THIRST AND HUNGER
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 comingled with a slight smokiness. Luckily, it does not have a sickly sugariness. 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.
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.