I've been working with my friend Oliver McCrum, the Bay Area importer and expert on all things Italian, for years now as a quasi-advisor and taste-tester as he continues his foray into the spirits world. Oliver has had one of the strongest, most interesting, and quality-oriented wine portfolios for more than a decade, but over the last year or so his distilled category has really picked up. As someone who drinks amaro just about every single night of the week, I'm always on the hunt for new blood; especially when it comes from someone like Mr. McCrum. If you're a geek for Negronis, bitter liqueurs, or obscure family recipes, you're going to want every single one of these. There's not a weak link in the chain! Just in...
Fulvio Calvetti is the third generation distiller for Alpe, a distillery started by his grandfather in 1948. Located in the Valle d'Aosta, a mountainous area in the northwest corner of Italy near France and Switzerland, Alpe produces a range of products showcasing the area's fresh alpine herbs.
Alpe Amaro $34.99 - The only thing more beautiful than the bottle's stunning art-deco label is the exquisite balance of bitter and sweetness that derives from the secret recipe of herbs and spices all grown at high-elevation . A fantastic new entry to the digestivo category from one of the nation's premier Italian importers, Oliver McCrum. Imagine something in between Nonino Amaro and Montenegro.
Alpe Lys Liqueur $29.99 - The Lys liqueur features a recipe of twenty different herbs, most sourced locally, infused all together like a gigantic batch of tea. Simultaneously sweet and bitter, there are almond and vanilla notes balancd by citrus and bitter baking spices, making the Lys a fantastic cocktail option for Negroni variations, or a complex drink to be sipped neat.
Alpe Genepy $34.99 - Many of the herbs in the Alpe spirits grow wild at high elevation in the nearby Gran Paradiso National Park, where the most prized of the area is the Genepy flower (aka Artemisia/wormwood), which is used in their Genepy. In addition to Genepy flowers/wormwood, Alpe also infuses oregano, mint, and cinnamon, among other ingredients, into the grain-based spirit. The result is something in between Chartreuse and an amaro; a Calvetti family tradition for fifty years at this point!
Enrico Bernard is the fourth generation of distillers at Bernard, a company started by his great-grandfather in 1902. Back then the facility specialized in Gazzosa, a lemon soda which they still produce today, but today they're moving into liqueurs and specialty spirits. The secret ingredient in both their soda and spirits is the area's mountain spring water, which is sourced at a high elevation near the town of Pomaretto, in the Germanasca Valley; based in the Piedmontese Alps, southwest of Torino near the border with France.
Bernard Barathier Liqueur $39.99 - After hiking at an elevation between 5000-8,500 feet in the early morning to harvest flowers and herbs at their peak fragrance, Bernard then spreads out the botanicals on mats to be dried in the mountain air. Heat is ever used during the process; even the maceration is done in cold water and alcohol. Bernard uses only Italian-made neutral grain spirit produced in Saluzzo, infusing each herb separately in small glass containers for up to twelve months. The Barathier is a blend of seven botanicals, most notably wild Juniper Berries, Angelica, Milfoil (sunflower family), and Gentian, both root and flower. The flavor is soft, slightly bitter and spicy. It's typically served after dinner to aid digestion or with soda as a refreshing spritz.
Bernard Serpoul Liqueur $39.99 - Sërpoul is a wild thyme liquor using herbs grown at 8,500 feet. The higher the elevation the more fragrant the thyme tends to be in the Alps. Floral on the nose and palate, the flavors are unmistakable. Great in a cocktail with gin and Suze!
Bordiga is a Piedmontese producer that makes all of its own infusions, and many of the wild plants they use, such as gentian, juniper and chamomile, are still gathered in the Alps nearby. They produce vermouth, including the classic Vermouth di Torino, gin; and a number of amari.
Bordiga Vermouth Bianco (375ml) $19.99 - This classic vermouth type is based on Piedmontese white wines, including some Moscato, and infused with more than thirty different botanicals, many of them grown in the Occitan Alps near the winery. The flavor of this vermouth is complex and vivid, with an excellent balance of sweetness and bitterness. Some vermouths taste strongly of a single botanical, but the interplay of components here is distinctive and delicious. All of the herbal infusions are done individually and in-house. Add it to your favorite cocktail, but not before you try it on the rocks with a splash of soda. The Bordiga is so delicious and complex that it easily stands alone.
Bordiga Extra Dry Vermouth (375ml) $19.99 - The Bordiga extra dry takes all the herbal complexity and concentration of the classic bianco and simply removes the sweetness. Based on Piedmontese white wines, including some Moscato, and infused with more than thirty different botanicals, many of them grown in the Occitan Alps near the winery, the macerations are done individually and in-house.
Bordiga Rosso Di Torino Vermouth (375ml) $19.99 - Lighter in style than the other Italian rosso vermouths we carry, the Bordiga Rosso di Torino is based on Piedmontese white wines, including some Moscato, and infused with more than thirty different botanicals, many of them grown in the Occitan Alps near the winery. A tinge of cola sweetness on the finish accents the pureness of the bitterness and spice.