A liquor with a history hundreds of years long that also crossed two continents deserves a featured post. Borsci Elisir San Marzano is a liqueur from the Borsci family, who left the Caucus region during the Ottoman Turk invasions sometime prior to 1400. They resettled in Albania in the town of Borsh, which provided the roots of their surname that survives today. However, a branch of the family eventually followed the Albanian national hero Giorgio Castriota who came to Puglia, Italy to fight alongside the Kingdom of Aragon, who ruled the region in the mid-1400s. While Castriota eventually left, many Albanians remained, and the family name eventually adopted a more Italian flavor: Borsci. The recipe was passed down through the generations but wasn’t produced for commercial consumption until Giuseppe Borsci started distilling it in the town of San Marzano di San Giuseppe. This gave birth to the name Borsci Elisir San Marzano.
Borsci has a deep nutty nose that hints at the boldness of the flavor. The taste reflects the aroma and rich brown color. Immediately, notes of coffee and chocolate come through. They are the featured elements throughout and fade into the bittersweet aftertaste that lingers, with a touch of prune emerging.
You can experiment with Borsci in many different ways. Try using it in your favorite cocktails by substituting it for crème de cacao or coffee liqueur.
THIRST AND HUNGER
Twist on a Classic: White Russian
“Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here.” Couldn’t pass up a chance to try a riff on El Duderino’s favorite drink. Borsci’s coffee notes made me think this would be a good substitute for Kahlua. Also, I tried to incorporate the cream component in a different way. It took multiple iterations to find the right balance of flavors, but I think the Dude and Gary the bartender would be happy with the final product.
For the drink:
-3/4 oz Borsci
-3/4 oz vodka (Grey Goose)
-1/2 oz rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
-1 ½ oz heavy cream
For the ice cube:
Fill a Tovolo ice sphere mold with whole milk and freeze for at least 6 hours.
Add the Borsci, vodka, and simple syrup to a cocktail mixer, fill with ice until above the liquid line, and stir for 30 seconds. Add the milk ice cube to your glass and pour in the cocktail base.
Pour the heavy cream into a cocktail shaker. Remove the metal coil from your Hawthorne strainer and place it in the shaker with the cream. Shake, without ice, vigorously for 20 seconds. Gently pour into the glass over the back of a spoon.
Something Original: Italian Autumnal Tints
Borsci's coffee and cocoa notes lends the amaro to more autumn and winter style cocktails. I imagined this cocktails as a representation of fall in Puglia.
For the drink:
-3/4 oz Borsci
-3/4 oz amaretto
-1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
-1/4 oz simple syrup
-1 dash autumnal bitters
-1 Egg white
For the garnish:
Nick and Nora
Place your glass in the freezer. Combine all of the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake for 45 seconds without ice. Add ice to the shaker and shake for another 10 seconds. Pour through a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer into your chilled glass.
Eat Your Spirit: Borsci Chicken and Waffles
I’ve always wanted to make fried chicken and waffles from scratch. Thinking of what food I wanted to feature the Borsci with gave me the opportunity to finally do it. I incorporated the Borsci into the maple syrup to tie all the flavors together. Be ready to make a mess of your kitchen, but you won’t regret it.
For the chicken:
-4 pieces of your favorite cut of chicken
-1 ½ tablespoons paprika
-1 ½ tablespoons black pepper
-1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
-1 ½ teaspoon oregano
-1/2 teaspoon chipotle
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
-3/4 cup buttermilk
-1 tablespoon kosher salt
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup cornstarch
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-8 cups peanut oil
For the waffles:
-1 cup all-purpose flower
-1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
-3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have it use ½ cup sour cream or yogurt and ½ cup whole milk)
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-3 tablespoons melted butter
-1 egg yolk
-Egg white of one egg
For the Borsci syrup:
-3 tablespoons maple syrup
-1 tablespoon Borsci
-Mix together the spices from the paprika to the cayenne on the above list in a bowl.
-In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, kosher salt, 1 ½ tablespoons of the spice mixture. Then, pour into a gallon zip lock, add the chicken pieces, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bring a large wok with 8 cups of peanut oil to 425 degrees.
-While the oven and oil are heating, add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and remaining spice mix to a large bowl. Add ¼ cup of the buttermilk mixture from the zip-lock bag to bowl and work with your fingers to combine everything. Dredge each piece of chicken in the mixture and leave the chicken in the mix until the oil reaches the desired temperature.
-Add two pieces to the oil and make sure that after the temperature drops it doesn’t get above 350. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for 4 more minutes. Remove from the oil and check the internal temperature of the chicken. You will likely need to cook the chicken for another 5 to 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven. White meat should be a minimum of 165 degrees and dark meat should be 175 degrees
-Repeat the above step for the final two pieces of chicken.
-While the last pieces of chicken are cooking begin heating your waffle iron per the instructions.
-While the iron heats, whisk the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
-Whisk the buttermilk, vanilla extract, melted butter, and egg yolk in a separate bowl.
-Whisk the egg white in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form.
-Mix the dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture. Once incorporated, fold in the egg white until fully mixed.
-Cook in your waffle iron, per the instructions.
-Stir together the maple syrup and Borsci.
-Build your plate: a waffle, topped with fried chicken, drizzled in Borsci syrup.
Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, is an underrated region of Italy. A trip through this part of the country offers a rustic Italian experience. The cities are small compared to other parts of Italy and agriculture plays a vital role in the economy. A trip to Puglia offers a a chance to immerse yourself in an older bucolic Italy.
Borsci has been produced in a number of different places in Puglia, getting it’s start as a commercially produced liquor in San Marzano di San Giuseppe. By 2010, the company suffered significant financial setbacks and almost shuttered production. The company was bought out by the Caffo Group 1915 and is now made in the coastal city of Taranto on the coast of the Ionian Sea.
Puglia has many wonderful places to visit. If looking for a historic medieval Italian town, Ostuni’s “Old Town,” also called “The White Town,” will not disappoint. The Old Town sits perched on a hill with white walls surrounding the city and most of the town’s buildings painted white as well. The sun-soaked Italian town radiates in the summer sunshine as you stroll through the labyrinth of streets. Make a point of eating at Osteria del Tempo Perso, which is built into the rock of the hill. I still think about their burrata cheese and donkey meatballs.
If looking for a more rural experience visit Il Frantolio’s olive orchard. The region is essential for Italy’s food culture as it produces 40% of the country’s olive oil. You can walk through the olive groves, where some trees are over a thousand years old and afterwards enjoy a tasting. Try the lacrima (Tears), a prized type of extra virgin olive oil from the earliest pressings that requires no excessive extraction methods.
Puglia will leave every visitor satisfied, much the same as a dram of Borsci after a wonderful Italian meal.