They’re old-fashioned, unchic – and quite delicious: two traditional Italian soft drinks …

17 August, 2013

IMG_3042‘Gazzosa’ (or ‘gassosa’ – alternative spelling) and ‘Chinotto’ are old-fashioned Italian carbonated soft drinks.  They haven’t been trendy for years – if they ever were.  But now, Lurisia,  bottler of the famous mineral water from the S. Barbara springs in Lurisia Terme in Piedmont, is producing a superior version of both.  It’s worth looking out for.

The Lurisia products are made of Lurisia mineral water  and the juice of carefully selected fruits; free of colouring agents and preservatives; packaged in recyclable glass bottles; and labelled with simple, stylish and, according to some slightly ‘snobbish’, labels.  They’re a marketer’s dream it’s true, but the drinks themselves are delicious – well-worth whatever effort it takes to find them.

I hadn’t heard of ‘Gazzosa’ until recently I heard it being ordered in a local bar.  “It’s not at all a refined drink”, I was told, ” just lemonade”.  And, in fact,  when I checked a dictionary later, I found that ‘gassosa’ is defined as ‘lemonade’.  But it doesn’t seem to be quite what we usually think of as lemonade.  Having asked for ‘Gazzosa’, my friends were  apparently served Schweppes lemonade – they knew immediately it wasn’t ‘gassosa’ .  Gassosa, they said, is different: not as sweet, slighter more bitter.  Later, the waiter confirmed that he hadn’t, in fact, served Gassosa.  He said you don’t see Gassosa around much any more: these days, more often than not, when you order it in a bar in Palermo, you’ll be served Schweppes.

IMG_3155Several days later,  I went to Ustica, a tiny island about an hour’s ferry ride north of Palermo.  At the bar in the main square I ordered Gassosa  – and yes, they had it.  What they served turned out to be a superior variety: Lurisia Gazzosa, pale lemon in colour, slightly bitter, and with a distinctive real-lemon flavour.   According to the label, Lurisia’s version is made from ‘sfusato’ lemons from the Amalfi Coast.  Sfusato lemons, which have apparently been cultivated on the slopes of the Amalfi Coast for more than 300 years, are juicy, rich in essential oils, and have a semi-sweet pulp.

Having acquired a taste for Gazzosa I ordered it again the following evening, but this time they didn’t have it – more would be arriving on the next boat.  The waitress suggested we try Lurisia Chinotto instead.

Chinotto I was familiar with.  I’d known it years ago and thought of it as a sophisticated Italian alternative to cola.  I’d really tried to like it, but somehow never  did.  It always seemed too bitter and too strongly flavoured and eventually I’d given up.  This Chinotto, however,  was something quite different – much more subtly flavoured; difficult not to like.

Chinotto isn’t, as I’d previously thought, a kind of cola – it’s made from the chinotto, a citrus fruit, citrus myrtifolia.  Chinottos are  a sour and bitter orange, brought to Europe from China hundreds of years ago.  Lurisia uses only Savona chinottos, from Liguria’s Savona region, an area that apparently has an ideal microclimate; chinottos have been cultivated there since the beginning of the 16th century.   Savona chinottos have recently been recognised as a Slow Food Presidia*.

I don’t know how big Lurisia’s production is, or how widely distributed its products are, but they’re certainly worth looking for.

*   a Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity project that aims to protect biodiversity and traditional production . 

2 Responses to “They’re old-fashioned, unchic – and quite delicious: two traditional Italian soft drinks …”

  1. Cate Says:

    Lurisia Gazzosa sounds delicious! I will definitely keep an eye out for it but if I have no luck I will just have to add it to my ‘Sicily’ list! Interesting about Lurisia Chinotto. I have also never liked Chinotto but you’ve convinced me to give this one a a go.

  2. Sally Says:

    Another good reason to get back to Sicily …

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