I now have a greater appreciation for the Italian liquor industry. It’s clear by the products available that there’s not only a fair amount of tradition, but a fair amount of stories to go along with the tradition (which, I suppose, is how traditions are created).
Off the top of my head there’s Amaretto, Nocello, Frangelico, Lemoncello, Campari, Fernet-Branca – that, my friends, is a very decent collection for a bar. As a measure of comparison, the English have gin and…well, you could say they have whiskey, but the Scotch and the Irish would be a little peeved at that.
Liquore Strega is an 80 proof herbal concoction, with a reputed 70 ingredients. Amongst those ingredients include mint, saffron and fennel. Strega is now the second liquor I’ve found with saffron, with Fernet-Branca being the first.
The story behind Strega is interesting as well. In 1860, Giuseppe Alberti found monks from Benevento, Campania who made this liquor. Promising to do nothing but good with the recipe, and coaxed the secret recipe from them. At first he sold it as a medical elixer (as many liquors were). Sales were poor. Smart businessman that he was, he decided to sell it as a liquor instead. He renamed it to Liquore Strega, which roughly translates to liquor of the witch. From there, the sales took off.
Strega is best served alone, either straight up or on the rocks.
Eyes:Strega is a bright yellow, nearly fluorescent yellow. It is saffron that gives it this color. Swirling the liquor in a glass shows it to be a nearly viscous syrup.
Nose: Strong, very medicinal.
Taste: Let it be said that Strega is a very complex drink. It starts sweet from the sugar, but then it becomes very bitter from the herbal components. Not herbal in an Absinthe sense, but more in a robituseen sans-codeine sense. The tail end of drink finishes with a strong liquorice flavor, most likely coming from the fennel.
Overall: Not my favorite drink, being too herbal in it’s nature. With me being an American, my tastes tend towards the sweeter drinks.