Travel Daydream: The Spirits of Mallorca

These days, I am doing most of my traveling in my mind, but when I am able, I will be on the next flight to the Spanish island of Mallorca (sometimes called “Majorca” in English). Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands are located about in the Mediterranean Sea, 150 miles/240 km of the coast of Spain.

In addition to the pristine beaches (check out Cala Agulla on the island’s east coast), the cities (check out the sophisticated capital—Palma de Mallorca—or the old town of Alcúdia), and a plethora of amazing activities (you can catch an underground concert in the Caves/Cuevas del Drach)—Mallorca has an amazing local food scene. You’ll want to try Sobrassada (spicy sausage), Trampó (a salad made with local tomatoes, green peppers, and olive oil), and Ensaimadas (a spiral-shaped sweet pastry enjoyed at breakfast or as a snack). The island is also known for several specialty spirits, including two that have been recognized as iconic products of the region.

Here are some details on the spirits of Mallorca:

Palo de Mallorca is a bitter liqueur with a protected geographical indication (GI) for Mallorca since 1989. It is typically served as an aperitif with a bit of soda water and ice. This popular tipple is known as Palo con Sifón, as in “palo with sparkling water spritzed from a siphon.”

Palo de Mallorca is made from an infusion of the quinine-containing bark of the Cinchona tree (quina) and gentian root. These botanicals are bitter-tasting and flavorful, and known to be a preventative and remedy for fevers, malaria, and other maladies. Like most bitters, Palo de Mallorca was first produced as a form of herbal medicine. Sweeteners and caramel coloring were added by later generations to make it more palatable and led to its popularity as an aperitif and for use in cocktails.

Palo de Mallorca is bottled at a minimum of 25% abv and is intended to have a bitter taste balanced by sweetness. It is dark brown-to-almost black in color and shows aromas and flavors of licorice, dried herbs, and caramel. At last count, there were eight brands of Palo de Mallorca in production. Of these, the best known include Tunel, Limsa, Dos Perellons, and Vidal. Alas, to purchase Palo from a store, you’ll most likely need to travel to Europe (but it should be available via online retailers).

The name—palo—translates to “stick,” but is based on palo quina—the island’s traditional name for quina bark.

Herbes de Mallorca is produced using a base of an anise-flavored spirit and infused with other aromatic plants grown on the island of Mallorca. Typical flavorings include lemon verbena, chamomile, rosemary, fennel, and lemon balm as well as local citrus fruit (lemon and orange). Herbes de Mallorca was awarded a protected geographical indication (GI) for Mallorca in 2008.

Herbes de Mallorca may be bottled unsweetened (dry), or with varying degrees of sugar (up to 300 g/L). Dry versions are bottled with a minimum of 35% alcohol by volume, while sweet versions require at least 20% abv.

Herbes de Mallorca has a clear appearance with colors ranging from amber to vivid green. Aromas and flavors are typically described as a combination of anise (licorice), green herbs—fresh and intense), citrus (lemon and orange), and mild floral undertones.

The production of spirits infused with herbs on Mallorca. It is believed that it can be traced back to the establishment of a series of Christian monasteries all around the island in the 13th century. The popularity of the drink soared in the 19th century, when just about every farmer—and many householders—produced their own versions of Herbes de Mallorca.

These days, Herbes de Mallorca is enjoyed as an aperitif or digestif—often on the rocks, with or without a shot of soda water—or as a shot (chupito). A popular cocktail known as Agua de Mallorca combines it together with kiwi fruit (grown on the island) and soda water. Figs—another specialty of Mallorca—are often dried and soaked in Herbes de Mallorca to make a well-preserved and tasty snack.

Herbes de Mallorca is available in the larger wine and spirits markets of the United States or via online retailers. Popular brands include Tunel, Morey, and Mezcladas de Mallorca.

Palma de Mallorca—the island’s capital city

Note: Herbes de Mallorca is the Catalan spelling; the Spanish verion—Hierbas de Mallorca—is also used.

While they are not widely seen outside of Europe, Mallorca also produces a good deal of wine. Check back next week for a post about the wines of Mallorca!

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

Bergamot: Vermouth, Rosolio, and Crème Liqueur


A while back I posted an article about Bergamot—a citrus fruit begat of a lemon and a bitter orange, best-known for its intensely fruity-floral aroma and its use in Earl Grey tea. In this post, the story of Bergamot is continued as I discuss its not-too-common but always-welcome use in aromatized wines and flavored spirits…all of them delicious!

Vermouth—Vermouth is an aromatized wine flavored with the Artemisia (wormwood) herb, and most versions contain dozens of other botanical flavorings as well—often including cloves, cinnamon, quinine, citrus peel, cardamom, marjoram, chamomile, coriander, juniper berries, and ginger—but only rarely including bergamot. I researched dozens of vermouth websites, and while I found quite a few that admitted to the use of citrus fruit and citrus peels (particularly bitter oranges or Seville oranges), I only located a few that featured bergamot in their (publicized) formulas. Among these were Contratto Vermouth Bianco and Cocchi Savoy Dry Vermouth.

