Monday, January 20, 2014

Good news! They're making lamponcella in Swisher, Iowa


Sometimes you do find out the danged-est things.

My family has strong links to beautiful eastern Iowa, thanks to an aunt and uncle and cousins who moved there almost forty years ago. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are the collective family stomping grounds, with excursions to Kirkwood Junior College (for a horse show) and Riverside ("future birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk") an exciting part of more recent reunions. It so happens that among the small towns in the vicinity is Swisher, from whence a cousin took his bride many years ago.

Imagine my amazement, then, to look over some promotional materials for Cedar Ridge Distillery, maker of whiskey, rums, brandies, gin, vodkas, grappa, lemoncella, and "lamponcella" liqueurs, and see that the company address is actually Swisher, Iowa. My goodness. It brings back memories of long car trips through cornfields and soybean fields under glaring summer suns, of stalwart looking but sometimes decayed mid-western farms beside I-80, of the slowly rising, forested hills approaching "the River" -- the Mississippi has no other name, once you get close to it -- and of arrival in small, hilly towns where the houses are neat and old, the shady gardens full of summer color, and everything looks just slightly, interestingly ajar because you know this is someone else's home and not yours.

But about the lamponcella. I can't do better than to quote the promotional materials.

"Lampone" is Italian for raspberry. Cedar Ridge Lamponcella is the raspberry companion to our very popular Lemoncella. To create this sweet, intense raspberry liqueur, we start by soaking tanks of fresh raspberries in triple-distilled 192 proof spirits. This "geist" [a German word?] is then distilled again to create an awesome raspberry eau-de-vie [French for water of life, i.e., fruit-based brandy]. This eau-de-vie is then added to tanks of sweet raspberry puree, resulting in 64-proof liqueur. Cedar Ridge Lamponcella can be served straight up, be mixed 50/50 with Clearheart Vodka [the company's own] to make a beautiful, tasty raspberry martini, or drizzled over cheesecake or ice cream for a delicious dessert. (64% alcohol/vol.)

It sounds excellent, although I think there is a mistake here in declaring the same number, 64, represents both the alcohol content and the proof of the final product. And I would have excised the adjective awesome, which is practically meaningless now.

Still. Minor quibbles. And they say their Clearheart Vodka has been praised in the New York Times, by cocktail editor Colleen Graham. "Perfect and spectacular," she said.

And all in Swisher, Iowa! I feel as if it all redounds to my credit, somehow.

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