Even if you don’t actually know what Galliano is, you’ve seen the bottle: It’s the usually enormously oversized obelisk from Italy, filled with day-glo yellow liquid that sits untouched at the end of the bar. The only reason the dust gets blown off of it is in the unlikely event a Harvey Wallbanger is ordered.
Late last year (Galliano sits untouched on the Drinkhacker “to review” bar, too, it seems) Galliano reintroduced its classic “L’Autentico” liqueur, reportedly returning to its original 1896 recipe. I checked out a bottle — plus the new Galliano Ristretto, see below for details — and compared it to a 1990s-era Galliano I had on hand. Comments follow.
Galliano L’Autentico (the 2010 version) is indeed a quite different beast. If you thought the old version was yellow, get a load of this one: The old, chartreuse color has been replaced by a bright, bright yellow, almost neon in its brightness. The new L’Autentico is considerably stronger: 84.6 proof vs. the old 70 proof version, and the taste is far more intense. The old Galliano offers many herbal notes — fennel, anise, rosemary — and some intriguing coffee, lavender, and vanilla character, taking it into a different direction than an absinthe or pastis. However, the new Galliano is much more highly focused on anise/licorice notes, with a lighter vanilla backbone. Syrupy and thick, it is much more difficult to sip than the older model, making it more appropriate as a mixer than an after-dinner digestif. I’m sure this would still be just dandy as a splash in a Wallbanger (God bless you, sir), but on the whole I think the loss of subtlety is a slight step back. (By the way: Did they have FD&C Yellow #5 in 1896? Hmmmm.) B- / $35
Galliano Ristretto is the anti-Galliano: dark where classic Galliano is light. Ristretto is an intense coffee liqueur — and this is the first Ristretto liqueur available in the U.S. — though apart from its Italian heritage I am not clear on the surface what differentiates this from Kahlua and its kin. As with L’Autentico, the flavor is intense. Coffee, of course, and a very dark roast at that. You also get flavors of wood, dark chocolate (particularly on the nose), cinnamon, and some brandy-like notes. This is a pleasant, if nearly overpowering, coffee liqueur, and one which would work just about interchangably well in any coffee-oriented cocktail. B+ / $30