Strega and The Golden Witch

Foreword by Joe Netherworld : Strega, that strange sweet herbal liqueur, has been a tradition in my household for two major reasons: 1) my family on one side hails from Benevento, formerly Malevento, Italy, and 2) it’s named after a Witch.

Back in post-Roman days and up until the later 1700’s, Benevento was called Malevento because it referred to the fact that it was a “bad journey” to go there, a place known to be populated by Gypsies and Witches and – gasp! – Gypsy Witches!!!!! Every village had its own herbal remedy or liqueur much like the origin of Absinthe in Switzerland….. Most famous of these and the only one to retain a commercial distillation is Liquore Strega. If you want a description of its flavor it is very hard to pinpoint, but it evokes a bright warm sunny day on the hillsides of Southern Italy. It’s a unique flavor, one that stands out in most mixed drinks it is in and a hard match at times, but once you get a taste for it you will always try to consider yet another use for it.

The Golden Witch

text by Peggy Nadramia

In a cocktail world where herbal liqueurs of a bitter and challenging nature are constantly in use, we turned with hope in our hearts to an Italian herbal that is often overlooked: Strega, the golden taste of an Italian Spring that trips lightly on the tongue. She is happy to dance with other spirits but here she is on her own in a pagan revelry that includes that eternal symbol of fertility and the Solstice: the egg.

The Golden Witch

To an ice-filled shaker, add:

2 ounces Strega

1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1 fresh, whole egg

Shake vigorously; dance around your kitchen in an eldritch and unfettered manner. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a broom of fresh rosemary. Prepare this by stripping half a sprig of its leaves, leaving enough to produce a broom-like appearance.

Now, if it is Walpurgisnacht:

Sweep your broom three times around the surface of your drink — Widdershins, of course — and make your toast, or your Pact, to the coming season.

(This will actually improve the flavor so do it even if it isn’t Walpurgisnacht and you don’t care about the season.)


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