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Winter Warmers

Here are my favourite winter drinks ... to nurse slowly in front of the fire, after one of my stunning meals .. heh. There are after-dinner drinks, and then there are the Italian  amari, or the digestivi, which not only warm the heart, but sooth the digestion. With an alcohol content of 20-40%, these herb-based elixirs have a serious job to do!

Averna

This liqueur’s recipe dates from 1868 Sicily. It is flavoured with herbs, roots, citrus rinds that are marinated in the base liquor before caramel is added. Very thick and herbaceous, it is said to not only possess digestive properties, but also aphrodisiac.

 

Sambuca

A colourless witch elder distillation tasting of aniseed. It is traditionally served colla mosca (with the fly): flambéed with a coffee bean floating on top. When you bite into the bean whist sipping the Sambuca, its bitterness is balanced by the sweetness of the liquor.

 

Fernet

Another type of amaro, the fernets can be issued from many herbs and spices (depending on the brand), such as rhubarb, chamomile, saffron, myrrh, aloe, etc, with a base of grape-based distilled sprits and coloured with caramel. Fernet-Branca,  the well-known brand, has nearly 30 plants and herbs: the Fratelli Branca refuse to divulge their exact recipe!

 

Nocino

From the Emilia-Romagna region, this is a gorgeous concoction made from unripe green walnuts which have been steeped in spirits. Dark, and sticky, it is highly aromatic and rather bittersweet, but smooth, comforting and elegant.

 

Grappa

Grappa is a colourless brandy distilled from the used grape skins and pips after the wine-making process. Every region has its preferred recipe, using their local grapes. It can be drunk as a young, crude spirit, or oak-aged to incredible smoothness and flavoured with rose petals or lemon peels.

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