Anisette, Aperitif, Aperitivi, Italy

Varnelli and Cocktail Culture

So, the proper way to enjoy Varnelli is after the meal (LINK ), what about as an aperitif?

For this I have the pleasure of experiencing an aperitif tasting conducted by Anna Tosoni, owner of Gossip Wine & Drink in Civitanova Marche and a director of Italy’s bartenders association. Serving as Treasurer, she is the first woman director in its 70 year history. Today she is displaying her talents as she prepares cocktails featuring Varnelli’s Amaro Sibilli and Anice Secco.

One of the reasons Varnelli Amaro Sibilla is  popular in mixology culture is that mixologists like to have control over the flavor of their drinks and it is easier to adjust the sweetness in a cocktail that uses this somewhat bitter liquor.

Anise isn’t central to Amaro Sibilla, so I won’t write much about it, but I do notice that it has tremendous “legs’ and clings to the side of the bottle after being poured. I am also surprised that gentian flowers and bark are part of the decoction. Orietta tells me that gentian has antimalarial properties which is why her great-grandfather used it in his remedy.

Gentian grows above 1300 meters and used to be sourced from the Sibillini Mountains, since 1993, one of Italy’s magnificent national parks. Since then, Varnelli has had to source gentian from authorized harvesters in Switzerland, but Orietta – as an assist to the local community – is interested in helping farmers cultivate this and other ingredients in areas outside of the national park.


Rosaria Morganti, the owner of Ristorante Due Cigne, where we are having our tasting and lunch serves both unique and traditional aperitivi. I could make a meal of the olive ascolane – olives stuffed with meat, coated with bread crumbs and fried. They are a specialty of the Marche town of Ascoli Piceno.

Also, shrimp marinated in Varnelli coated with bits of sweet red onion and taralli, a traditional bread of Puglia that looks, at first glance like calamari.

Varnelli 150

The first cocktail is Varnelli 150 – developed in honor of Varnelli’s 150th anniversary. It features ginger beer, Amaro Sibilla and honey. The interesting thing about using local and rare millefiori  (wild flower) honey is that the bees pollinate some of the same plants and herbs that are used in making Amaro Sibilla. And there is honey itself in the decoction. This creates a unique complementarity!

ml. 20 lemon juice
ml. 10 ginger syrup
ml. 10 honey mix (0,8ml honey + 0,2ml water)
ml. 30 Sibilla Varnelli
ml. 30 ginger beer
garnish lemon peel
glass medium tumbler
serve with ice

The olives are a bit salty and pair beautifully with the V150! “Absolutely,” Orietta says validating what Jim, Lisa and I learned at our tasting, “salty pairs better than sweet.”

Mexico Meet Muccia

I hate Tequila and I was a bit afraid to try this one, but what’s a good guest to do?

Mexico Meet Muccia
ml. 15 lemon juice
ml. 10 simple syrup
ml. 30 tequila Silver
ml. 40 Varnelli anise
ml. 0,5 egg white
2 drops of Amaro Sibilla Varnelli
garnish star anise
cocktail glass
serve straight

I love both cocktails, but take notes about this one. It hit my tongue with a bitter foretaste and then sweet to follow. I tell Anna, “It’s like it lifts the taste buds for everything else.” She nods and explains that part of the balance is that agave and anise are both plant-based liquors.

The shrimp, of course, with their anise flavor are a superb fit. And the small rings of bread with their taste and feel of olive oil…but I’m trying to cut down on carbs.

Now on to lunch!