Liqueurs are big these days. Elderberry, apricot, honey, ginger, pine—there seems no end to the sweet libations flavoring our cocktails. And now, into the fray, comes Dumante Verdenoce, an Italian-made pistachio liqueur.
Although bartenders like Van Zarr of bluestem have been playing with Dumante for months, I didn’t get my first taste until last week, during a brand launch party at the restaurant’s lounge. I almost didn’t go. Our rural road was a snowy mess, the schools were closed and the husband was out of town. But I called in some babysitting chips and slogged into Kansas City, where I found a very good reason to have made the trip.
Dumante’s the creation of Howard Sturm, a Kentucky businessman motivated by nostalgia for Howard Johnson’s pistachio ice cream and a love of Italy. Sturm rounded up investors, tapped the local distilling expertise to develop the brand and then found a family-owned producer in Sicily to make it.
According to COO Luca Bianconcini, who was on-hand at bluestem, Italian pistachios are infused in molasses spirit and flavored with five varieties of vanilla. I’m still not sure what molasses alcohol is, or which vanillas are used, but it doesn’t really matter. The results are delicious.
The first whiff is of amaretto, or of an intensely flavored pistachio ice cream. The first taste is honey sweet, but it then gives way to pure nuttiness with a vanilla hit. There’s a strong spirituous backbone, even though Dumante’s only 28% ABV, and enough acidity to prevent the liqueur from being cloying.
And how do you use it? On that evening, Van Zarr showcased it in the Dumante Triple Crown, a twist on the mint julep. To make: muddle 10 sprigs of fresh mint with 1/4 ounce caramel syrup and 1/2 ounce Dumante in a highball glass. Top with 1 ounce Makers Mark bourbon, a “generous amount” of crushed ice and soda water. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.
While that potent, minty cocktail seemed to be the crowd favorite, I preferred Van’s Dumante Fizz. Here’s his recipe: Pour 1-1/2 ounce 10 Cane rum, 3/4 ounce Dumante, 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup and 1 egg white into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously, and then strain into a Collins glass. Yum…