Contratto Vermouth Bianco discloses 28 of its 50 botanical ingredients—one of which is “bergamot orange”—the other 22 remain a secret. Its flavor is bright and balanced, just very-slightly bitter, with lots of green herb flavors and a citrus zing. I highly recommend its use in a 20th Century Cocktail (link via the Skurnik website).

And then there’s the Cocchi Savoy Dry Vermouth. Cocchi (along with Contratto) is one of the original brands of Italian Vermouth, and the company makes a wide range of wines, spirits, and aromatized wines—including an impressive range of vermouth and vermouth-related products. The Cocchi Savoy Dry Vermouth is a bit special—and not just because it is the only product that I could find on the website with a claim-to-bergamot-fame. This is a special-edition product; previously only available at the Savoy Hotel in London (these days, it’s also available for purchase online but with a “limited availability” advisory). This vermouth was crafted according to a recipe from the 1970’s and formulated specifically for use in the Savoy Hotel’s Dry Martini recipe. On its own, it has a unique herbal-and-citrus flavor. As for the martini, it’s a pretty specific recipe—and it might be worth the trip to London.

Old-fashioned Bergamot Liqueur—Briottet Crème de Bergamote: Liqueurs and cordials flavored with bergamot (fruit, peels, and/or oils) were popular in Italy and France during the 1800s, but few such products are produced today. As a matter of fact, you would be hard-pressed to even find mention of one in a modern liquor store or food-wine-and-spirits publication. However…Maison Briottet, a family-owned business founded in 1836 in the French city of Dijon, has kept bergamot spirits alive for the last hundred-or-so-years with a recipe for Crème de Bergamote. The firm, perhaps best-known for their Crème de Cassis de Dijon, produces a wide range of brandies, spirits, and liqueurs. The current managing directors, Vincent and Claire (representing the sixth generation), are also committed to the production of the bergamot liqueur beloved by Edmond Briottet, their great-great-grandfather.

According to the company website, Briottet Crème de Bergamote is flavored using just the zest of the bergamot fruit. This lends a “fresh somewhat lemony taste” that is also somewhat spicy and smooth. They recommend drinking it after dinner over ice, and suggest that it also makes an excellent flavoring for cakes, cookies, and other desserts.

Apparently, homemade bergamot liqueur is also a thing, and it is quite easy to find a do-it-yourself recipe online (I particularly liked this one, via the “Grow the Planet” blog).

The New Liqueur-on-the-Block—Italicus Rosolio di BergamottoItalicus is a fairly new product, launched by Giuseppe Gallo—a mixologist and all-things-spirits expert based in Italy—in 2016. However, the concept is old; and harkens back to a 15th Century Italian aperitivo flavored with rose petals known as rosolio. Rosolio was once very popular with the Royal House of Savoy, and produced all over Italy. However, with the passing of the generations (along with the rise and fall of nations), rosolio fell out of favor as vermouth and other types of bitters and amari grew in popularity. When crafting his Italicus liqueur, Gallo used the rosolio liqueurs of the past as his inspiration, but chose to make a less-sweet, more-complex beverage using bergamot and other flavorings.

The production of this amazing liqueur includes a step traditionally known as sfumatura, a slow process used to extract essential oils from citrus peels. The oil of bergamot is then macerated in Italian neutral spirits along with chamomile, yellow roses, cedro lemon (citron), gentian root, lavender, and other botanicals.

To my taste, Italicus falls somewhere on the liqueur-style-scale between the sweet-floral-cotton candy-yumminess of Saint Germain and the bracing-yet-delicious experience of a crisp, white vermouth. If I had to describe it I would start by saying that is has aromas of citrus (but is it lemon or lime), roses (both fresh and dry), fresh green herbs, and lavender. This is followed by crisp, refreshing flavors of ripe citrus (lemon and lime again, but also bitter orange)—bitter but balanced, and finally a clean, floral-scented, and lingering finish.

This liqueur is amazing on its own (over ice with a lemon twist) and is equally appealing in a simple spritz (with Prosecco or Champagne) or a Negroni Bianco (an amazing-sounding cocktail made with Italicus, gin, and dry vermouth).

I also invented my own martini-like drink aligned to my personal liquor cabinet and taste involving a 2:1 combo of Potocki Polish Vodka and Italicus, shaken, strained, and served up with a twist of lemon. I’m still working on the name…maybe I’ll call it a Bergamartini or a Martinicus.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…


Blast from the Past: Appellation d’Origine Réglementée par Decret

If you google-search images of old-timey French spirits such as eau-de-vie, various forms of Marc, and old bottles of Cognac, you are likely to come across the label term “Appellation d’Origine Réglementée par Decret.” I have always wondered about this term, but not quite enough to embark on a search for its true meaning. I assumed it was yet another archaic term used sometime and somewhere in the long and ever-evolving history wine and spirits. So be it.

