Food, Food Artisans

Incredible Italian Soda from Lurisia

Chinotto Carries the Day!

chinotto-citrus-sodaI confess up front that this is not something I’d normally be carrying on about. But there’s something compelling about the chinotto soda from the folks at Lurisia (whose incredible naturally sparking water we bring over from Italy) that even though I rarely drink much soda pop I can’t stop drinking this stuff.

Aside from the fact that it tastes great and is really refreshing, the story is super interesting. The chinotto orange arrived in Italy from China around 1500. It’s a myrtle leaved, evergreen orange tree that grows to about five feet high and it found an ideal growing climate on the western end of the Italian Riviera. It became extremely popular—both to grow and to consume—near the town of Savona. The tradition of candying chinotto orange started in the second half of the 19th century when a confectioner from the French town of Apt (where candied fruit has long been highly favored) arrived in Savona. He set to work candying the chinotto and other local fruits. The fruit is immersed in sugar syrup for three weeks, then drained and rolled in sugar. Before long the town became a capital of fruit candying. People took it home as a souvenir, and it was shipped around the country; Giuseppe Verdi, among other luminaries, apparently loved it.

Chinotto soda probably got its start in the 1920s or ‘30s though no one seems to be able to pinpoint its proper beginnings. Whoever had the bright idea to brew some was onto something. In its more commercial form Chinotto is probably the #1 soft drink in Italy. Coke makes it and its sold as Fanta Chinotto! The Lurisia version is artisan in its origin and infinitely more delicious than what’s made in the large factories. It starts with Slow Food Ark of Taste Chinotto (the Ark is the place that the great endangered traditional foods of the world are enshrined and kept alive) fruit. The flavor is so far above the mass market version. Given that most of you won’t have tried the latter that may be irrelevant. All you need to do is try this one. It’s actually excellent as a cocktail mixer, too. It’s got a lot of that great balance and beauty you get from a well-made bitters.

Ari Weinzweig