From the May/June 2011 issue
The next logical step in the progression of Northwest cocktail-focused ingredients surely must be the production of herbal bitters and vermouth-style products. One of the most interesting comes from Eugene, Oregon-based Italian cooking instructor Andrea Loreto.
A few years back he became smitten with the idea of producing a liqueur that was, in his words, “very Italian, and very good.”
After much research, including studying antique recipes in libraries in his native Florence, he homed in on a cinchona-based recipe that he felt was both authentic to the traditions of Italian bitter herbal liqueurs (called “amaros” as a class), yet also appealed to a more modern palate.
“It took a good couple of years of development to make (the recipe) palatable,” he says, and in 2010 he released his first batch of Calisaya Liqueur, an orange-colored bitter drink that has caught the attention of bartenders and consumers. “It is very cocktail-friendly because it mixes so well with most any other spirit, from gin to rye,” says Loreto, “yet it is also very enjoyable to drink by itself with ice.”
Named after its primary ingredient, cinchona calisaya, the bark of the cinchona tree which was imported to Italy from Peru in the 1600s because of its medicinal properties, this Oregon-made product also contains Seville oranges, agave nectar, and a secret blend of botanical infusions.
Finding a reliable purveyor of quality cinchona was not easy. And securing all his ingredients, some of which are seasonal, took plenty of additional work. But Loreto is happy with the outcome. “It has to be made very carefully and it requires a great deal of time and attention,” he notes, “but I simply cannot settle for anything less.”
Success breeds success. Loreto is about to open his own distillery in Eugene so he can better control all facets of production for Calisaya.