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-thinking entrepreneur, who utilised the legend of the city to market his unique elixir of 70 herbs and spices.
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 liquid.
According to legend, Giuseppe Alberti, the son of a local 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, if folklore is to be believed, the town is said to be a place where witches from across Europe came to gather under that same walnut tree, so it’s possible that she did, but either way, it’s a pretty good story.
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.
Strega is considered a digestif to be imbibed after a meal and is commonly served straight or on the rocks. But to our mind, a better way to enjoy this herbal liqueur is in a cocktail, as it’s both versatile and complex.