Liqueur of a Hundred Herbs

Centerbe

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes About

    18 fl oz

Appears in

Italian Regional Cookery

Italian Regional Cookery

By Valentina Harris

Published 1990

  • About

There are not, of course, one hundred herbs in this very strong Abruzzese liqueur, but then nobody really knows what the commercially sold drink contains. The recipe is a very closely guarded secret, held by a kindly old man who runs the business in a tiny mountain village - I reckon when he goes, the secret might well go with him! His Centerbe is produced in an old family house which was built on the proceeds gained from selling Centerbe to sufferers of cholera whenever the south was hit by an epidemic.

It is strange to think that such a lovely house was built on money made from a drink that hardly anybody buys any more, and almost nobody outside Italy has even heard of - but what I want to know is, does it cure cholera?

Here is a very simple, home-made version.

Ingredients

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 orange leaves
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 3 camomile flowers
  • 3 Melissa leaves
  • 3 juniper berries, crushed
  • 3 lemon leaves
  • 3 marjoram leaves
  • 3 tangerine leaves
  • 3 mint leaves
  • 3 rosemary leaves
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 3 lime flowers
  • 3 thyme flowers
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 6 juniper berries, crushed
  • 3 toasted coffee beans
  • 6 saffron threads
  • large pinch Indian tea
  • 14 fl oz (400 ml) aquavit
  • 11 oz (300 g) sugar

Method

Put all the herbs and flowers in a wide-necked bottle, add the spices, juniper berries, coffee, saffron and tea. Pour the alcohol over all these ingredients, cork tightly, shake the bottle vigorously and leave to infuse for between 10 days and 1 month. After this time is up, filter the liquid into a large bowl. Boil 12 fl oz (350 ml) water with the sugar until a syrup is formed. Cool it, then pour it into the alcohol mixture, stir and strain again. Bottle it, cork it and leave for about 2 months, after which it will be ready for drinking as an after-dinner drink. It should be a pale greenish colour, rather like lime cordial in appearance.