Until…I started coming across the term used on contemporary bottles. For example, while trying to find a bottle of Marc de Bourgogne for sale in my area, I came across dozens of pictures of bottles labeled, as I would expect, with the term Appellation d’origine Contrôlée (AOC). However, I found an equal amount labeled with the term Appellation d’Origine Réglementée par Decret (AOR). Dozens of google-searches and late-night perusals of reference books later, I still was not quite sure what the Appellation d’Origine Réglementée par Decret stood for.

Lately, I have been able to—at least—put a dent in the mystery. Here’s the story, as well as I can tell it:

As we all know, the regulation of certain wines, foods, and spirits were written into the laws and regulations of France by the early 1900’s. According to a 146-page document published by the Comité National des Appellations d’Origine des Vins et Eaux-de-Vie (1946), by the 1940’s a slew of appellations were in effect, including a long list of wine regions that were classified as Appellation d’origine Contrôlée (AOC).

This same document confirms classified status for several dozen distilled spirits as Appellation d’Origine Réglementée par Decret (AOR)—“appellation regulated by decree.”  These spirits include Cognac, eight different versions of Calvados, several versions of Marc, and a long list of regional Eaux-de-vie.

According to another dug-up document—this one authored by the Commission Nationale des Boissons Spiritueuses and titled Abrogation des Appellations d’Origine réglementées et simples—by the early 2000’s, many of the AOR decrees had been repealed, and some had been replaced by AOCs.

However, many of the original AOR designations remain “on the books” and are still in use. These include (at last count) 27 versions of eaux-de-vie, Marc d’Auvergne, Marc de Lorraine, and Mirabelle de Lorraine.

The moral of this story is: you may indeed stumble across a bottle of French brandy that bears the label term AOR—don’t freak out…its not a typo, and its not a fake. It’s a piece of history.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

The Spirits of Burgundy: Marc de Bourgogne AOC


Mention the word “Burgundy” to any wine lover and you will most likely be greeted by a dreamy gaze, a loving sigh, and a soliloquy on the joys of satiny Pinot Noir and refined Chardonnay.

It remains a solid truth the Burgundy produces some of the finest, swoon-worthy and fan-obsessed wines on the planet. No argument. However, on a recent trip through Burgundy I was lucky enough to come across some of the brandy, eaux-de-vie (including pear, Mirabelle, and raspberry), and liqueurs (made from currants, raspberries, cherries, and herbs) produced in the region. Many of these products are obscure and many are only available locally (le sigh); if you’d like to window shop, I suggest the website of Distillerie A. Méan.

Another thing I learned is that some of the Burgundy-based spirits are well-known and widely distributed—famous enough in their own right, despite the super-fame of their fermented grape cousins. One of these spirits is the unique pomace brandy of the region, Marc de Bourgogne AOC.

Burgundy is one of the three wine-producing regions of France (the other two are Alsace and Jura) that has earned AOC status for its pomace brandy, known as marc (in French, it rhymes with the English word “car”). As defined in the first line of the cahier des charges for Marc de Bourgogne, it is may also be referred to as an eau-de-vie (Eau-de-Vie Marc de Bourgogne).

Like any pomace brandy, Marc de Bourgogne is produced from the “leftovers” (grape skins, seeds, and stems) of wine production. Marc de Bourgogne may be made anywhere in the Burgundy region, from the remains of any of the grape varieties allowed to be grown in Burgundy (even the obscurities such as Aligoté, Sacy, César, and Tressot) that were previously used to produce wine with a Burgundy appellation. The marc is allowed to be distilled via copper pot stills or short-column copper stills. The spirit must come off the still at a maximum of 72% alcohol by volume.

One thing that makes Marc de Bourgogne unique is the aging requirement. Many of the world’s famous pomace brandies—including grappa—are bottled in unaged expressions, but Marc de Bourgogne must be aged for a minimum of two years in wood containers. Both new and unaged wood is used. As with many French brandies, there is also a list of allowed label designations based on additional age; these include the following:

  • Vieille: minimum 4 years
  • Très Vieille: minimum 6 years
  • Hors d’Âge: minimum 10 years

Marc de Bourgogne AOC must be bottled at a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume.


According to the Cahier de Charges, about 200 wine growers/producers in Burgundy prepare pomace (marc) for distillation. Of these, about 50 produce their own brandy, while the others sell their pomace to larger distilleries—where it may be used in the production of eau-de-vie marc, liqueurs, or fortified wines. Of the dozen-or-so large distilleries currently working in Burgundy, four of them (at last count) still operate “mobile” distilleries that go from vineyard to vineyard producing spirits. Most of the stills in use are over 100 years old, having been passed down through generations of farmers and distillers.

Marc has been produced in Burgundy (as far as we know) since the 1600’s. The earliest known mention of the product is to be found in a memo (letter) sent to the Duke of Burgundy in 1698. In this letter, known as the Mémoire su l’état de sa généralité, the Duke is informed that the area produces on tire un assez bon grand produit d’une chose qui n’était bonne qu’à brûle—google translated as “a fairly good product is produced from a thing which was good only to burn.”

