The Tasty Revival of a 19th-Century Apertivo

The bittersweet herbal spirit has been relaunched with its original 1845 recipe…

Photo by Cordero Studios/corderostudios.com

Cocktail enthusiasts—with their devotion to authenticity—have brought innumerable lost spirits back to the bar shelf, from crème de violette to Velvet Falernum. The latest taste of the past is Zucca Rabarbaro ($30, zucca.it), a dark-amber Italian amaro that is being relaunched using its original 1845 recipe. Zucca, the story goes, started as a doctor’s potion to alleviate the indigestion of a patient; the patient’s husband then modified this infusion of rhubarb—rabarbaro in Italian, but specifically the roots of Chinese rhubarb—and medicinal herbs, orange zest, and cardamom, using enough alcohol to bring the proof up to 60 and creating what became a popular after-dinner drink. Today, the original Zucca’s bittersweet herbal flavor and slightly smoky, earthy intensity also make it an intriguing mixer—or, with a splash of soda and citrus, a fine aperitivo.

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