You know those recipe blogs that always start off with some long-winded anecdote about family traditions or a trip the author took to someplace magical, and all you want to know about is the recipe or how the product rates? I hate those too. Which is why I’m absolutely not going to tell you the story of how as a child I recall seeing this magical bottle around my Sicilian great-grandmother’s house, thinking it was a magical water (which is kind of true). Instead I’m going to cut to the chase and review Distilleria Varnelli’s flagship Anice Secco.
But first a bit of family history:
Founded in 1868 by Girolamo Varnelli, the Varnelli Distillery is today a joint stock and holding company managed by the fourth generation of a business family, made up of four women. The founder, Girolamo Varnelli, lived in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains, now a National Park, where he studied the medicinal plants of the land. This is how he got the idea for many recipes for distillates and bitters, the Amaro Sibilla being one of those that stood out, which was used during those times as an antimalarial and antipyretic drug for its high content of Gentiana Lutea and China Calyssaia. The biggest family invention is due to his son Antonio Varnelli, who interpreted and sophisticated the diffused Marchigiano recipe for anisette. He then created Varnelli – a strong, elegant and inimitable drink with an anise flavor – that soon became the pride of the Varnelli Distillery and brought fame to the family name.
They tell no lies. Aniseed is the name of the game here, with the fragrance running persistently throughout the entire experience. There are notes of fennel and licorice on the palate which provide some variety but matters never reach any sort of discord. With a just a splash of water things tend to calm themselves down.
It’s straightforward and no-frills, but also incredibly refreshing — especially when paired with an espresso after a rather hearty meal.
A- / $42 (1 liter) / varnelli.it