This Savoyard liqueur is made from the Génépi aromatic plants from the genus Artemesia (commonly called Wormwood) that grow in the high mountains of the Alps. Génépi is produced by steeping the aromatic wormwood flower heads in a strong clear alcohol such as vodka or a pure grain alcohol with the addition of sugar to create the liqueur.
This tasty little liqueur is a great way to finish off a good Savoyarde lunch or dinner. It is served in most restaurants in this region, often offered ‘on the house’ at the end of a meal.
Génépi can be an acquired taste, it is not as sweet as many digestifs and has a distinctly herbal flavour. It is a naturally pale gold colour, but some varieties have a fine maceration of the wormwood which creates a light green colour. There is a region called Génépi adjacent to the Aosta Valley in the old Franco-Italian Savoy region, where the plants grow and the liqueur originated. Génépi has been appreciated since the middle ages as a medicinal herb. Some physicians have confirmed the reputation of this herb is justified for treatments against ‘hot and cold’ No wonder it tastes so good after an energetic days Skiing.
Génépi can be made at home by simply adding the prepared herbs to vodka or grain alcohol. The chopped, dried wormwood flowers are sold in southwestern Europe in small sachets similar to tea bags. For the more adventurous, the flowers and herbs can be harvested in July and August. After drying and chopping, the herbal mass can be enclosed in cheesecloth for steeping. Each Alpine mountaineer has a recipe for génépi, but a generic recipe for a litre would require forty flowers and forty grammes of sugar to be added to 40% alcohol by volume and then 40 days rest.
The genepi flowers – image courtesy of cave-a-liqueur
all photos are copyright ©Caro Blackwell