Think of Italian drinks and you’d probably think of Cinzano, grappa or limoncello. Perhaps a Peroni, and certainly wine. What you probably wouldn’t think of is brandy, and yet nearby Mediterranean countries like Spain, France and Greece are all well-known for various brandies.
So I was intrigued when a bottle of something called Tuaca turned up, described as an Originale Liquore Italiano. Even with my limited Italian I can make a guess at what that means. Tuaca, it seems, is an Italian brandy-based spirit that is said to have been created way back in the 15th century for Lorenzo the Magnificent, aka Lorenzo de’ Medici.
It was recreated in the 1930s by brothers-in-law Gaetano Tuoni and Giorgio Canepa, who did the old trick of combining their names to produce a new word: Tuaca. It proved popular with US troops stationed in Italy during World War II, and was first imported into the USA in the 1950s. Now it’s being relaunched in the USA.
Tuaca isn’t a brandy, it’s a brandy-based spirit. It takes brandy and then infuses it with both citrus and vanilla. The result is unusual and intriguing. It reminded me of an infused vodka I’d tasted recently, Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka.
Like the vodka, this is a 35% ABV drink. It has that richly delicious caramel scent and taste, which makes it dangerously more-ish. But instead of the clean vodka taste, the brandy base gives this a richer taste and texture. It will certainly appeal if you like your drinks sweet, but one of the recommended serves is chilled Tuaca with a lemon wedge. It could hardly be more simple, but it works. I know, we tried it. We put the Tuaca in the fridge for a while, popped in a slice of lemon, and it made a truly delicious drink that could be served either before or after diner.
We also tried drinking it neat, at room temperature. That brought out the complexity of the drinks – that gorgeous buttery caramel taste, with a dash of citrus sharpness and a warm honey feeling, reminding me of being in the Mediterranean on a hot day when the sun fills the air with hot fruit and spices. Or perhaps it’s just that we’ve been tasting this in Arizona, where we live and where we’re currently having a heatwave (today it’s 113 degrees). The Tuaca makes me think of walking through olive or lemon groves.
For such a complex taste and well-balanced drink, the suggested retail price of $19.99 for a 750ml bottle seems very reasonable, and as well as being relaunched in the USA, Tuaca is also available in the UK, Australia and around the world. I couldn’t help but notice that you can also buy it in 1.75 litre bottles. Right now, that sounds like a really good idea. It’s one of those drinks which is disappearing far too quickly.