Are We Europe
Are We Europe

#7 FOOD

A Taste of Place

In Italy, they say that a dose of bitter can whet an appetite or settle a stomach: an aperitivo to prepare diners for a parade of courses or a digestivo to cleanse their palates after the rich meal.

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  BY ALEC JACOBSEN

Historically, the taste of amari (literally bitters) varied richly across the country, with the local options defined by the selection of available herbs and spices. Over time, as some of these drinks have grown from household specialities to international brands, the significance of tracing some of their lineages to specific places has blurred. Fernet Branca has become an international handshake for bartenders and industry insiders.

Some still speak clearly about their home towns. Braulio, for example, takes its name from nearby Mt. Braulio and strongly evokes the misty forests and crisp peaks that surround the town of Bormio where it is made.

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Cappelletti produces a broad range of options that parse out the broad palate of flavors in the mountains around Trento, with their smokey Sfumato Rababaro, taste-bud-altering-ly bitter and deeply alpine Elisir Novasalus, and many others.

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Averna, which comes from Caltanissetta in central Sicily, evoked less of the land for me, with its orange-forward flavor.

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But it spoke to me of the Sicilian people:

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bright passions, bass notes of religion, concealed slightly by the green shutters that every building sports.

Aperol, the sweet, bright, orange and best consumed in a spritz, has spread far beyond its birthplace in Veneto, and represents peak summer to me, the perfect balm for a day at the beach.

 Campari is a global staple, the candy red heart of negronis, that feels to me as cosmopolitan and timeless as Milan.

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@Alec Jacobson
tracks slow stories around the world as a photographer and a writer. He is a National Geographic Explorer and the director of the Mountain Independent, a nonprofit publication diving deep into critical issues that are shared between mountain towns. He recently started to tell a lot of stories about booze and discovered the utility of the morning mantra, chanted rhythmically over a cup of tap water, a few ounces of juice and an espresso, "detox to retox." 

See more of his work at his site.