Pine liqueur – really? This one is to drink and not to spruce up the flooring.
Don’t be afraid, be thirsty.
You may be familiar with Retsina, a resinated wine that is extremely common in Greece. It’s made just like any other white wine, except for small pieces of Aleppo pine resin are added to the must (fermenting wine) and left there until the finished wine is removed. Major production areas are in central Greece, close to Athens and the grapes used most often are Savatiano, Rhoditis, Assyrtiko.
Resinated wines can be traced back to the days of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. They used to keep their wines in porous, earthenware vessels and eventually learned to coat the inside with resin so the wine would keep better. This eventually morphed into adding the resin directly to the wine. Many people came to enjoy the taste of resin, so it became not only a preservative, but also a flavoring agent. Even ‘Pliny the Elder’ suggests adding resin to fermenting must (Natural History 14.124).
Today, resins have several uses in wine-making: surfacing the inside of wine vats, surfacing floors in wineries and bottling halls (resin is more resistant than concrete to acids in wine), adding flexibility to bungs for wooden barrels, stabilizing pigments in red wine. For you science nerds, resins (natural or man-made) are long chains of simpler molecules that are capable of polymerizing.
Now for the task at hand – a pine liqueur worth drinking and what to do with it. Pictured here is the Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur. Generations of mountaineers have learned from Josef Hofer how to harvest the Arolla stone pine in the Austrian Alps. You may have expected the Zirbenz to be green, but the natural red color comes from the fruit of the pine. Hofer began his family distillery in 1797.
So, how does it taste? Well, yes, it’s piney, but it’s also sweet and floral – like a prettier, more nuanced Fernet Branca. The producers recommend enjoying it apres ski, but this is what I suggest (I call it the Stone Fox):
*2 oz dark rum (try Goslings)
*1 oz Stone Pine Liqueur
*1/4 oz simple syrup
*1/4 oz lemon juice
*juice from 2 pieces of orange
*4 dashes orange bitters (try Regan’s)
*combine all ingredients in shaker with ice / strain / serve
*serve up and garnish with orange twist