Suffice it to say that in the reputation of Marc de Bourgogne has since improved dramatically. Most experts will agree that the Marc produced in Burgundy is among the highest-quality in all of France. It seems that consumers agree, as some ultra-aged and high-quality expressions of Marc de Bourgogne can fetch prices as high as those seen for Cognac.

The aroma of well-aged versions of Marc de Bourgogne have been described in terms of freshly roasted almonds, honeysuckle, dried roses, raisins, maple, dried leaves, and oak; typical flavors include dried plum, smoke, raisin, and wood.

The AOC for Marc de Bourgogne was approved in 1942. Marc de Bourgogne is difficult, but not impossible, to find in North America.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…


Literary Libations

It’s a good time of year for two of my favorite things: having a high-quality cocktail and taking the time to relax and read a good book. So this year I’d thought I’d explore the area where literature and libations connect, and share a few distilled spirits named in honor of some of my favorite authors.

Robert Burns Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Named for Scotland’s most famous poet, the Robert Burns Single Malt Scotch Whisky is produced by the Isle of Arran Distillery.  The distillery’s website describes the whisky’s appearance as resembling “Ayrshire sunshine,” a reference to Ayrshire, the poet’s place of birth, which is just across the Firth of Clyde (a 14–mile wide inlet of the Atlantic Ocean) from the island of Arran.

This delightful whisky—redolent of apples, vanilla, apricot, honeysuckle, and smoke—is good just about any time you might fancy a dram; however, there is no excuse not to have a glass or two on Burns Night. Burns Night (also known as Robbie Burns Day) is an annual celebration of the poet’s January 25th birthday. The holiday is often marked with a Burns dinner featuring Scotch whisky, poetry recitations, bagpipers, and a main dish of haggis (as noted in Burns’ famous poem, “Address to a Haggis”).

Here is a quote on the joys of whisky from Robert Burns (“John Barkeycorn” is a term for whisky):

  • “Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! What dangers thou canst make us scorn! Wi’ tippeny [tuppenny ale], we fear nae evil; Wi’ usquabae [whisky], we’ll face the devil!”—Robert Burns (1759–1796), Tam o’ Shanter

Dorothy Parker Gin: Dorothy Parker gin is produced by Brooklyn’s New York Distilling Company. Dorothy Parker Gin is named for New York City’s witty, wise-cracking poet, critic, and short-story author, best-known as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Dorothy reveled in her martinis and as such, she seems to be the perfect character to be honored on the label of a bottle of gin.

According to their website, Dorothy Parker American Gin is flavored with “a blend of traditional and contemporary botanicals including juniper and elderberries, citrus, cinnamon, and hibiscus.” They’ve even created a cocktail known as “The Acerbic Mrs. Parker” that combines the gin with fresh lemon juice, hibiscus syrup, and orange liqueur.

Here is the quote that makes Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) the ideal candidate for having a gin named after her:

  • “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.” ―Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker

Photo of James Joyce (Public Domain)

 James Joyce No. 15 Single Malt Irish Whiskey: James Joyce No. 15 Single Malt Irish Whiskey, named after Ireland’s famed novelist, short story write, and poet—best known for Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the short story collection Dubliners—is a bit of a unicorn bottle. It’s a private label, limited edition (only 15 barrels) Irish whiskey produced by Bushmills Distillery and bottled in 2016 for the James Joyce House in Dublin. (It was also priced at 250 Euros, at least on the internet). The name of the whiskey honors the address—No. 15 Usher’s Island—of the famous “House of the Dead,” featured in Dubliners.

I haven’t had the opportunity to taste this rare spirit, however, according to the website of the L. Mulligan Whisky Shop, it has flavors of fruit (citrus, grapefruit, green apple), spice (cinnamon), and chocolate, with a bit of tannin and wood on the finish.

Here’s a quote from James Joyce that will have any whiskey aficionado reaching for a glass:

  • “The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.” ― James Joyce (1882–1941), Dubliners

Do you have any favorite spirits named after an author?

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

Crafty Cocktails: The Staycation/Aviation

Classic Aviation Cocktail

It’s no secret that folks in the wine and spirits industry tend to travel a bit, and the anh (adorable new husband) and I are no exception. Having just returned from a trip to the Pacific Northwest followed by a 3-week drive halfway across the United States (via weirdly silent-driving-freakish-hybrid rental car) and with the memory of a disastrous trip to Asia (Beijing hospital, Hong Kong emergency room) fresh in our minds, when we recently found ourselves with a long weekend free of work obligations, we decided to stay the h*** home.

As we live in Austin, Texas, there’s no shortage of cool and fascinating things to do around town. We started off with Friday night dinner at Fonda San Miguel, complete with authentic Paloma cocktails, and planned a trip to Genius Liquids distillery on Saturday afternoon. Before I go into details about Genius Liquids, let me just say: if you live in Texas, go visit them. If you like gin, be on the lookout for Genius Gin. This stuff lives up to its name.

