“It’s a little like lemocello,” said my tasting partner, after we’d both taken a small swig, neat. “But herbal.” I agreed. We were trying a taste from a bottle of Italicus Rosolio de Bergamotto I’d been given recently, and indeed the liqueur initially presents with a kind of viscous sweetness. The complexities emerge after another moment—field flowers, citrus, a touch of rose perhaps.
The bottling, produced at a family-owned distillery established in 1906 in Moncalieri, Torino, boasts a long ingredient list, some of which I found interesting to research. At the forefront is bergamot from Calabria, followed by Cedro from Sicilia (a citron); Roman chamomile from Lazio; and melissa balm, lavender, yellow roses, and gentian from Northern Italy.
The bergamot (a finicky sour orange) and Cedro peels are infused in cold water to release their essential oils—a process called sfumatura—before being blended with the other botanicals, which have been macerated together for several days in neutral grain spirit, to create the final liquid.
It comes in at 40 proof—just right for an aperitif—and took a Best New Spirit award at Tales of the Cocktail in 2017.
The bottle came with a recipe for an Italicus with tonic—the (ahem) twist being that the prescribed garnish is a wedge of pink grapefruit. The bitterness of that fruit balanced out the rich liqueur really beautifully; in fact, there is a recipe that basically calls for a healthy dollop of Italicus into an IPA beer. I’m not going to try that, but I’ll bet it works. With grapefruit soda? You bet.
It’s intriguing stuff, a welcome addition to the aperitif arsenal just waiting to get poured when the weather really changes.
Italicus with Tonic
1 part Italicu
s Rosolio di Bergamotto
2 parts tonic
Pour both ingredients over ice and garnish with pink grapefruit.
Envision the Mediterranean Sea stretching out before you…