There are not many people in Abruzzo who haven’t inherited from their aunt or grandmother little ornate hand-blown glasses for Rosolio. The sweet, low-alcohol rose petal liqueur, invented centuries ago in a Sicilian convent and popular in Central and Southern Italy. It was en vogue in the 1960s, always served at wedding, christenings and birthday buffets. It even featured in such famous Italian movies like The Leopard and 1900.
Roses used for the liqueur have to be organic and I prefer the ones from my garden. The intensity of the drink’s colour depends on the rose variety. My favourite ones are those small red old-fashioned roses that a while back every woman in Abruzzo managed to grow even in small gardens or in a vase on a balcony.
My grandmother lived in Gissi, in the Chieti province, and had a tiny garden with a bush of those small red roses. She made Rosolio together with her neighbours. This is the recipe they used, although back then, women measured ingredients “a occhio”, without a scale but going by their experience.
500 ml pure spirit at 95°
500 ml water
300 g sugar
50 g organic fresh rose petals
Zest of one organic lemon
Collect roses when they are still not fully open. Pluck the petals. Remove the white base part of the petals and blend them with 50g of sugar. Put the rose sugar powder in a jar with an airtight lid together with lemon zest and spirit. Close the jar and leave to rest in a dark cool room for 10 days. After that, add water and 250g of sugar. Leave to infuse for seven days, shaking it now and then. After a week, filter the liqueur and bottle it. Leave to rest for two months before drinking it.
By Antonella Santilli.
Featured image by markhcjones/Instagram