Halloween is just around the corner, so what better liquor to feature than Strega (Italian for witch). Legend has it that the town of Benevento, where Strega has been made since 1860, was the meeting ground of all the witches of the world. I keep picturing a gaggle of witches sitting around a bubbling cauldron, cackling and stirring the 70 ghoulish ingredients that make up this liquor.
Beyond the connection to Halloween, You’ve got to love the tradition. Today Strega is still produced by the Alberti family, now on its fifth generation, and in the same Benevento, Italy building since its first production in 1860. The recipe for this Italian liqueur is a mixture of 70 herbs and spices including Apennine juniper, Samnite mint, Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, fennel and saffron. The mixture is then aged in ash barrels until perfect.
You’ll notice upon sipping that it’s a very complex bouquet of flavors. You may be able to pick out the mint and the juniper, and the saffron that gives Strega its yellow coloring. Strega is bittersweet with strong coniferous notes. Use it as an accent in your cocktail recipes. Keep in mind, since Strega has that juniper component it naturally pairs well with gin.
If you get your hands on a bottle, I recommend making a Strega Sour. It was the winner of the Martin Miller’s Gin “Trade Up” competition. A cocktail that is as beautiful as it is tasty.