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Sardinia smells of myrtle. Or maybe the myrtle smells of Sardinia? In addition to the ancient tradition of brewing, myrtle is the traditional drink of Sardinia, and it is made from the berries of the myrtle plant: its taste reveals the intimate essence of this wonderful land.
Myrtle comes in various forms: liqueur, sweets, perfumes, or simply a flowering branch! No other flavor or smell identifies the island on the nose or the palate better than myrtle. The myrtle plant is one of the main components of the Mediterranean scrub and is widespread in every corner of the island.
Everyone who visits Sardinia sooner or later find themselves in front of a glass of myrtle. And once tasted, one will certainly decide to buy a bottle as a souvenir. And, once home, a sip will be enough and, suddenly, here comes the Mistral wind, the sun, the sea, the rocks and the sand running through your veins again, bringing back in mind the true essence of Sardinia.
The name of the myrtle plant seems to be linked to the Greek myth of Myrsine, a legendary athlete, unbeatable in racing. She was killed by an opponent, who was furious after losing the race against a woman. Legend has it that the goddess Pallas, trying to save the young athlete and make her immortal, transformed her into a myrtle plant.
The myrtle fruit is a dark berry that, even nowadays, requires to be traditionally hand-picked. Without machinery or equipment, only a special comb or a wooden rake is needed to separate the fruits from the branches, which is much smaller than an olive. The harvesting operation is therefore carried out by hand and with great delicacy so as not to damage the plant, which, even today, is a precious resource. For this reason, continuous surveillance is required in the area: fortunately, this surveillance has the double advantage of protecting the territory and discouraging arson, which is, unfortunately, a problem in Sardinia.
In addition to the berries, the myrtle leaves also release an intense aroma and are used in the perfume industry for the creation of perfumes. In the Sardinian gastronomic tradition, myrtle is an important condiment for flavouring some meats: sprigs are traditionally used to flavor roast suckling pig, roasted, or boiled poultry.
The Cagliari area is one of the main areas for the collection and transformation of myrtle berries, due to the presence of numerous distilleries that produce liqueurs, also famous abroad. Even in our era, where technology is dominant, the myrtle production method has always remained the same. The berries are infused in pure alcohol and subsequently processed with water, sugar, or honey. Only four ingredients are used to give it a sweet and intense taste, which changes according to the secret of each family of distillers.
In Cagliari, the Pacini Distillery has a centuries-old tradition in this field: the well-known company Zedda Piras, in recent years, has moved to Alghero and merged with the Sella & Mosca group. Particular is the story of Bresca Dorada, in the areas of Costa Rei and Villasimius, near Cagliari, a farm specializing in honey production was born: it managed to produce a myrtle that was so good and as a result, convinced the owners to sell it.
In addition, there is San Martino in Selargius. This family-run company produces and sells myrtle in particularly decorated packaging, and uses the aroma of myrtle in the cosmetic field. In fact, myrtle is rich in essential oils and lends itself to the creation of shower gel and creams.
As a liqueur, myrtle has an alcohol content between 28 and 36 degrees and has a particular digestive property.
Ingredients: • 600 grams of myrtle berries • 1 litre of pure alcohol at 90 ° • 1 litre of water • 600 grams of sugar. The amount of sugar can be decreased by 100 grams if you prefer a not too sweet liqueur.
The myrtle berries are infused in pure alcohol in an airtight container and left to soak in the dark for about 40 days: shaking the container occasionally is also important. After the infusion period, filter the liquid and squeeze the berries with a cloth or a vegetable mill, in order to extract all the juices. Prepare a syrup by boiling the water and adding the sugar. Allow the syrup to cool down and mix it with the flavoured alcohol. Filter everything again, bottle, and let it rest for about a month before consuming.
In some areas of Sardinia, myrtle is prepared by replacing part or all of the sugar with the equivalent weight of honey (often from a strawberry tree). The best time to make myrtle liqueur is in winter, between November and January, when the berries ripen and turn black. Myrtle is traditionally served in small, straight glasses.
A good glass of myrtle, the traditional drink of Sardinia, can be enjoyed in every bar or restaurant throughout Sardinia. It should be served chilled to be better appreciated. Below we give you some addresses to purchase myrtle directly from the manufacturer. You can also go and visit the production sites. In the worst case, you can also buy it in a supermarket. We strongly advise you to buy a bottle to take home and savour the scents and flavours of the wonderful land of Sardinia when you are back home. Cheers!
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