The Sardinian Mirto is a symbol of the island
The Sardinian Mirto is one of the most popular digestive liqueurs among Italian consumers.
It is ungenerous to call Sardinian Mirto just a drink. In fact, it is also a symbol of the island, so much so that in 1998 it was recognized as a Traditional Agri-food Product by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies. Its history is very ancient and the legends that revolve around it are many.
The history of Sardinian myrtle
A bit like the land it is comes from, the history of Mirto is full of mysteries and fun fact, most of which are related to the myrtle plant, from which it is extracted. For example, the Egyptians considered myrtle a good luck charm, so much so that during the holidays they adorned the cities with twigs to ward off misfortunes and diseases. Something similar did the Celts with mistletoe, a tradition still present today during Christmas.
Even in the Middle East myrtle was considered auspicious, as evidenced by the stories about Adam and his expulsion from Eden. Apparently, he would have taken with him only a twig of myrtle from the Earthly Paradise. In ancient Rome, soldiers girded their heads with a crown made of myrtle branches. It was also believed to make men more vigorous, especially athletes.
Myrtle was also linked to the concept of femininity. The Roman poet Ovid told how myrtle twigs protected Aphrodite after a satyr had seen her come out of the sea. And Aphrodite had used myrtle twigs to surround Paris’s head, as told in the myth of the Apple of Discord. According to Greek mythology, the berries of the plant increased both sexual desire and fertility.
On the other hand, no one knows how myrtle arrived in Sardinia. What we know is that the first to macerate some raw materials to obtain an alcoholic product (lemons to produce a lemon liqueur, for example) were the Egyptians, the Romans and the Arabs. However, they used myrtle only as an ornamental plant.
This until 1700, when it is known that the Gallura bandits were already producing the Mirto liqueur. Nobody knows how the plant, from Rome, came to the island. In any case, from that moment Mirto has become one of the most typical products of Sardinia, with its particular flavor and extraordinary digestive properties. Together with Cannonau wine and other products, it is one of the symbols of the island.
Sardinian Myrtle preparation and recipe
The Sardinian Mirto is the result of the maceration of the myrtle berries, from which a liquid of an intense red color is obtained. The alcohol content is between 28 ° and 30 °.
To prepare this digestive drink producers must follows a very precise procedure, controlled by the Sardinian Mirto Producers Association:
- maceration of ripe berries with ethyl alcohol at 95° or with a mixture of alcohol or spirit and water;
- addition of sugar syrup or honey to the cold liquid;
- bottling and maturation of the liqueur.
Its aging process can last up to a year, even in industrial production. Depending on the ripening time, the organoleptic characteristics of Mirto may change. According to experts, the best time for tasting is between one and two months after preparation.
Mirto is also used in some Sardinian pastry shops to flavor typical sweets such as gueffus, which are bites of almond and sugar with a simply irresistible flavor.
And what if you want to make it yourself? Well, you need ripe berries, 95 ° ethyl alcohol, sugar and water. Once you have washed and dried the berries, place them in a container and cover them with alcohol. Leave to macerate, first in the light and then in a dark place, for about 40 days. After that, drain the berries and press them, but be gentle. Then, filter the extract and combine a syrup made of sugar and water.
At this point, let the liquid rest in glass bottles for as long as you like, but remember that after two years the properties of the drink degenerate.
With this recipe anyone can make their own Sardinian Mirto at home and enjoy one of the best Italian digestives at the end of a meal.
Do you want to try the authentic Sardinian Mirto and live a holiday full of charm and elegance? Book a stay at Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari.