When Taste was held at Florence’s Fortezza da Basso in February, the medieval walls of the trade fair venue were filled to the max with foodies foraging for niche specialties. The occasion was an excuse to indulge in interesting tastings surrounded by excitement at Tuscany’s latest bitters, liqueurs and spirits.
Spiriti del Bosco
Gin number 1 in my tasting experience pays tribute to a centuries-old distillate that was introduced by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold I, in 1851. Made in the woods near Volterra, Tuscan gin actually headed north for the International Exhibition of 1862 in London. Today’s small-batch Gin Toscano from Spiriti del Bosco is produced using botanicals that are carefully sourced and selected in the upper Cecina Valley. Mediterranean aromas and flavors mix with notes that recall ships loaded with exotic spices and distant ports. Sage, black pepper, lemon, bitter orange, juniper berries, coriander, bay leaf and helichrysum contribute to this persuasive spirit.
Serving suggestion: Keep things simple and serve it over ice.
“If you’re bathing in the Argentario area, sea fennel will be the first plant you’ll see back on land.” These words were the opening gambit by the owner of Argintario at Taste. Essential juniper berries are joined by lemon balm, bitter orange, jasmine, a touch of Ansonica grape must, hand-picked brackish sea fennel and resinous mastic to make this versatile gin from the Maremma in deep south Tuscany.
Serving suggestion: Give it a whirl as an Etruscan gin and tonic mixed with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water and garnished with a sprig of sea fennel.
This drink is only technically a digestif, but with its bold aromas and intoxicating color, Amaro Melograno is the perfect alcoholic mixer with tonic water. The organic pomegranates used to make this rare elixir are grown by the Barbarossa farm in the Monteferrato protected reserve on the hills overlooking Prato. Back down in the textile town, the bright red fruits are made into really refined bitters.
Serving suggestion: Try it on the rocks or as the red shade in an original spritz.
Peter in Florence Spring Limited Edition
A gin for every season! All-Tuscan gin Peter in Florence, lovingly distilled in the hills near Florence, has found a new look for the warmer weather. Spring Limited Edition boasts saffron and camomile components that lend floral notes and a touch of yellow. It’s the first in a series of four limited editions that will change with the seasons centered on research into botanicals specific to the time of year.
Serving suggestion: Enjoy it with sparkling water and plenty of lemon and ice.
Gin Mario 43
Wartime is the inspiration behind Gin Mario 43, when a shelter in the silence of the Val di Bisenzio hills saved the life of a young man called Mario. “In the rampant days of the war. In 1943,” reads the label. Forever linked to these hills near Prato, Mario converted the refuge into a farm filled with life. Now, his grandchildren have named a London Dry Gin after their nonno, which is produced in 150-liter batches by master distiller Stefano Cicalese. Tuscan juniper berries are flanked by cypress, almonds and fig leaves, all of which are local specialties around Prato.
If ever a spirit was designed to get you into a pickle, then Ginepraio would be the culprit. The name itself means both a juniper grove and a figure of speech used in Tuscany (cacciarsi in un ginepraio), AKA getting into trouble. The expression encapsulates Tuscan people and their biting irony. In addition to three types of juniper, the botanicals in this 100 percent organic gin feature helichrysum, a yellow-flowering plant that grows wild along the Tuscan coast. What makes Ginepraio one of a kind are the people behind it: Enzo comes from a winemaking family in Montepulciano and Fabio hails from the Marche, where sailors have always indulged in spirits to warm them up on cold sea-bound nights.
Please note that our editors regularly test wine and spirits. Samples can be sent to The Florentine, via dei Banchi 4, 50123 Firenze. Reviews cannot be guaranteed.