Saturday, May 11, 2019

herbal alchimies in Turin

The 6th edition of Turin Epicurean Capital will see the participation of two women of the historic and world renown 'booze system' 😁: Monica Buzio and Paola Pressi.

Monica inside the distillery

Monica Buzio got in touch with Turin Epicurean Capital via Instagram and told us her story: her great grandfather, Mr Luigi Fassio was a cocktail and herbal liqueur wizard who collected all his recipes in cute notebooks. In the 1910s Turin, Luigi was in the bar business and owned many downtown businesses in the current Via Roma, Corso Vittorio and other main streets. He was fascinated by pool halls too and some of his bars were actually pool halls too, so that the wealthy young Turinese men could contribute to his business by playing pool and drinking his vermouths and the other liqueurs he made. He had actually studied to be a certified distiller and Monica even found the textbook he had studied on, full with original illustrations:

the liqueur maker manual, published by Lattes, historic Turin based publisher

What to do with all these amazing recipes for cocktails, liqueurs, fortified wines and herbal distilled products?

This is where Paola Pressi, the mastermind of Il Reale came into play!
Over the centuries Turin has always been the booze capital of Europe, leading the market of many drinks and famous brands. Vermouth di Torino is a registered recipe strictly connected to our local territory and Mr Campari studied in Turin where he opened his Campari business before registering it in Milan. Ever heard of Maritini and Cinzano? Yes, two other Turin native brands.

Why did Turin have so many distilleries and distillers? Because our many hills make of Piedmont a lucky region and the top Italian wine producer of high quality wines in the world! Moreover, thanks to the Alpine peaks of Piedmont, we can also count on a bountiful collection of unique Alpine herbs and flowers. Most of all our top-notch advantage is the know-how of our local enologists, winemakers, wine producers, distillers and essence extractors that have always led the booze market, designing new drinks and consequently setting new trends 😎

Paola Pressi showing us Mastro Alfre essence trials

Taking advantage of our important legacy in the beverage business, Paola Pressi has founded Il Realean artisan distillery where old recipes get resurrected and updated to comply with the current regulations. Literally, getting to know each other, it has been a match made in heaven for both Monica and Paola, since Monica's wish is to bring back to life her great grandfather's creations and each one is so unique that perfectly fits Il Reale's philosophy 😍

We went to visit Il Reale headquarter in Chieri, on the Turin's hill. We saw where the magic starts in the aromatiere or essence extractor's office. Master Alfre, or Mastro Alfre in Italian, has matured his experience working for a famous company founded in 1888. He is one of the most creative people in the bartending world since his fantasy and nose guide him through the creations of the bases barmen will use when making our cocktails.
He collects dry samples of virtually anything: flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables, barks, spices, fish, meat, even hemp, anchovies, olives, hazelnuts, you name it. He extracts their essences and then he visualizes the correct proportions to be blended in our drinks and apo juices.
He's a real alchemist!

We visited the extraction area because at Il Reale, they artisanally extract most of the essences they use for their own products and also others for their clients. Among the many there are roselle tea, clover, pomegranate, bay leaf, jasmin, elder, and arugula. The essences then are moved into the tanks where they get blended with water, sugar, alcohol and other spices.
For Monica, they are currently producing two kinds of her great grandfather's vermouth, the red and the white one and they blend the essences of 30 to 35 different herbs with 75% of wine made by Carlin de Paolo, a royal producer from the Monferrato wine district who makes natural wines, without using pesticides or chemicals.

Il Reale produces sloe gin too that rests about 15 days before being twice filtered and bottled but the vermouths require a longer time to absorb all the aromas. The corks are always applied by hand as well as the company seal, the label and alcohol tax seal.
Roughly they produce 3000 bottles of white and 3000 red vermouth but only 1000 bottles of sloe gin, liqueur and their Bitter.

Paola and Monica sniffing the juniper essence from the maceration tank

Il Reale logo celebrates Paola's friendship and the many years of collaboration with HRH Prince Serge of Yugoslavia, son of Maria Pia of Savoy and Prince Alexander Karageorgevic of Yugoslavia, grandchild of the last king of Italy, Umberto I. It is thanks to this long and trustworthy relationship that HRH the Prince shared the royal Savoy recipes of both red and white vermouth with Paola. And because these two vermouth versions launched Il Reale as a company, the company itself could only be called Reale or royal and its logo shows the Savoy flag side by side with the Croatian one forming a new coat of arms.

Following the royal recipes, Il Reale produces 3 vermouth types: the white one made with Cortese, the red one whose color comes from the burned sugar, with the addition of rhubarb, cloves and cinchona bark, and the riserva made with Nebbiolo wine, very similar to a Barolo chinato.

So far for Monica, Il Reale has prepared the original version of her great grandfather's Rosolio di Torino with the essence of the famous and luscious Bulgarian rose, and a herbal Amaro or digestive (read to be sipped after a nice long meal) liqueur.
They are currently working at a Luigi Fassio's mint liqueur made with our locally registered Pancalieri mint that grows around Turin

A Reale's mission is to constantly design new cocktails and their location in Chieri includes an educational room and will soon add a vermouth bar with finger foods made by a pastry chef to pair all the flavors. They already offer classes where people are given a herbal kit to learn to design their own liqueurs and cocktails. Currently their new cocktail is called Golden Ice and it's best realized with the extra dry foamy wine - Spumante by Carlin de Paolo because the vines are coming from the same terroir.

The long Piedmontese tradition of medicinal herbs, their extracts and distilled products is living a renaissance thanks to Paola and Monica. Look their bottles up in the best shops, coffee shops and restaurants when you are in Turin for as you taste them, you'll go on an aromatic trip within your Turin travel. and if you happen to be in Monaco, London or Paris... look around well, because you'll find them there too, in the most exclusive places!

... Il Reale vermouths come in a carry on format (100 ml) ready to fly home with you and they sport a very elegant bottle that looks like a perfume and can easily be given as a special present or favor too!
And who wouldn't love such an elegant artisan bottle?

Come get to know Monica Buzio and Paola Pressi in person at the Turin Epicurean Capital talk shows on June 26-28 2019 at Teatro San Giuseppe in Via Doria 18, here in Turin!!


  1. How very cool! Looking forward to meeting Monica soon!

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