There is a long tradition in Italy of families and the church producing their own special liqueurs through both distillation and infusion. This tradition is alive and well in Italy today but not as widespread as it was 100 or 500 years ago. If you are treated to a limoncello in many restaurants in Italy at the end of your meal, it’s likely that the proprietor devised the secret recipe himself or it had been passed down through the generations.
DiSaronno is a liqueur that shares a common heritage with those proprietor produced limoncellos as it was once a secret family recipe that was shared with friends and family. Di Saronno’s story is intertwined with the Italian Renaissance, which is known for, among other things, it’s legendary painter and the incredible works of art they produced. The legend is that Bernardino Luini, a student of Da Vinci, journeyed to Saronno to paint the Miracle of the Madonna and selected a local innkeeper as his model for the Madonna. The innkeeper was so grateful that she presented him with a flask of her home brewed liqueur. After this, the lore becomes a bit hazy but along the way, the Reina family discovered the secret recipes and guarded it for generations until they opened a shop in the early 20th century and began selling it to the public. From there, the liqueur became a worldwide hit.
Is the lore behind DiSaronno true? Who knows, we will leave it up to you as to whether you believe it or not. For me, whether or not the lore is true, the story distills what I love so much about spirits and wine. I love that they reflect history, geography, culture. There is a reason that a cocktail or a glass of wine tastes so much better when you have it in its local environment. Its because you become part of that history and culture, even if for the briefest moment in time!
I was excited when I recently received a bottle of DiSaronno. I admit that I haven’t drank it in years. It’s not because I don’t like it, I do. I think it’s because it was one of the first liqueurs that I drank during my initiation into cocktail culture. My early go-to drinks where the Wisconsin Old Fashion, Amaretto Sour, Fuzzy Navel and Tequila Sunrise (don’t judge too much, it was the early 1990’s). Over the years, I branched out and simply just forgot about Amaretto as I explored obscure spirits and liqueurs. Getting the bottle reminded me of what I had forgot, how much I liked it and what an elegant (and easy) addition an Amaretto Sour would be to a New Year’s Eve cocktail soiree.
I almost forgot to mention how much I like the bottle. It made it’s debut in 1971 and was designed by a highly innovative glassmaker in Murano. Forty years late, it’s an icon.
The DiSaronno is clear with a deep amber color with golden hues and viscous legs. On the nose, the DiSaronno has a medium, sweet intensity of marzipan, almond paste almond extract, cherry and orange. On the palate, the DirSaronno has a lingering viscosity with a pronounced intensity of marzipan, almond paste, almond extract, orange peel, cherry and honey. Long finish. Good liqueur. Please note that no almonds are used in the production of DiSaronno.
Take my suggestion and use the DiSaronno in an Amaretto Sour.