Jefferson: the best liqueur in the world is Made in Calabria!


The ship that was supposed to take Mr. Jefferson, an American, from Panama to the port of Genoa began to take water in the middle of the Mediterranean. Within minutes he was sucked into the bottom with his load of bottles filled with sugarcane distillate.

The captain, along with Roger and Gil, two crewmen, driven by the currents, managed to reach the shore.

Americans in Calabria

It was 1871 and the three American shipwrecked men were overthrown by the waves on the Tyrrhenian coast of Cosenza, Calabria, between Fiumefreddo and Fuscaldo.

Escaped from danger, they entered the inland areas, perhaps crossing Serra di Cecio and the summit of Cozzo Cervello, then down to the Valle del Crati, towards the houses.

The Old Customs Warehouse


Between Montalto Uffugo and Torano, in the Ziribba area, Raffaele Trombino, known as “u Giocondo”, managed the Old customs warehouse.

Three small buildings, one used as a dwelling, one for sale, the other for sale.

Jefferson, Roger and Gil found hospitality there: they settled in that warehouse (in dialect “s’accasarano”), working for Giocondo who traded in spices and in the dark, in a secret room, prepared liqueurs with cedar and bergamot.

Jefferson called this place the Perfumery. They set off together with Giocondo before dawn, with the cart and the empty baskets.

Precious Liqueur coming from the “Perfumery”

Four or five hours journey to reach the citrus groves, to the south the “Bergamotto Fantastico” plantations, to the north those of the “Cedri Diamante”.


Little is known of what happened next.

Of men who left for other continents and never returned. Of women left, in America, to wait for the raising children and then emigrated to Germany. Of grandchildren that one piece at a time have re-established ties with the descendants of Mr. Jefferson and rebuilt a beautiful story. Even painful.

But what everyone now knows is that Jefferson’s bitter liqueur is the best liqueur on the planet, coming from Calabria!

Bottle and Dropper

And also the best herbal liqueur in the categories of the World’s Drink Awards: in London, a few weeks ago, in 2019, it twice won the highest podium in the international contest that selects and rewards the best spirits in the world: “Great aroma, Bitter at the beginning, that passes. Soft and smooth and very well balanced with a herbal finish “.

Jefferson – Important bitter liqueur – is a mix of fresh botanical herbs, harvested in bloom and processed as it used to be: rosemary from Montalto Uffugo, oregan from Palombara (near Paola), lemons from Rocca Imperiale, oranges, bitter and sweet, and grapefruit from Bisignano, Roccella Ionica bergamot, the Sila gentian. All ineffable essences of Calabria.

Ivano Trombino


But who is the alchemist of the Old Customs Warehouse today? Who recovered the knowledge and secrets of “u Giocondo”?

Thick black beard, curled mustache, 20s bowler and a great desire to tell each other, amid moving and amusing anecdotes: Ivano Trombino is the author of Jefferson’s perfect recipe.

And not only. He spent seven years reconstructing the history of his family (while working as a liqueur representative for the Caribbean Company) experimenting with blends, between a flowering and another of his botanicals.

A really mysterious blend

Now he is cultivating them in a large garden in Montalto Uffugo, in the province of Cosenza, where he has completely reconstructed the Old customs warehouse: a studio, a spice room, another one for infusions. He entrusted the care of citrus fruits to his father Francesco. “Let’s also say that it will be a contemporary place where promoting the culture of drinking and receiving visits from all over the world”, announces Trombino.

His company with its products (bottled near Cuneo, in the ancient Quaglia distillery) has an international niche target, connoisseurs between 30 and 70 years old.

Montalto Uffugo (CS)


And next to Jefferson’s liqueur (“Natural and authentic bitter liqueur, like Calabria”, of which there is also the Extra Strong mother tincture, in the pharmaceutical bottle with dropper), there are “Roger’s bitter liqueur“, Bitter Extra Strong (“Keep Under Bench”, “Turbid from birth “Is indicated on the label) and “Gil“, a Gin distilled with rural production method, using Juniper and Lemons of Rocca Imperiale (protected under so called IGP mark).

The legend of three Americans

Together they recall the legendary past of the three American castaways.

Frack’s recipe is secret: is the result of three blends prepared from separate infusions, processed with fresh herbs (2 parts of amaricante and 1 vinous).


Licorice: the black gold of Calabria


Tasted and loved all over the world, licorice also finds in Italy ideal soils on which to grow and develop all the properties that make it so appreciated. It happens in Calabria, especially along the Ionian coast, where about 80% of its national production is concentrated. In this area the earth provides all that is needed in terms of climate and soil composition so that the plant, belonging to the Papilionaceae family, acquires the right content of glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient that characterizes its juice. Suffice it to say that the Calabrian licorice is exported all over the world and is considered by many to be the best on the planet.


Known since ancient times, licorice was called Glycyrrhiza, a name of Greek etymology that meant plant from the sweet root. In Calabria the plant was always considered a source of wealth but, thanks to the intervention of the Duke of Corigliano, who in 1715 gave birth to the first factory dedicated to its production and transformation, it became a real element of economic development. During the eighteenth century there were numerous factories that arose in the territory of Sibartide especially in the municipalities of Rossano and Corigliano, still today the main centers of product transformation.


The most representative place of the production and processing of Calabrian licorice, is absolutely Rossano, which has a long history that has led it to be an important Byzantine center, so much so that even today it is often remembered as “La Bizantina“. Walking through its historic center means coming across numerous historical evidences that trace the salient epochs of the town.

The Roots


Calabrian Licorice obtained the local certification of origin (so called DOP certification) in 2011. The name “Liquirizia di Calabria” is a DOP and is reserved exclusively for fresh or dried licorice and its extract. This licorice, must come from the cultivation and from the spontaneous plant of Glychirrhiza glabra in the variety called in Calabrian dialect “Cordara” and must meet the conditions and requirements established by the production disciplinary.


To obtain an excellent licorice, today as in the past, the roots are triturated with the help of a special machine, thus obtaining a paste from which the juice is extracted which is boiled in large boilers until it has acquired a thick and solid consistency. Producers then proceed with polishing using violent jets of water vapor and cutting the product obtained in the desired shapes.


The success of this plant throughout history is due not only to the beneficial effects on the body linked to its consumption, but also to its intensely aromatic, sweet but at the same time bitter taste. A flavor that comes directly from its strong and very long roots, able to anchor itself firmly to the soil, even to those with a clayey composition. The roots penetrate deeply into the earth reaching over a meter in length, so much so that in antiquity it was believed that they reached as far as Hell.


Licorice is an excellent ally of the respiratory system and contains a precious active ingredient able to reduce cough stimuli and promote expectoration. Chewing its roots helps to digest and, according to many, even to stop smoking. Its properties have been known since ancient times and it is no coincidence, therefore, that in the course of history licorice has conquered illustrious admirers. It is said, in fact, that Napoleon used to consume it before battles to alleviate stomach pains, and that Casanova always kept a little licorice on his bedside table to relax between his conquests.


Traditionally licorice is used above all in the confectionery industry for the production of sweets, pastilles, syrups and herbal teas. Today licorice has become an increasingly used ingredient especially in haute cuisine whose exponents explore ever new flavors and combinations.



More and more recipe books and restaurants are available where you can try recipes of pasta dishes and desserts flavored with licorice but, in the Calabrian tradition par excellence, the tasty root is used for the preparation of an extremely aromatic liqueur with marked digestive properties. To obtain it, alcohol and sugar syrup must be added to the licorice juice, and let the mixture rest for about a month.