A Taste of the Mediterranean


Talking on my time in the Amalfi Coast with The Mediterranean Aperitivo Programme and UKBG, I share insight into the Mediterranean food and drinks culture, revealing the true quality and beauty behind these European products.

The Amalfi Coast – a place where the crisp sea meets the golden shores, natural beauty meets simple-living, and where simple-living meets a quality food and drinks culture. That is the beauty of the Amalfi Coast, and the key feature of what makes the Mediterranean diet just so appealing to both locals and tourists – food and drink offerings are simplistic yet not basic, high-quality yet not overwhelming. The products of the Mediterranean, specifically those of Italian origin, speak for themselves, both in authenticity and flavour, and so they require very little enhancement to amplify their tastes…

The Mediterranean Aperitivo Project, in partnership with The UK Bartender’s Guild, is an awareness-raising campaign on European products with European Geographical Indication, including: Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) Vermouth di Torino, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Pecorino Toscano, PGI Costa d’Amalfi Lemon, and olives from Greece. I had the pleasure of joining the team on a three-day trip to the stunning Amalfi Coast, to experience the true quality and beauty of these authentic, European products for myself.

On the first evening of the trip, we were welcomed with a beautiful dinner in the tranquil location of Marmorata, approximately one kilometre from where we were staying in Minori. The dinner began in true Italian style with an authentic Mediterranean Aperitivo – a traditional pre-dinner ritual which included light bites and refreshing aperitifs, courtesy of the wonderful products which were being promoted. While sipping slowly on a Negroni Bianco, which featured a white Vermouth, and grazing on a healthy number of olives and perfectly-cut triangles of Pecorino Toscano PDO, I quickly realised two things: the quality of such products and, the Mediterranean culture, which places heavy focus on the dining experience.

I’m not sure if, simply, the quality tastes of the beautifully made products enhanced the laid-back yet purposeful pre-dinner ritual, or vice-versa. Whichever way, both certainly worked in-tune to provide an elevated guest experience – and appetite!  

Vermouth di Torino PGI is one of Italy’s most renowned aromatised, fortified wines, and has been a staple in classic Martini and Negroni recipes for years. Vermouth has a rich history, dating back centuries, in which it was almost exclusively used for medicinal purposes. As time has passed, Vermouth as we know it today, has evolved to different variations, categorised according to its colour – White, Amber, Rose or Red – and its sugar content. With a spectrum of variations, ranging from extra dry, dry to sweet, Vermouth is a particularly versatile spirit, and can be paired with a range of accompanying spirits and mixers, or on its own as a traditional aperitif. 

Among exploring the Amalfi coast in Vermouth-fuelled excursions and many more delightful aperitivos, we had the chance to learn more about the infamous Amalfi lemons, visiting the expansive groves in which they are grown in masses, as well as the OP Costieragrumi factory where the lemons are packaged, squeezed, peeled and pressed.

Weaving through the sloping rows of lemon trees, you find yourself taken aback by the pure volume of fruits that are picked and transported to the Minori factory every morning. The groves act as a microcosm for the country’s love for Amalfi lemons, perfectly representing the fruit’s popularity and presence in the Mediterranean culture. Gracing the landscape, the groves can be seen for miles along the winding coastal roads of the Amalfi, and present themselves as the honourable ones, standing tall and watching over their beloved territory.

The quality of the Amalfi lemons was evident, firstly in their size – each spilling over an average-sized hand. It was clear to see that these fruits, and the groves in which they reside, have been nurtured by both the fruit-handlers and the natural, surrounding environment. During the tour, we learned that the trees are grown sloping downward to ensure the lemons are protected from any disturbing factors, such as wind and rain. We also learned that the rows of olive trees that stood proudly below them were, in fact solely planted as a natural protective barrier for the fruits.

The care that is taken in the growing process ensures the great quality and authenticity that makes the Amalfi lemon so distinguishable; and the quality of these beautiful fruits makes for equally, great-tasting and quality by-products, such as Limoncello, pure lemon juice, zest and essential oil – all used as popular ingredients in an array of serves and edible dishes.

Though Amalfi lemons are not widely available in the UK market, Limoncello, and lemon-based food and drink products are, providing the perfect opportunity for your venue to elevate the guest experience with European quality.

While my time in Italy was spent embracing the Mediterranean cuisine through quality eats and serves, as a guest I was humbled by the story behind these products – the care, time, dedication and passion that is involved in their production and presentation. As well as this, stepping into the shoes of a customer, I enjoyed the culture of a longer dining experience, which provided time to fully appreciate the offerings and their authenticity. I urge all hospitality operators to find inspiration in the Mediterranean Aperitivo Programme, and consider adopting quality European products into your venue to provide a refreshing and elevated experience for guests, without the need to travel!

Join the Mediterranean Aperitivo Week (23rd-29th October) now, and share the quality of European products with guests by registering online at: www.mediterraneanaperitivo.com

Homemade Limoncello

INGREDIENTS

150g Lemon peel

1l Alcohol

1l Water

1kg Sugar

METHOD

Start by peeling the lemons and then add them to the alcohol. Leave this to sit for three days to allow time for the lemon peel to be absorbed. Once absorbed, create a simple syrup by combining sugar and boiling water in a saucepan. Allow this to boil for 15 minutes, remove from heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add the syrup to the lemon-infused alcohol and stir. Serve chilled or with ice.

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