When it comes to liqueurs that are steeped in magic, you really can’t get much more symbolic than Strega. In Italian, the name literally means witch and this ‘Witches liqueur’ is a charming Old World digestivo that has a unique flavour and a distinctive yellow colour.
Born in the Italian city of Benevento, back in 1860, this is a liqueur that mythology says was born of a sunray. Although in actual fact was created by a clever, forward-looking entrepreneur, who utilised the legend of the city to market his unique elixir of 70 herbs and spices.
A City Of Magic
With Saffron as the key to Strega’s signature yellow colour, this liqueur also has flavours of mint and juniper, as well as Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, Italian Apennine juniper, Samnite mint, fennel.
Yet it is Benevento’s ancient legacy, of witchcraft as a former seat of witches’ rites, that not only enchant the location but also this vibrant liqueur.
Witches are said to convene in Benevento to perform rituals and honour Il Noce, the sacred walnut tree. (The lower part of the logo shows witches dancing with demons around Il Noce.)
According to legend, Giuseppe Alberti, son of a grocer, saved a witch from falling out of a tree in the woods. In gratitude, she gave him the recipe for an elixir, which the Alberti family began selling as a curative or restorative. Hence the elixir became the town’s calling card.
Did a witch really give Alberti the recipe? Well, folklore says that the city has been a gathering place for the witches for centuries, so maybe she did or maybe she didn’t. Either way, it’s a pretty good story and one that the whole town has embraced, as can be seen from the many Strega product around the town, including candy that uses the liqueur.
Strega is aged in ash barrels to allow the various flavours and aromas to be blend together. It is often compared to Yellow Chartreuse in both look and taste but Strega is somewhat softer and just that little bit sweeter.
How To Use Strega
Strega is considered a digestif to be imbibed after a meal and is commonly served straight or on the rocks. Italians also use it in desserts, sometimes just drizzling it over cake or gelato.
Sip Strega straight, or better yet mix it in a cocktail but be warned, though—Strega is said to be infused with a love charm that means that whomever you share it with will be bound to you in love forever.
Be sure to try Strega with both coffee and lemonade (obviously, not in the same drink) as these are two of the best pairings for this liqueur.
Now while we wouldn’t recommend that you leave a bottle of Strega languishing in your liquor cabinet, it would suggest that it might also be time to move it into the pantry! The aromatic mix of herbs and spices is so masterfully combined that it also lends itself to gourmet foods such as appetisers, pasta, chicken, fish as well as countless desserts.
Use it in recipes calling for wine or as a marinade for chicken or fish. And let us say it is definitely great on almost anything on the grill. It also adds a refined touch to so many desserts: splash on fruit salad, add into pudding, cake mixes, pie crust and pie fillings.