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THE SCIENCE of Artisanal
Beverages

Bergamot

A Citrus Fruit Unlike any Other

It’s remarkable how there are so many familiar smells whose flavour we are having a difficulty placing.

Bergamot is a characteristic example, and I’ll explain exactly why: You hear bergamot and you immediately think “yes, I know what that is”. Think again. You think you know but have you ever seen one? Can you visualise it? Now that you’ve reconsidered, can you remember what it smells like? And even if you do… have you ever tasted one? Right. It’s very likely that you can’t recall yourself eating a freshly picked bergamot orange… and that is because it is a multifaceted and unique kind of citrus fruit, bestowed with many beautiful characteristics by nature but also with a bitter, sour taste.  But why does it ring a bell? And, at the end of the day…. does it really?

We all know it as a citrus fruit and in fact, most of us are already familiar with its scent – and if it still doesn’t sound familiar, it might be time to head to your fragrance cupboard. Why? Because its enchanting essential oils are a basic ingredient of some of the world’s finest perfumes such as Dior and Bulgari. Bergamot oil has a very characteristic, strong and fresh scent, with a very unique scent profile that makes it unforgettable.

And, after all, how could you forget it as it is, by definition, royalty? Going back, way back, to the roots of the fruit’s name we find a legend that connects it to the Italian city of Bergamo. However, the French, and specifically the creators of the world-famous Nancy candies, assert that the word bergamot comes from the Turkish word beg-armande, which translates to “the king’s pear”. If you think about it, the fruit’s shape is similar to that of a pear, while some dictionary entries list the bergamot as a type of pear. The bergamot is indeed the king of citrus fruit, and now we have proof!

As a fruit, note that you can find it in vast quantities in the Mediterranean, especially in countries such as Greece and Italy. And although it has largely been perfume-makers who have enjoyed the pleasure of utilising the bergamot because of its exquisite and lasting scent, its benefits have also been enjoyed by the food and drink industry, especially in recent years.

A characteristic example that we’ve all sampled in our lifetime is the Earl Grey tea, which features bergamot as a basic ingredient. The oils in bergamot peel in particular have made this kind of tea the most popular scented tea in the world.

On the other hand, when it comes to cocktails, bergamot fascinates in more ways. Its juice can give a unique acidity to the drink as compared to a common orange or lemon. When used as a cordial, it works as magic. It can even replace a curacao as a liqueur, be used as a mixer for a stronger, more complete mouthfeel, and its peel alone can be used to make distinctive oleo saccharum or sherbets.

Bergamot’s use in cocktails is as multifaceted as the fruit itself broadening the choices and variety of cocktails that a bartender can make. Keeping this in mind one thing is certain: After bergamot, cocktails will never be the same!

 

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