth is made with red wine added with many spices, of which china (quinine) is one, especially in the Piedmont region of Italy, following well guarded secret recipes.”
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