An often-overlooked part of the Italian coast is the island of Sardinia and the French Island of Corsica in the Tyrrhenian Sea. With the heavy influence of maritime trade, the spread of traditional drinks has extended to other regions of both countries. Credited to pirates and privateers/corsari, Mirto spread through the Mediterranean as a result of their temporary stays in port, giving locals another use for the common plant.
Liguria and Provence are home to a wide variety of delicacies, Mirto being one of them. Mirto is a liqueur derived from the Mrytle plant, a small evergreen plant native to much of the world’s warmer regions, such as the Mediterranean coast. With beautiful white flowers when blossomed the plant yields a berry resembling a violet version of a blueberry.
Mrytle is harvested later in the year in January or February by hand, fortunately, the warm Mediterranean weather makes this more bearably. While plentiful, the plant cannot take much abuse as the recommendation is to only handle the plant by hand for a maximum of 2 days.
Mirto comes in two variants: Mirto Rosso and Mirto Bianco. Mirto Rosso is made with the matured berries of the plant giving it a dark red/blue hue. Mirto Bianco is made from the white berries and the leaves of the plant, hence its lighter colour. Mirto is an infusion, like limoncello, as its alcohol content is not from its own distillation process.
How Mirto is made:
350 grams Mrytle berries
Traditionally, the process is time-consuming taking around 40-50 days from start to finish; however, it is not a labour-intensive 50 days.
After rinsing the berries, they are added into a clean airtight container where alcohol of at least 90+ proof is added, covering all the berries. Being sure to place the container in a dark cool location for 40-50 days to let the berries diffuse into the spirit.
After this process, the mixture is strained as it is poured into a new vessel. The now separated berries are added to a press to be macerated where the remaining juices and alcohol are pressed out and added to the separated liquid. Lastly, the alcohol mixture is added into a simple syrup before bottling and placed into the freezer as like many digestifs Mirto is best served cold.
The process is the same for Mirto Bianco, however, if using only the leaves it is best to not press and only use 200 grams.