One of the many pleasures of this guide to a panoply of homemade liqueurs is the author’s voice. An enthusiastic amateur scholar of art, history, archaeology, ethnology, cooking, and spirits, Renato Vicario weaves all these threads into his profiles and recipes for more than 130 concoctions, most of them venerable and a few of his own invention. They range from an apple-seed liqueur associated with the countryside around Ferrara to a vermouth recipe handed down through generations of a noble Piedmontese family.
Like Pellegrino Artusi, whom he admits he greatly admires, Vicario is as ready to pass along lore and insights as he is to convey dry facts alone. For Mother-in-Law Milk, he notes, “Mothers-in-law are a special category of people that daughters-in-law want to keep very happy and quiet, not interfering in their own household. Perhaps that is the reason that popular items offered at candy stands at local fairs in Southern Italy, where mothers-in-law are so very important, are the cookies called addornmenta suocere that, as the name implies, supposedly send mothers-in-law off into a deep sleep. This homemade liqueur was probably devised in Italy from the same necessity; after all, la suocera is as proverbial in Italy as she is anywhere else, and this wickedly light drink is sure to appease them, till next time…”
The book is engagingly illustrated throughout with art reproductions ranging from Rosseti’s Venus Verticordia and Caravaggio’s only known still life to 18th-century botanical illustrations and a diagram of Olmec chocolate beverage production methods prepared for the Viceroy of New Spain, c. 1541.
This is a 2014 revision of a book that originally appeared in 2011, released under the auspices of Slow Food. Color illustrations throughout. Paperback.