To start off our tour, we were met at the door of the tiny distillery by Mike Groener, our brilliant host and one of the owners. He showed us around their facility, complete with a Kentucky-made pot still and shiny copper column still. We were invited to stick our noses in the maceration tanks where neutral spirits take their first step to becoming Genius Gin by soaking with giant “tea bags” of botanicals, and played a sniff-and-guess game with orange peel, cardamom, juniper, and cubeb berries.

All throughout our stay, we tasted through a range of gins, including “regular strength” Genius Gin (47% abv), Navy Strength Genius Gin (57% abv), an absolutely delightful Oaked Genius Gin (50% abv), and the amazingly richly-flavored-yet-somehow-light Old Highborn Texas Dry Gin (50% abv). My favorite was the “regular” version, while Shields preferred the Old Highborn, so we bought one of each.

At the beginning of our tasting, Mike asked us about our preferences in gins and cocktails, and I had mentioned Hendrick’s Gin and the Aviation Cocktail as favorites. Based on my answers Mike predicted that that the “regular” Genius Gin was the best choice for me and as it turns out, he was correct. He also mentioned that it would be an excellent choice for use in an Aviation Cocktail and that got me to thinking…

The Aviation Cocktail is a pre-prohibition cocktail, first mentioned in print by New York bartender Hugo Ensslin in his 1916 book, “Recipes for Mixed Drinks.” The basic recipe is 2 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, a few dashes of maraschino cherry liqueur, and a few dashes of crème de violette. I assume the name “Aviation” refers to the light blue(ish), purple(ish), clear-sunset-sky(ish) color of the drink.

I feel that the standard recipe needs a bit of sweetness, and I also have my ingrained preferences for liqueurs, so I have always used this formula for the Aviation Cocktail: 2 parts gin, 1 part Luxardo Marsachino, 1 part Creme d’Yvette, 1 part lemon juice, and ½ part simple syrup. My mixing instructions read, “Place in a shaker with crushed ice and toss about like a jet plane in a thunder storm. Strain and enjoy the calming effects.” Imho, it’s delicious.

For the Genius Gin, I wanted to come up with something unique—and I had the perfect ingredient: a brand new bottle of Sacred Rosehip Cup. This is a modern, bittersweet liqueur produced by Ian Hart at his microdistillery—located in his family home in Highgate, North London. Sacred Rosehip Cup is flavored with rosehips, rhubarb, and ginger (among other things). Hart bills it as a “less bitter alternative to Campari” so (shades of Negronis danced in my head) and I thought it would make a great mixer with gin.

Here’s what I came up with: I call it the Staycation/Aviation Cocktail (with a tip of the hat to Hugo Ensslin):

Staycation/Aviation Cocktail (Austin Style)

  • 2 parts Genius Gin
  • 1 part Sacred Rosehip Cup Liqueur
  • 1 part Lemon Juice
  • 1 Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • ½ part Simple Syrup
  • Place in a shaker with crushed ice and shake. Strain into a fancy glass, garnish with a (real) Maraschino cherry, and stay the hell home.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

The Long Pour: Sidra de Asturias


Apple cider and Perry (pear ciders) hold a dear spot in many European cultures: Normandy and Brittany are known for cider as well as apple brandy, the West Country of England prides itself on their unfiltered “scrumpy” cider, and a trip to Ireland is incomplete without a taste of Magners.

Spain is considered to have the longest continuous cider culture in Europe. Spain’s cider (sidra) production is centered in the regions of Asturias and Basque Country, located in the northern part of the country. The climate, cooled by ocean breezes and with decidedly more rainfall than much of the rest of Spain, makes for the ideal growing conditions for apples.

Asturias makes 80% of Spanish cider, produced by more than a hundred small producers with the help of over 250 growers. Sidra de Asturias was awarded denominación de origen (DO) status in 2003. According to the DO guidelines, the cider must be made exclusively with cider apples of specified varieties grown within the Principality of Asturias, and produced under strict quality controls.

There are currently three styles of sidra allowed to be produced under the Sidra de Asturias DO. They are:

  • Sidra Natural (Natural Cider): Natural cider is produced from any of the 22 approved cider apple varieties. The process begins with the harvest, grinding, and pressing of the apples to create juice. Next, the juice is allowed to ferment—typically in stainless steel, or perhaps in large chestnut barrels. The newly-fermented cider is then allowed to rest for a few months, after which it is typically decanted to remove some sediment. Sidra natural is fermented to near dryness and is unfiltered. Sidra natural benefits from a “long pour.”
  • Nueva Expresión (New Expression Cider): New expression cider is produced in a manner similar to natural cider; the difference being that new expression cider is filtered and stabilized before being bottled.
  • Sidra Natural Espumosa (Natural Sparkling Cider): Sparkling cider may be produced via the tank method or by a second fermentation in the bottle. These ciders are also fermented to dryness and can be classified as “brut” in style.

