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The history of Sardinian myrtle

by | Jul 13, 2017 | Products | 0 comments

The myrtle liqueur, simply called “red myrtle” or “myrtle”, is a popular liqueur in Sardinia and Corsica, obtained by the alcoholic maceration of myrtle berries. In the ordinary sense of the term, the myrtle liqueur is produced by maceration of ripe pigmented berries. A different type is the “white myrtle”, a generic term used to describe a liqueur produced by maceration of the leaves of young shoots.

Over the centuries, the myrtle plant has been used in various ways. We can mention the beautiful pages of Greek mythology to find the first references to this plant: it was sacred to Venus, the goddess of love which put on her head a crown composed of interwoven twigs of myrtle, after the judgment of Paris. The plant was also used as an ornament among the ancient Romans, who, together with the Greeks, knew also its medicinal properties: from myrtle they produced decoctions, oils, extracts and ointments with which they cured diseases such as ulcers and some respiratory disorders. In the Middle Ages the perfumers obtained an essence called “Angel Water” from myrtle flowers.

In Sardinia the use of myrtle berries for the preparation of liquor presumably dates back to 800. The infusion was produced at home for the family: in Sardinia there was the liquor, while in the nearby Corsica myrtle was used as a spice to flavor the products of game.

Families also used to produce myrtle wine by maceration of hydroalcoholic ripe berries: they used a mixture of alcohol and water, or, more likely, brandy and water, or the same wine. At the end of the period of maceration sugar and honey were added to make it sweet.
The recipe was very simple: a certain amount of ripe berries was infused in alcohol and water, and with the addition of sugar or honey as sweetener the liqueur could be obtained: it was genuine and it had digestive properties. This easy recipe is still used nowadays by some manufacturers of myrtle liqueur.

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