Varnelli Amaro “l’Erborista” (Marches) – While there are fernet-like mint and dark green herbal notes here, this liqueur’s heavier foot remains in a more traditionally amaro-esque camp. Which is, frankly, a ridiculous thing to say given the remarkable variation between amari, and in actuality this still manages a certain straddle, bringing caramelized everything (except caramel) into the equation, de-sugaring it, and then tossing in a blizzard of naturalia. If I’ve a quibble, it’s that the result then seemed gauzed, as if there’s an extra level the liquid isn’t being allowed to reach. But in its wake is elegance, and that’s OK too. (5/12)
La Garagista Rose Liqueur (Vermont) – Exotic and seductive, but one has to like…no, make that love…roses as a comestible, which not everyone does. Get this involved with some seared foie gras, in place of the rose (not rose hip) confiture I can never find when I want it, and you’re halfway to gewürztraminer-pairing heaven. It’s OK on its own…but then, I like roses. (2/10)
La Garagista Gingered Lemon Liqueur (Vermont) – Inhabits two worlds: the warming stickiness of an infused liqueur and the bright refreshment of a tonic. For whatever reason, among a lineup of three variations on liqueur, this is the most successful, taking two clearly-expressed base elements (plus alcohol) and turning the result into something more than the sum of its triad. Fun. (2/10)
La Garagista Nocino (Vermont) – While the skin-bitterness and concentration that mark nocino are present, there’s a lot more going on here. The thing is, that “more” is from elements other than walnuts, and the result is more of a sachet/potpourri quality than I think is respectful of the core ingredient. It’s good, but it’s very sweet without much mitigation, and has a bit of a Heidi Fleiss character that not everyone will enjoy. (2/10)
All these liqueurs are the work of the husband & wife team that runs Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vermont. These aren’t yet commercially available, but may be soon.