Every year on July 2, the US celebrates its national day of Anisettes (National Anisette Day). Cheers. Reason enough to give this special day for the spiced liqueur with aniseed aroma a separate contribution to the calendar of food holidays from all over the world and to shed some light on its history with the following lines. So why is the United States celebrating anise-flavored schnapps today?
National Anisette Day : origins and history of the most loved liqueur
A PRODUCT of Ascoli excellence known in Europe and in the world. From the intuition of Silvio Meletti to the ancient recipe of Cavalier Umberto Rosati, owner of the Premiata Farmacia Centrale. But the Olivieri company of Porto San Giorgio, already in 1830, produced a similar drink.
One of the best-known images of the city of Ascoli is the transparent bottle of anisette (with the characteristic green or blue Liberty label although, in recent times, other colors have also been used), a liqueur with a strong aroma, still produced and appreciated, about two hundred years after its creation. Anisette is a product of Ascoli excellence known in Europe and in the world, consumed as a digestive or as a refreshing drink on the rocks. In the article, we will briefly retrace its interesting history, which has always been linked to the Piceno territory.
An ancient story. The origin of the anisette is not known; According to Balena, journalist and writer of local history, he makes it derive from the peasant tradition of flavoring the alcohol obtained from the residues of the pressing of grapes with the essence of anise. The liqueur, as we know it today, is known all over the world for the idea of Silvio Meletti, who in the late 1800s created this delight thanks to the distillate of green aniseed from Castignano. In fact, the Francesco Olivieri Company of Porto San Giorgio, already in 1830, produced a similar liqueur, marketed as “Anisina Olivieri Award-winning specialty”. Anisette Meletti was produced in 1870 by Silvio Meletti, the entrepreneur who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, created the historic café of the same name in Ascoli, still located today in the iconic Piazza del Popolo. A few years later (1877), Umberto Rosati, in the pharmaceutical laboratory annexed to the Central Pharmacy of Ascoli Piceno, produced Anisetta Rosati, which was awarded the gold medal at the Third World Trade Show in Rome. At the end of the nineteenth century (1898) in Porto Sant’Elpidio, in the Fermo area, the Anisette Evangelisti was born, produced for about a century (until 1985) and very popular locally.
The raw material. Before dealing with the anisette, a few words about the green anise of Castignano ( Pimpinella anisum, of the botanical family of the Ombelliferae, the same as that of fennel and carrots) which recently was the protagonist of an in-depth study within the regional news program. Green anise is a product of excellence of our territory, has extraordinary characteristics and is one of the 586 Italian Slow Food presidia, which support small traditional productions. Already at the end of the seventeenth century, it was a widely consumed spice in the Marche and in the following two centuries it was marketed as the main ingredient for the production of two much-loved liqueurs in the area, anisette and mistrà, which exploits a higher alcohol base. gradation. It is worth mentioning, at this point, the Varnelli, a very popular liqueur, the flagship product of the historic distillery (the oldest liqueur house in the region, active since 1868) of Muccia,
The plants used for the production of the liqueur belong to a variety of native anise that grows in the clayey soils of the Picene hills, sunny and open to the breezes of the Adriatic and the winds coming from the Sibillini. From this particular microclimate, derived from the synergy between atmospheric agents and the type of soil, comes the quantity of substances contained in the anise, whose properties have been known since antiquity: it is the Salerno school of medicine (11th-13th centuries) that hands down « Emendat visum, stomachum confortat anisum (anise improves vision, gives relief to the stomach) ».The seeds contain, in fact, various minerals, as well as vitamins of groups A, B and C and essential oil containing from 80% to 94% of anethole. It is this latter aromatic compound, with high digestive properties, which makes Castignano green anise special.
The liqueur. Anisette has an unmistakable flavor and aroma, due to the processing that involves the maceration of aniseed in alcohol from the distillation of the waste from the processing of grapes and grape seeds. The release of essential oils during the processing of the aniciato gives the characteristic aroma. At the end of the process, the liqueur has a crystalline appearance, highlighted even more by the transparent glass bottle, and an intense and pungent smell.
Since its inception, the anisette had a good success among the patrons of the tobacconist of Maria Meletti, sister of that Silvio who had mixed medicinal herbs and sugar with the drink, sweetening it but always keeping the alcohol base low (around 20-30 °), to facilitate drinkability; the final operation was aging in steel barrels for six months. Anisette Meletti was produced at the time in a factory located near the railway station of Picena city. It was tradition, in Ascoli, to consume it “with the fly”, adding a few roasted coffee beans to the glass; anisette was also appreciated outside the city: in the countryside, it was common practice to start the day with a glass of liqueur.
Another Ascoli anisette is the Anisetta Rosati , produced according to an ancient recipe made by Cavalier Umberto Rosati, owner of the Premiata Farmacia Centrale, in the heart of the city. Also, this elixir used the green anise of Castignano, together with other local spices (according to a secret recipe). Rosati also produces the “ Leone XIII Reserve” (the pope was a great admirer of the liqueur), aged for 24 months in French oak barriques that give it a special color and aroma. Anisette Rosati has carved out a space for itself in high school catering: several starred chefs propose it for their creations.