Today is Anisette Day.
Having missed Limoncello Day, which was 22 June (also National Kissing Day here in the US) today we have an opportunity to repair our collective reputation regarding celebrate-an-Italian-liquor holidays.
For those who are not familiar with Anisette, it’s a clear anise-based liqueur that tastes like licorice. Drink it, pour it over ice cream, or bake it into cookies.
When I was growing up, we always went to my grandparents’ house after Sunday Mass for coffee and doughnuts. Sometimes my grandfather would take down a bottle of anisette and pour the syrupy liqueur into tiny, stemmed glasses holding less than a bartender’s shot. I didn’t particularly love the sharp, stinging smell but watched in envy as the adults added the glassful into black coffee.
It was a rite of passage.
The Galliano Club historical fiction books are full of small moments like this, culled from growing up Italian in upstate New York, where the historical fiction thriller series is set.
A deputy sheriff of Oneida County in the 1920’s, my grandfather, Joe Sestitio, made a cameo in the last Galliano Club thriller, REVENGE AT THE GALLIANO CLUB. Yes, he really played the saxophone.
Joe Sestito wasn’t a member of the Galliano Club, but they knew each other by name. Luca played first base for the Galliano Club baseball team and Sestito played saxophone in the Lido Civic Band, so was always on hand to start Lido Industrial League games with the Star-Spangled Banner and play Take Me out to the Ball Game at halftime.
The only Italian in law enforcement in the county, Sestito had been appointed to his position by the sheriff himself and had the reputation of being the toughest man in the entire department. He had dark blonde hair and a big-bladed Calabrian beak of a nose. As tall as Luca, it was rumored that he could twist a horseshoe. Luca had never seen it done, but if anyone could do it, his money was on the deputy sheriff.
Today, whenever I smell licorice, I think of those Sunday mornings and my grandfather’s anisette.
Cento di questi giorni. May you have a hundred of these days.
P.S. If you really want to dive into Anisette Day, try this recipe for traditional anise biscotti from shelovesbiscotti.com. These are the crunchy “toast” type cookies that pair so well with coffee. They are baked twice, which you might think makes for extra work but this is an easy recipe.
While you’re on the site, check out all the other types of biscotti, too.