Sidra natural and other artisanal Spanish ciders benefit from aeration just before drinking; this helps to bring out the inherent complexities of the beverage as well as release some dissolved gas. This has given rise to a few colorful traditions, such as serving cider via a “long pour” with the bottle raised high above the server’s head, while the glass is held at arm’s reach below. This is termed escanciar la sidra, or “throwing the cider.”

Race of the pouring of sidra de Asturias in the town of Gijon

The long pour is serious stuff for sidra enthusiasts, and there are certain rules to achieving the perfect long pour. For starters, the glass is held with the thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger supporting the bottom of the glass (and the ring and pinky finger tucked away in the palm of the hand). The arm holding the glass must be stretched down straight with the glass held at the center of the body. The arm holding the bottle must be stretched straight and high above the head. When the bottle is tipped and the cider is poured, the stream of cider must find the glass while the glass stays still. It’s the responsibility of the cider-pourer to ensure that the cider foams.

The next time you are in Austurias, you’ll want to seek out a sidrería (cider house). It’s possible that your friendly neighborhood sidrería will serve nothing but cider, but it is also possible that they may serve a few pintxos and maybe even other types of drinks. If you visit in January, you can participate in the beginning of the txotx (pronounced “choach”) season. During txotx season, cider is served directly from the large wooden cask—actually, it is allowed to ‘shoot” in a very thin stream straight out of the barrel—while thirsty bar patrons take turns “catching” the cider in their glasses (held out at arm’s length).  Asturias sounds like a good place to be.

Well-known brands of Sidra de Asturias include J.R. Cabueñes, Herminio, Cortina, and Castañón.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

The Limone and Liquore of Sorrento


Hugging the coastline just across the bay (and accessible by ferry) from Naples is the town of Sorrento. Sorrento is many-a-person’s touristy dream destination, and in real life it does not disappoint. While you are in Sorrento, be sure and tour the Duomo (Cathedral), visit the old town, drink coffee in the Piazza Tasso, take a day trip to the island of Capri, and drive along the coast to Amalfi. You can’t miss any of it.

Another thing you can’t miss in Sorrento is lemons. You can eat and drink lemons—as in lemon cake, spaghetti al limon, lemon gelato, and bruschetta rubbed with lemon, all washed down with limoncello (or lemonade for the kids). Italians will have a lemon slice dipped in sugar (peel and all) for a snack. Next, you can take a stroll through the lemon trees, planted in terraced groves, thriving in the tufo and limestone soil and abundant sunshine—as they have for centuries. And while shopping for souvenirs, stroll into a ceramics studio and find a big bowl or a pitcher decorated with pictures of lemons. You’ll want to remember these lemons for a long time.

The lemons grown in Sorrento are so unique that they have been award Protected Geographical Indicaton (Indicazione Geografica Protetta/IGP) status by the European Union, complete with a consortium (the Consorzio di Tutela del Limone di Sorrento IGP) to protect, promote, and market the Limone di Sorrento. According to the consortium’s guidelines, in order to qualify as a Limone di Sorrento IGP, the lemons must have the following attributes:

  • .

    They are a “local ecotype” of the common lemon, aka Lemon of Massa, “Massese,” or “Oval of Sorrento”

  • They are grown in a geographically-delineated area of the Sorrento Peninsula that includes the districts of Massa Lubrense, Meta, Piano di Sorrento, Sant’Agnello, Sorrento, Vico Equense, and Capri.
  • They must be elliptical in shape with medium-large dimensions (weight not less than 85 grams [3 ounces]).
  • They must have a medium-thick peel and a citrine (pale-to-golden) yellow color over at least 50% of the surface.
  • They must be rich in essential oils and very fragrant, “very juicy” and with straw-colored yellow pulp.
  • The juice, characterized by an elevated acidity, must be rich in vitamin C and mineral salts.

To an American eye Limone di Sorrento might look kind of pale and funky…but these lemons are not chemically treated, colored, or dipped in wax. They are the real deal, they look natural, and they are a much sweeter lemon than those that most Americans are used to. While it’s a bit of a stretch, many people note that Limone di Sorrento are more like Meyer Lemons than the “supermarket” lemons (known as Eureka Lemons or Lisbon Lemons) that we get in the US.

And then there is the local limoncello. As a tourist in Italy, you are certain to remember the first time you had limoncello. Perhaps it was at an aperitivo (the Italian version of “happy hour” to stretch the definition a bit) or after a meal at a restaurant. Wherever or whenever it was, I am sure you will remember it.

