DC Brau brought beer-making back to the District. Then Columbia Distillers brought back spirit-making. Now D.C. also has its own producer of fine liqueurs: Don Ciccio & Figli.
The company's website tells its unique story. The company is the creation of Francesco Amodeo, an Italian immigrant trained in restaurant management in his homeland who immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-2000s and worked in well-known D.C. establishments like Butterfield 9 and Cafe Milano. While working as general manager of Bibiana, he began serving his own artisanal limoncello. So popular was the liqueur, Amodeo left Bibiana to devote himself full-time to liqueur production.
Armed with recipes from his Italian grandfather, who made liqueurs in the old country, Amodeo has grown his line to seven products so far, including the limoncello, an herbal-coffee liqueur known as Concerto, and Finocchietto, a fennel-flavored digestif liqueur made from wild fennel, fennel seed, anise seed and dill.
Although I also bought a bottle of Concerto, I decided to focus on the more seasonal Finocchietto, an ideal ingredient for spring cocktails. Below are four recipes using this liqueur, one from the Don Ciccio & Figli website and three that I came up with. I found the liqueurs at Tunnel Wine & Spirits (311 H St NW at Massachusetts Ave.), which appeared to stock the entire line.
Because Finocchietto is made from fennel, I thought of other flavors that pair nicely with the vegetable, such grapefruit and other citrus.
1 oz. dry gin
1/2 oz. Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto liqueur
1/2 oz. Cointreau
3 dashes grapefruit bitters
2 oz. tonic water
Combine gin, Finocchietto, Cointreau and bitters in a cocktail mixing cup with ice. Stir until combined and chilled. Strain into rocks glass with ice. Add tonic water and stir. Garnish with lemon twist.
I called this the gin field because its vegetal, spring flavors (fennel, celery, lemon) plus the honey (think honeybees) put in the frame of mind of being outside on a beautiful spring day.
1 oz. gin
1 oz. Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto
1/2 oz. honey syrup
8-10 drops of Bittermens celery shrub
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 oz. club soda
Combine gin, Finocchietto, honey syrup, celery shrub and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Top with club soda and stir to combine.
|Spring in a Glass|
Spring in a Glass
Mint, fennel, cucumber and lemon strike me as particularly spring-like, so I named this "spring in a glass." I muddled the mint separately from the cucumber because I wanted the muddled mint in the glass but the muddled cucumber strained out.
10-12 mint leaves
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 tbsp. chopped cucumber
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto (fennel liqueur)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. club soda
Mint sprig garnish
Add mint leaves and simple syrup to a rocks glass and muddle. Add cucumber to a cocktail mixing glass and muddle. To the mixing glass, add gin, Finocchietto, lemon juice and ice. Stir well to combine and chill. Fill the rocks glass with ice and strain the contents of the mixing glass into the rocks glass. Top with club soda and stir to combine. Garnish with mint sprig.
This is a suggested drink on the Don Cicco & Figli website. To keep it local, I used Green Hat gin, which is made in D.C. I substituted Lillet Blanc for the dry vermouth.
2 oz Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto
1 oz gin
0.5 oz dry vermouth (I used Lillet Blanc)
Stir with ice and strain it in a martini glass.