After Succot, observant Jews find alternative uses for the etrog (citron) used
to fulfill one of the holiday commandments. One of the more common etrog
post-holiday products is citron jam, made by boiling the fruit with sugar and
A slightly more exotic option is citron tea, for
which the citron is finely sliced, added to a mixture of sugar and honey and
placed in a cup with boiling water.
However, one of the oldest
citrus-based products in the Mediterranean basin is a group of distilled
alcoholic beverages made from various fruits grown in different parts of the
Some, like Limoncello and Kitron, are best drunk straight or on
ice and are not particularly well known in the world at large. However, others,
such as triple sec Curaçao, are used to make popular cocktail mixes, such as the
Cosmopolitan and Margarita.
At the well-stocked bar of recently opened
Tel Aviv celebrity chef restaurant Mizlala located on the fashionable Nahalat
Binyamin Street, manager Yoash Meizel explains the importance of citrus-based
liqueurs when celebrating holidays or any other important
“Citrus, specifically liqueurs such as Cointreau and Grand
Marnier, add pleasant aromas as well as some vitality and summery character to
the taste of cocktails when present,” says Meizel.
Along with the more
ubiquitous aniseflavored ouzo and raki, Naxos Kitron is one of the three
officially recognized national liquors of Greece. Kitron is produced from the
distilled leaves of what religious Jews call the Corfu etrog. The Corfu etrog
was traditionally cultivated on several of the Greek islands and largely
exported to European Jewish communities for use on Succot. Besides its namesake
– the Ionian island of Corfu – the other major growing center was and still is
located on Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades group, which lies in the
Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey.
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
Greece is no longer a significant
exporter of etrogim and the cultivation of the citron has correspondingly
declined in favor of other crops, but the distillation of the tree’s leaves
continues on Naxos, with production centered on the village of Halki in the
island’s mountainous interior.
Citron liqueur is produced by two separate
family-run distilleries, Vallindras and Promponas.
Better known and open
for public tours, the Vallindras distillery in Halki was established in 1896 and
has since regularly produced three different grades of Kitron distinguished by
their coloring and alcohol content. Yellow Kitron is the driest with alcohol
content at 36 percent by volume (abv). Clear or white Kitron contains a slightly
milder 33% abv, while green Kitron is the sweetest and least alcoholic at 30%
With a taste somewhere between that of orange and lemon, the sweeter
grades of Kitron are often enjoyed leisurely by connoisseurs as a digestif,
while the stronger and drier yellow Kitron, often drunk straight as a shot, goes
down much more easily than most hard liquors, such as whiskey and vodka, that
can leave potent sour or bitter aftertastes in the mouth, of which Kitron has
The second alcoholic gift of Mediterranean citruses is the very
Italian Limoncello. This liqueur is traditionally made from the peel of the
Sorrento lemon and can be found in ready supply throughout most of southern
Italy from the Gulf of Naples to the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, with the
area around Amalfi being the center of production.
The area surrounding
the town of Menton in the French department of Alpes-Maritimes along the French
Riviera, long known for its large annual crop of lemons, also produces
Limoncello due to the favorable growing climate in the immediate vicinity of the
Called sfusato amalfitano in Italy, Sorrento lemons are typically
long and at least double the size of most other lemons, with a thick and
wrinkled skin and a sweet and juicy flesh without many seeds. When distilled
into Limoncello, the resulting drink is usually served chilled during the hot
summer months and drunk as a digestif or between courses to cleanse the
The growing season for the Sorrento lemon is between February and
October, with the harvest beginning in October around the time of Succot. This
date may not be coincidental, as one legend conjectures that this particular
lemon was first introduced to Italy around the first century BCE by Jewish
immigrants to serve as a source of etrogim for the holiday.
lemon is one of Menton’s official symbols. Since 1934, the local inhabitants
have held an annual lemon festival at the end of the harvest in February where
lemon-based foodstuffs and beverages, including Limoncello, can be purchased in
The third citrus liqueur, found in the greater Mediterranean
region, Curaçao, has a decidedly more modern and Jewish heritage. Triple sec
Curaçao and the closely related Grand Marnier, which is made from a blend of
cognacs and essence of the bitter laraha fruit, are all different brands of
Curaçao liqueur made from the bitter Aurantium currassuviensis
, meaning “golden
orange of Curaçao,” known locally as laraha.
While the fruit and liqueur
come from the Caribbean island of Curaçao, their heritage is both Jewish and
After Curaçao was discovered by the Spanish in 1499, the
colonists who settled on the island brought with them Valencia oranges as well
as several other new crops and animals to develop the area’s agricultural
potential. However, the soil and climate on the island were poorly suited for
orange orchards, and several growing seasons only produced stunted, bitter
Seeing the poor results, the colonial farmers stopped caring for
the Valencia orange trees, letting them grow wild until they evolved into their
own unique and inedible fruit, the laraha.
Eventually, some of the island
residents discovered that the dried peels of these wild fruits could be used to
produce aromatic oils and food additives. By the midto- late 19th century, the
Sephardi Senior family (who originally settled on the then Dutch-controlled
island, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition) discovered that these peels could be
distilled into a pleasant tasting alcohol, creating Curaçao
Senior & Co. still produces the liqueur at the country
mansion of Chobolobo near the town of Salinja on the island.
containing between 30% and 40% abv, Curaçao liqueur has a clear hue immediately
after it is produced, but like Kitron, food coloring is then added. The most
popular colors are blue and orange.
Triple sec may be drunk neat as a
digestif or on the rocks, but nowadays is mostly used in making
Around the same time that the Seniors were developing their
liqueur on Curaçao, several French companies were developing their own liqueurs
using the bitter oranges found in the Caribbean. The Combier family distillery
in Saumur, France, lays claim to creating the first triple sec as earlier as
1849, using bitter oranges procured from Haiti.
Grand Marnier also uses
bitter oranges to make its famous liqueur, most often used today as a key
ingredient in crème brulée and Crêpes Suzette.
For all those celebrating
Simhat Torah this year with a few l’haims
, consider pouring yourself a Margarita
or procuring a nice bottle of limoncello.
Nothing could be more
appropriate for the holiday.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>