Monday, August 13, 2012

Drink: Bootlegging for beginners (sort of)

My recent trip to the Amalfi Coast left me with a taste for Italian digestives, specifically Limoncello and Finocchietto.

Limoncello is probably a more recognizable product in North American liquor/wine stores. I remember being offered it after a meal here in Montreal and not being terribly impressed with the sweet syrupy taste. But the lovely elixir that was offered to us in Amalfi, Positano, Maiori and Ravello was something else altogether; it completely changed my perception. It was sweet, to be sure, but the taste of alcohol was present and when served in a frozen glass, the flavour was perfectly balanced. I know it has to do with the Amafi lemons being the unique, sweet beauties that they are. In any case, a majority of meals in Amafi were followed by the ubiquitous chilled limoncello digestive; between that and the bottles we enjoyed in the hotel room, I was hooked. Luckily I am able to find Limoncello in stores here at home, and even though the taste is not a perfect match to what we had in Italy, I have grown to really love it. Maybe its the nostalgia that makes it more palatable that it once was.

Limoncello Shop in Ravello, Italy

Finoccheitto, however, seems to be an undiscovered treat in North America and darn impossible to find. Which has lead to near panic on my part; what will I do once I have imbibed the only bottle that we brought back with us? How will I get my fix then?? Finoccheitto is a digestive made from fennel (both seed and fronds). It may sound disconcerting but the flavour is actually nothing like one would expect. It's sweet and mildly anise flavoured, it really lacks the slap in the face quality of say, sambucca. While searching online for places to buy more, I quickly realized my search would not be fruitful. I did, however, find a couple recipes to make fennel digestive. After a brief hesitation, I realized that the most I could lose by trying the recipe is 2 cups of vodka. So, yesterday I stuffed an empty one litre milk bottle with fennel fronds (from an organic local fennel bulb), a table spoon of fennel seeds and and 2 cups of vodka. After a week or so of soaking, I will make and add simple syrup to the mix and hope it tastes nearly as good as the one we found in Ravello a couple months back. If it does, I may have to start up a mini 'bootlegging' business in my dining room so I can get all my friends hooked on it; whenever I'm feeling generous enough to share, that is!

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