Alchermes, a florentine liqueur

A name that has little or nothing of Florentine, yet the recipe for this liqueur was born in Florence.

The origin of the name is Arabic and is linked to the red color obtained from “Cochineal”, from which a red powder is obtained that dyes and characterizes the liqueur, now replaced by food dyes.

Liqueur composed of alcohol and giulebbe;

dyed with cochineal, and given it an aromatic odor by means of drugs

held in fusion in said alcohol.

Already in 1233 ALCHERMES was produced by the nuns of the order of the Servants of Mary and at the time defined as the “elixir of long life” and considered as a medicine.

Exported to France by Caterina de ‘Medici, so much so that it was known as “Liquore de’ Medici”. In the 15th century the production was resumed in the pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella and the friar Cosimo Bucelli perfected the recipe in the 18th century.

It is a “rosolio” (liqueur with low alcohol content and sweets or “giulebbe” – fruit juice drink boiled with sugar).

Today it can be found in the historic Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, and also in the shops of the Certosa and Montesenario monasteries.

Today Alchermes is used in pastry as a liqueur to “soak” sweets such as Trifle or Sponge Cake and to make a typical Florentine dessert invented by Buontalenti precisely for Caterina: the Zuccotto (Skullcap).