Photo of Sorrento’s Marina Grande by Cutiekatie via Wikimedia

The limoncello produced in Sorrento has been awarded an IGP as well, known officially as Liquore di Limone di Sorrento IGP. The technical standards for Liquore di Limone di Sorrento include the following guidelines:

  • It must contain a minimum of 30% alcohol by volume.
  • It must be produced from a base of neutral spirits via by maceration with the peels of Limone di Sorrento IGP for a minimum of 48 hours.
  • It should be between 20% and 35% sugar by volume.
  • It must be produced within the Limone di Sorrento IGP cultivation zone.
  • It must contain a minimum of 250 g (by weight) of Limone di Sorrento PGI fruit or juice per liter of liquor.
  • No other colorings or flavorings (other than Sorrento Lemons) are allowed (but ascorbic acid may be added as a stabilizer).
  • It must be citrine yellow in color, and may be clear or opalescent.
  • The aroma and flavor must be characteristic of the Limone di Sorrento IGP.


All of that is a bit heavy on the “technical” but doesn’t it still sound delicious? I’m thinking tonight is a good night for Pollo al Limone (as true Limone di Sorrento are hard to find outside of Italy, I’ll settle for using the recipe provided by the consorzio but substitute Meyer lemons [don’t hate me]) followed by some lemon cookies dipped in Liquore di Limone di Sorrento. Luckily, a true Liquore di Limone di Sorrento IGP can—these days—be found in good old Austin, Texas.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

The Playboy and the Electric Car



The playboy and the electric car…it’s an odd title, I’m aware. And kudos to you for even clicking on it, as it admittedly tells you very little about the story which is to follow, which is actually about Cynar.

Cynar—pronounced CHEE-nar—is an Italian amari (bitter liqueur) that is probably only known to true cocktail aficionados and CSS students. For you liquor store archeologists, it’s the big green bottle with an artichoke on the label. (Yes, an artichoke.)

Before we get into the actual story I’m burning to tell you, let’s get this out of the way: Cynar is an acquired taste. It’s not the prettiest bottle on the shelf—and it’s competing with beautiful bottles bearing pictures of rose petals, wild raspberries, and baskets of wildflowers from Provence. Also, if you glance at the bottle quickly, you might think that the C-y-n-a stands for cyanide. I’d understand if you would prefer to walk on by.

Then there’s the flavor. It has a short burst of sweetness and quickly becomes intensely bitter and very, very herbal—this followed by a vegetal flavor that you might recognize as asparagus, but will describe as artichoke because you saw the picture on the bottle. You might think that you’ve never tasted anything like it before, but then you remember the Dr. Brown’s celery soda you once bought by mistake.

Keep in mind, however, that an acquired taste is just that—it must be acquired. Remember your first taste of hoppy beer, Stilton cheese, or octopus-on-a-stick? You might not have adored it at first, but you got used to it until you started to crave it. Trust me, Cynar will be the same, and its legendary ability to calm your stomach (like many digestives) is a real thing.

The story of Cynar (and the playboy and the electric car) begins in 1952. About that time, a Venetian entrepreneur named Angelo Dalle Molle created and began to distribute Cynar, his artichoke-flavored liqueur. Rumor has it that he chose the artichoke due to its aphrodisiac properties. The story continues (with a wink and a nod) that the love-potion formulation must have worked pretty well, as the creator was a well-known and successful man-about-town, fathering six children with six different women and—at the age of 80—marrying his secretary who was 40 years younger than he.

Numerous references point to the veracity of this story, and as far as I am concerned, that’s a pretty good story. I love a good tale of love, lust, and longevity. And there’s a happy ending as well: Cynar became popular very quickly, and in 1976 Dalle Molle sold the formula to Bols (a Dutch brand famous for many spirits and liqueurs) and became a wealthy man. Many years later, well into his 90’s, he passed away peacefully—and left his young bride a fortune of over 30 million euros.

But there’s another side to the Venetian playboy of Cynar. In addition to being a businessman, he is remembered for being a patron of the arts and a utopian philanthropist. Let me explain: utopian—in the  sense that he believed in the possibility of an ideal (or, at least, better) world and philanthropist—meaning he was generous with his time and money, using both in the service of mankind.

He also had a technological/scientific side—he’s been called a true “Renaissance Man,” and in his case, it’s believable. Dalle Molle was an early adopter of information technology and believed that technology should be used to improve the quality of human life. In order to accomplish this goal, he established the Fondation Dalle Molle pour la Qualité de la Vie (Dalle Molle Foundation for the Quality of Life). The foundation is still awarding grants and prizes for projects that “encourage and promote research which allows people to benefit from science and technology and to improve quality of life.”

Through this foundation he created and funded several research institutes, including the Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi Semantici e Cognitivi (Dalle Molle Institute for Semantic and Cognitive Studies), which was established for the purpose of conducting research into languages, linguistics, and automated translation. Another project is the Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi sull’Intelligenza Artificiale (Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research), founded with the goal of applying artificial intelligence to the quality of life.

Dalle Molle was very concerned about pollution, and at yet another project, the Centro Studi della Barbariga, he oversaw the design and production of over 200 electric cars. These cars were put to use as taxi cabs, vans, and as an ambulance. Seven of these cars are now in the collection of the Museo dell’automobile in the city of Vicenza.

