Spirits In Bottles

Limoncello-Mirto-Filu 'e ferru=Fiore Sardo

Zoomable picture of Sardinian digestives

After dinner in Sardinia, in a restaurant or at a friend’s home, you are usually offered spirits in bottles, a digestif that is either Filu ‘e ferru, Mirto or Limoncello, which are often homemade.

Filu ‘e ferru is a distillate of the skins and pips of grapes, produced illegally using an alembic, which should be hidden by burial and later retrieved by looking for an attached iron wire sticking above ground (Filu ‘e ferru).

Mirto is a liqueur made from the berries of the myrtle bush, freshly picked between November and January. The berries are washed in cold water, spread in a thin layer to dry a couple of days, added to dark glasses, just submerged in 95% alcohol by volume, kept in the light for a couple of days and then left to macerate in a cool dark place during 40 days. Afterwards, the alcohol with berry extract is recovered, berries can be gently pressed to recover even more alcohol with extract, but too much pressing releases bitter tannins. The alcohol is filtered through paper (towels). Syrup is prepared by dissolving a weight of sugar in the same weight of hot water, followed by cooling. To obtain a Mirto with an alcohol content of 30%, 65 ml of syrup is added to 35 ml of extract. To obtain an alcohol content of 34%, 60 ml of syrup is added to 40 ml extract, etc. Finally, the Mirto is transferred to dark bottles and left to mature for another 1 – 2 months before consumption. Eventually it is decanted or filtered to remove any remaining sediment.

Limoncello is a liqueur made from the yellow skin of lemons. About 10 fresh lemons are used to retrieve the yellow skin without the underlying white rind for the preparation of the limoncello. The skin is macerated in 750 ml of 95% alcohol by volume in a closed container during one month in a cool and dark place. Syrup is prepared by dissolving 1200 g sugar in 1500 g of hot water, followed by cooling. The syrup is mixed with the 750 ml of lemon extracts in alcohol and another 250 ml of 95% alcohol by volume is added. The limoncello is left to mature in a cool dark place during 40 days and finally filtered through paper (towel).

Filu ‘e ferru is actually a grappa (35 – 60% alcohol by volume) and should be not too strong, might be flavoured and matured in wood caskets, giving it aroma and a yellowish colour, and it should be slightly viscous and smooth to drink. Good mirto and limoncello should be slightly creamy and not too sweet, preferentially prepared with honey instead of syrup.

The drinks might be consumed with the typical Sardinian cheese made from sheep milk, the pecorino. Best might be the very mature Fiore Sardo, a hard cheese with a dark brown smoked rind.

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