"To have seen Italy without seeing Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Blood oranges thrive in the Sicilian sunshine and the volcanic soil that surrounds Mount Etna. Many citrus varieties flourish in the region, but the blood orange is special. A blood orange brings something new to one’s expectation of the traditional fruit. Once peeled open, the magma-like color appears as if it absorbed the essence of Mount Etna. The refreshment they provide when they are in season mid-winter almost makes the cold worth it.
Solerno is the alcoholic manifestation of the blood orange. Sanguinellos, the varietal of blood orange used for the liquor, are harvested every winter and early spring when they are ripest. The liquor fuses a distillation of the Sanguinello’s meat, the peels, and Sicilian lemons. Surprisingly, this combination produces a clear spirit, that would provide no indication of its colorful origin. The bottle provides a better representation of the fruit and makes up for the neutral appearance of the liquor. The color on the bottle is dark at the top and lightens toward the bottom, transitioning from the appearance of fully oxygenated blood to watered down orange juice at the bottom. The blown glass bottom even takes on the appearance of a juicer.
Finally, how is the drinking experience? When tasting it, the aroma is the first sensation. The nose is almost that of a slightly toasted orange. Once sipped, the flavor has an initial brightness followed by a pleasant citrus sweetness commingled with a slight smokiness. Luckily, it is not a sickly sugary syrup. The sip concludes with a slight bitterness and a warmth from the alcohol. The pleasantness of the liquor makes it ideal to drink straight or infused in a cocktail.
THIRST AND HUNGER
Twist on a Classic: Margarita
Solerno brings brightness to the palate. As the summer heat escalates, I keep searching for drinks to bring some relief. It’s hard to surpass the refreshment of a margarita. The idea to infuse the Mexican classic with some Italian came when I realized I didn’t have any orange liqueur which is a foundational margarita component, so I swapped in Solerno. The blood orange flavor adds a slight smokiness that complements the other citrus and sweetness, as well as the zip of the tequila.
For the drink
1½ oz Espolon blanco tequila
1½ oz Solerno blood orange liqueur
¾ oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
¾ oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
½ oz Simple syrup
For the garnish
Slice your lime into a wedge. Push the wedge against the rim and slide it around the glass. Pour the kosher salt onto a plate and rub the glass in it.
Measure and combine all of the drink ingredients in a cocktail mixer. Add ice until about half full. With a bar spoon, stir until chilled, about 20 seconds. Pour the drink into a glass with ice cubes through a Hawthorne strainer. Garnish with the lime wedge.
Something Original: Scottish Sunburst
As will be repeated often in my various posts, Scotland may be my favorite place in the world. The misty gloom that frames the mountains, seas, and castles fosters a feeling that one lives in a fairy tale. This drink remined me of the trip Sarah and I took to the Isle of Skye when she came to visit me in December 2016. To see her amazing photography from that trip, click here. Almost the entire 24-hour trip was shrouded in a haze, except a few brief moments where the sun pierced through. The foundations of this drink are the Laphroaig and the Solerno. The peaty nature of the Scotch to me is the taste of the Scottish mist. The Solerno with its touch of smoke blends with the peat, but the sweet it provides, as well as the other ingredients create that sensation of the moment the clouds briefly parted in just a single spot.
For the drink
1½ oz Laphroaig 10-year old scotch
1½ oz Solerno blood orange liqueur
1 oz Del Professore rosso sweet vermouth
½ oz Simple syrup
1½ oz Fresh squeezed blood orange juice
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. Fill about halfway with ice and stir until chilled. Strain using a Hawthorne strainer and mini mesh strainer to catch any excess from the juiced blood orange.
Eat Your Spirit: Solerno Infused Whipped Cream
As with the two cocktails, maximizing refreshment was my goal in figuring a good for Solerno in food. Incorporating it into a cooling dessert felt like the best option, especially as my interest in making desserts grows with each rerun of Great British Bake Off. I wanted to make the use of the Solerno applicable in numerous ways, so I settled on Solerno infused whip cream. Put it on Cooks Illustrated’s Lemon-Olive Oil Tart, my new favorite after dinner treat, or simply dollop some on fresh sliced strawberries. The possibilities are endless.
For the whipped Cream
1 cup Heavy cream
1½ tablespoon Solerno blood orange liquor
35 grams Powdered sugar (adjust to desired sweetness)
Place your standing mixer bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for at least twenty minutes. Pre-chilling these two pieces helps the whipping process. Combine all three ingredients in your stand mixer and turn it on to a medium speed. As soon as the ingredients are incorporated crank the speed up to the highest setting. Stop once stiff peaks form and before separation occurs. I haven’t tried to make Solerno butter yet.
Sicily is a land of agricultural bounty. As the largest island in the Mediterranean, located just off the toe of the Italian boot, it boasts a wide-ranging terroir. The land produces so many wonderful foods, including all manner of citrus fruits, olives, grapes, pistachios, artichokes, walnuts, and durum wheat, just to name a few. Much of the island benefits from the volcanic soil. Being such a culinary wonderland, it’s no wonder Solerno comes from there.
Culturally, Sicily’s history is fascinating with numerous societies leaving an imprint. Many have called it the most conquered island in the world bringing a fusion of various cultures to the region. A vast array of peoples and empires controlled the island at various points, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Franks, Byzantines, Arabs, Vikings, French, and Spanish to name a few. The myriad of influences can be seen in various elements of the islands culture, such as the food, architecture, music, and language. Just take the two largest cities Palermo and Catania. Palermo still has strong echoes of its Arabic influences in its historic architecture, while Catania’s city center is a masterpiece of the High Baroque style. The island’s cuisine matches its eclectic legacy, with the Spanish introduction of the tomato from the Americas as one of the most significant influences.
The landscape of Sicily does not cease to amaze when visiting. The rolling farmland, spectacular beaches, and the imposing nature of Mount Etna make the views endlessly appealing. I found myself enthralled with each new setting, bathed in the Mediterranean sunlight. There truly is a setting for everyone to enjoy. Not many places in the world have premier ski slopes and postcard beaches within an hour of each other.
I feel lucky enough to have spent a week there in the summer of 2019, and I can’t recommend it enough.