November 30, 2023 | Rome, Italy


By |2018-03-21T18:56:30+01:00July 29th, 2013|"In Provincia"|
Accidental wizardry can yield a knockout potion.

n a previous life I would have probably been a witch. I don’t have red hair nor I do believe in love potions. But I am utterly fascinated by the power of plants. In them are all the flavors and colors of the world, with all its thousands of delicate nuances.

I love to bottle wild things. I make elderflower jelly, rosemary salt, and wild-rose liqueur. These would no doubt have been my potions had I lived in another time. I administer them to hurried city dwellers. They are delighted.

And like someone from another time, I’ve learned the value of patience. Living in the Umbrian countryside can do that. You learn that you don’t always need to have everything ready yesterday. Often you need to wait. And sometimes it’s boring. But eventually — if you wait — something quite extraordinary can happen.

Take this liqueur. Time ago I discovered a couple of jars of sour cherries in alcohol that I’d forgotten. They had been lodged in the back of a cabinet for years (six!). I strained the cherries and added water. It turned out to be the most incredible liqueur I’d ever tasted. My plumber, who was lucky enough to happen by on that memorable day, still talks about it with dreamy eyes.

After that fortunate discovery I’ve busied myself putting away cherries in alcohol and sugar. Two jars every year. I’m ready to wait six years to have that sip of wonder again. So far, four have passed. And I am not even bored.

The Elixir


  • Same weight sour cherries, sugar, and 95 proof alcohol, or the strongest plain spirit you can find.

  • Ensure the cherries are unblemished and flavorful.

  • Transfer the mix into a jar, close and store in a dark cabinet for as long as you can manage, but no less than three months

  • Strain away the cherries, measure the resulting liquid, and add 1/2 of its weight in water. Bottle, close and wait at least another month.

I call this my “meditative drink.” It needs to be enjoyed in a quiet moment with a plate of cookies or your best dark chocolate.

About the Author:

Letizia Mattiacci wrote the "In Provincia" column from 2011 through 2019.