Alchermes

Alchermes

Alchermes is a type of Italian liqueur, said to have originated in Florence, prepared by infusing neutral spirits with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla, and other herbs and flavoring agents. Its most striking characteristic is its scarlet color, obtained by the addition of kermes — hence its name — or cochineal. The drink fell out of favor around the turn of the century because people discovered that its principal ingredient (the dye from the insects) was not what they had thought it was. Several proprietary variants are commercially available, with alcoholic contents ranging from 21 to 32%. Its chief use is in coloring pastry, although a quick dessert is sometimes made by adding it to mascarpone and sugar.


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