Genepy is more than just a liqueur; it is a symbol of the culture and tradition of the Alps. This aromatic elixir is deeply rooted in the customs and daily lives of the Alpine populations, especially in the French regions of Savoie, Haute Savoie, and Dauphiné, and in the Italian regions of Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont.
History of Genepì
The history of Genepy dates back to the Middle Ages, when herbalists and Alpine monks began to use local plants, including genepy, for the production of medicines and liqueurs. The name “genepì” derives from the Franco-Provençal term “genepy” or “genepi”, which indicates a series of Alpine aromatic plants, including Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia umbelliformis, and Artemisia mutellina. These notoriously hardy plants are able to thrive in the extreme conditions of the high mountains without any problems.
Genepy was traditionally used for its medicinal properties, including its ability to aid digestion, fight insomnia, and relieve altitude sickness. Over time, however, its use has spread to local homes as a digestif and welcome drink, becoming a fundamental part of the culinary culture of the Alps.
The cousin of Italian vermouth
And at this point, a light bulb will have turned on in the full gland of alcoholic memories. Everything is very reminiscent of the historical path of vermouth: the times are the same, the places are always the same, and Artemisia absinthium is also a common ingredient. But yes, of course, they are cousins! Except that vermouth is a fortified wine to which various spices are also added, while genepy, in addition to being “pure”, i.e., without spices, is a liqueur, an amaro, and obviously has a higher alcohol content. However, let’s say that the cultural, productive, and territorial roots are the same.
Characteristics of the Genepì
Genepy is known for its unique and complex flavor, a perfect balance between bitter and sweet. The color can vary from pale yellow to deep green, depending on the plants used and the aging time. The aroma is characteristic, with notes of alpine herbs and flowers and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
The preparation of genepy involves the maceration of the flowering tops of genepì in alcohol for several weeks. This process extracts the aromatic compounds and active ingredients of the plant. Subsequently, a sugar syrup is added to balance the bitterness of the alcohol and herbs. After a period of rest, the liqueur is filtered and bottled.
How to serve Genepì
Genepy is traditionally served cold as a digestive, but it can also be used as an ingredient in cocktails or to flavor cakes and desserts. A glass of Genepì after a meal can be a perfect way to end a day spent on the ski slopes or to warm up a cool evening in the mountains.
If you are mountain tough, add 1 cl of genepì to your 5 o’clock tea, and you will discover an invigorating drink like no other.
If you want to try a great cocktail, try making the Negroni with genepì instead of gin—a small masterpiece.
Species conservation and sustainability
It is important to note that some genepì species are protected in the Alps due to their over-harvesting. For the production of the liqueur, it is therefore advisable to use only cultivated plants or buy genepy from responsible producers who comply with the regulations on the collection and conservation of Alpine plants.
Recipe for making Genepì at home
- 40 sprigs of Genepì (Artemisia) flowers, harvested responsibly
- 1 liter of alcohol at 96
- 300 grams of sugar
First of all, you will need to collect your Genepì sprigs.
It is crucial to ensure that you do this in a sustainable way. Harvesting should be done in summer, around July or August, when the plants are in full bloom. If you can’t find them in the wild, consult local gardeners or your trusted herbalist.
Once you have your sprigs, place them in a large jar and pour alcohol over them. Make sure all the sprigs are submerged. Seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place for about 40 days. The darkness will help preserve the vibrant color of the infusion.
Preparation of the Syrup
Before the end of the maceration period, prepare a simple syrup, ratio 1 to 1. Dissolve the sugar in an equal volume of water, in a saucepan, over low heat, then let it cool.
After 40 days, strain the alcohol into a large bowl, removing all plant material and any impurities. Mix the hydroalcoholic infusion with your syrup. The amount of syrup you add will depend on your taste; some prefer a sweeter liqueur, others something more bitter. Start with a small amount, taste and adjust as needed.
Once you’re happy with the taste, transfer your homemade Genepì into a bottle or multiple bottles using a funnel. Seal the bottles and store them in a cool, dark place.
Aging: where only eagles dare
This step is optional, but aging the liquor for a few months will help the flavors blend and deepen. Try to wait at least a month before tasting it, but know, my friend, that aging of at least 3 months is recommended for a more balanced and sumptuous flavored liqueur.