Angelo Dalle Molle’s work lives on, and you can learn more about about his life—as both a playboy and a creator of electric cars—on the website of the Dalle Molle Foundation for the Quality of Life.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

Cassis: the Town, the Wine, the Liqueur


What do you mean by cassis?

It’s a question I have heard quite often—usually at wine tastings, when someone with a nose in a glass of Cabernet claims it as one of the wine’s aromas. Several others in the group may nod in approval at the spotting of a black currant jam- or Cassis liqueur-like aroma in the glass. Others have never heard of it—and thus, the question at hand.

Cassis is actually many things—a seaside resort town in Provence, a French AOC wine-producing region dominated by white wine, and a black currant-flavored liqueur produced in many parts of the world, but particularly famous in Dijon. Read on for a bit more information on the many faces of Cassis!

Cassis—the Town: If you happen to find yourself on the Mediterranean Coast, perhaps in the Provencal town of Marseille, and if you drive south on coastal route highway 559 for about 15 miles, you’ll end up in the seaside resort of Cassis.  The waterfront of Cassis is a picturesque fishing port lined with cafes and restaurants, making it both a wonderful place to stroll as well as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Provence. While there, you can take the petit train touristique around the town, walk along the waterfront, or grab a boat tour to the impressive calanques (narrow, very steep rocky inlets found along the Mediterranean coast).

The town of Cassis

The town of Cassis

The town is snuggled at the foot of Cap Canaille–a 1,293-foot (394 m) high seaside cliff (the highest in France).  The very picturesque Route de Crêtes (Corniche des Crêtes) runs over the top of the cliff, linking Cassis with the nearby towns while offering stunning views of the cliffs, the sea, and the towns in between.

If you’d like to find the sunniest part of the town, follow the signs to La Cheminee du Roi Rene (King Rene’s Fireplace)—a sun-drenched area at the junction of the two water-side walkways known a s the  Quai Jean-Jacques Barthélémy and the Quai des Baux.

Cassis—the Wine: Red, white, and rosé wines are produced in the Cassis AOC. The reds and rosés, typical for the area, are based on Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre with a smattering of other red grapes allowed in the mix. The white wines, of which the area is rightfully quite proud, are based on Marsanne (30–80%) and Clairette. Other allowed white grape varieties include Bourboulenc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pascal Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Terret Blanc.

The Cassis AOC is unique in rosé-heavy Provence in that white wines dominate its production; in fact, three out of every four bottles of Cassis AOC is a white wine. These wines are known for their aromas of citrus, white flowers, pears, and honey along with a touch of minerality. Generally fresh, dry, and medium-bodied, these wines are delightful when young, but may also improve in the bottle for 2 to 5 years. Not surprisingly, they pair perfectly with Mediterranean fish dishes as well as dishes made with tomatoes, olives, and herbs.

Cassis—the Liqueur:  Cassis (sometimes known as Crème de Cassis is a sweet, dark red liqueur flavored with black currants (sometimes known as cassis fruit). It is quite famous as an ingredient in the Kir cocktail—white wine (ideally Burgundy Aligoté) and crème de cassis—as well as its fancier cousin, the Kir Royale (ideally made with champagne). As with many things in life, you can get an inexpensive version of generic cassis at just about any corner liquor store and be done with it (try it on ice cream or in a Pompier cocktail [3 parts dry white vermouth, 1 part cassis, served tall over ice with soda]).

On the other hand, there is the good stuff: France has several PGI versions of cassis, including those that hail from Bourgogne, Dijon, and Saintonge. Of these, the original—and most say the best—is the Cassis de Dijon.

Sweet, fruit-flavored beverages were made in many places around Europe in the eighteenth century. These were often referred to ratafias and generally made with fortified wine or unfermented grape juice flavored with a variety of berries (and sometimes produced with a spirit base as well).

True cassis began to be produced in Dijon in 1841 by a gentleman name Auguste-Denis Lagoute. Lagoute was a fan of the sweet ratafias but wanted to produce a beverage of a higher quality using local fruit. He began by soaking black currants, which grew in abundance around Dijon, in oak barrels along with high-proof spirits and beet sugar. Soon the family’s brand of cassis, Lejay (named after the son-in-law), was wildly popular, particularly when served over ice with a splash of vermouth de Chambery, and later, when served as a Kir along with the white wine of the region. Lejay is still produced, and is one of the few producers approved to use the PGI of Cassis de Dijon.


The PGI for Cassis de Dijon was first approved in 1923. The regulations specify that the finished product contain at least 400 grams of beet sugar per liter (cane sugar is not permitted).The specific type of black currant is not defined, but in general there are two varieties of high-quality black currants: Noir de Bourgogne (known for its aromatics) and Black Down (considered to be a rounder, smoother, and sweeter variety).

The finest Cassis is described as having aromas of black currants, cherries, and plums; a rich, velvety texture; intense, fruity flavor; and a sweet taste balanced with a bit of an acidic “snap.” Sounds good to me!

References/for further information:

 The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…