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Liquore Strega

Liquore Strega


By Robert Plotkin

You know you've walked into the right cocktail lounge when you see a bottle of Liquore Strega on the backbar. Not only is it a fundamental ingredient in numerous classic cocktails, the famous Italian liqueur has a compelling spicy, herbal flavor that's impossible to replicate behind the bar. After all, they've had a century and a half to perfect its flawless character.

Since 1860, the liqueur has been crafted by the S. A. Distilleria Liquore Strega in Benevento, Campania, Italy, and is still produced according to the original recipe. Like most proprietary spirits and liqueurs, its recipe is a strict family secret. What we do know is that included among the 70 herbs and spices in its recipe are several varieties of mint, Ceylonese cinnamon, Florentine iris, Italian Apennine juniper, fennel, and saffron, which is the most expensive spice in the world.

Once these herbs and spices are assembled in the proper proportion, they are macerated in neutral spirits and sent through the still. After the infused spirits exit the still, they are matured in ash wood barrels to allow their constituent elements are allowed to fully integrate. The finished liqueur is then bottled at 40% alcohol (80 proof).

Every positive characteristic you could want in a classic ingredient is readily available in Liquore Strega. It has an alluring, yellow/gold hue, a satiny-textured, medium-weight body and a generous bouquet of menthol, cinnamon, mint, honey, vanilla, dried herbs, saffron and piney juniper. Its aromatic signature is astonishing. The liqueur immediately expands on entry with a blast of spicy warmth, the semisweet flavor of which lingers on the palate for a remarkably long time. From stem to stern, Strega is world-class.

The famed Italian liqueur also makes Limoncello di Sorrento, a refreshing and fabulously delicious lemon-infused limocello. The neo-classic liqueur is produced from lemons grown on the Amalfi and Sorrento coasts. It is skillfully balanced between slightly tart and naturally semisweet. The nose delivers concentrated notes of tree-ripened lemons and a long, thoroughly satisfying finish. Limoncello do Sorrento is highly versatile behind the bar.

It's interesting to note that Strega is the Italian word for "witch." The name applies because the town of Benevento as once known as the City of Witches. Local folklore says it was a gathering place for the witches. No doubt they were attracted to the Strega.