Strega has been made by the same family in Benevento, Italy, since 1860, and the legend behind the witch (strega means "witch" in Italian) claims that witches from all over the world once gathered in this southern Italian town.
My hope is that if witches really did meet there that they consumed a fair amount ofthis luscious liquid. If you ever have a chance to travel to Benevento and tour the place where Strega is made, you'll see the walnut tree in the building's courtyard, commemorating the legend and the name, as witches supposedly danced wildly around walnut trees.
You'll also get to hear (from the amazingly nice folks at the Strega plant) about the 70 herbs and spices that go into this elixir, including saffron and the local wild mint, which grows nowhere else in the world and which has never been cultivated, and hear about three things that set Strega apart: 1) It's a distilled liqueur, and not infused as some others; 2) It uses all local ingredients (following the same recipe handed down from generation to generation of the Alberti family); and 3) It's aged in oak casks before bottling. The end result is a rich golden liqueur, layered with flavors, ideal both before and after dinner.
If the witches were looking for a way to entrance drinkers when meeting in Benevento, they found it with Strega. And, as if the liqueur weren't enough of a reason for the trip, the people at Strega also make delicious chocolates (with the chocolate itself made on the premises, and with certain chocolates filled with the liqueur) and the renowned candy torrone, a combination of honey, egg whites, roasted almonds, and spices.
Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments,
and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist
by A. J. Rathbun
Harvard Common Press, 2007
$29.95; Hardcover, 496 pages
Reprinted by permission.
This page created 2007
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